You would think that by October, the schedule ordeal would be over. But you would be forgetting that scheduling is never complete! There are changing service times, students making progress and graduating, and of course, new referrals! Speech and language therapy time, because it is often provided individually or in very small groups, is one of the last pieces of a child’s schedule to fall into place. For the school-based SLP, this means flexibly working around others’ schedules. As great as it is to be flexible, there are times when you need flexibility from others, and getting flexibility from school staff requires patience and skill.
There are so many instructional priorities within the short school day, even at the elementary level – core literacy, math skills, social and small group opportunities, active move-around time, and exposure to science and technology. It can be challenging to work within all these shifting activities while ensuring that all students get to do things they enjoy and are good at, are exposed to new ideas and concepts, and have adequate time and support to work on things that are hard. Teachers, other specialists, and administrators are on your team to serve these students, and managing priorities requires flexibility all around! Here are some tips for getting the flexibility you need to best serve the students on your caseload.
Ask for it. (And Explain)
I love to take my schedule to teachers for them to look at. I highlight groups their student might fit with, as well as any available holes. And I make sure to emphasize how the speech/language goals are supporting classroom work. “I think it’s really important to make some progress on these speech sounds this year, especially when it comes to his writing and spelling skills.” “It looks like she is really struggling on the vocabulary assessments. Is there class time spent on vocabulary? What if she came to speech during that time and used the classroom vocabulary to address speech goals? She would get more opportunities to use the words, and I could maybe get a handle on what is making the assessments difficult.”
Yup, just like when you’re working with your students. Or with toddlers! Everyone feels more valued and in control when they’re given choices. “So, if we have to use this particular time, is it better for us to be in the classroom or to work in the speech room?” “If she’s going to miss some of this time, is it better at the beginning of instruction or during independent work time?”
Maintain perspective, a sense of humor, and gratitude
That student that takes a long time to walk down the hall? The fact that the music schedule changed after you finally fixed your 2nd grade therapy time? Sometimes you have to laugh! And take a deep breath before diving into it all again. Remember, this your job is a very important job, but it’s not managing-the-nuclear-codes level important. Approach school staff with this same attitude, opening your email with a “Well, best-laid plans . . . “ and closing with “Thank you so much for your patience and flexibility. This will all work out eventually!”
Our students have lots of demands on them, and IEP teams design services to support student success. If you are having trouble coming to a consensus on a particular student’s schedule, maybe it’s time for a team meeting to look at service minutes and talk about what the priorities are. Keep the big picture in mind!
This post was updated 9/29/22