As we approach the end of our first year with a full cohort of SLPAs, we’re enjoying the opportunity to reflect and learn from our experiences. It’s exciting to think about the different ways that SLP/SLPA teams manage supervision and therapy schedules and all the different ways that they strategize and document their supervision. The most common question that arises from the discussion of SLP/SLPA teams is about how to determine an appropriate caseload. This is especially relevant to districts that may have only employed SLPs in the past, but now see SLPAs as an opportunity to address staffing shortages.
How many students can an SLP and SLPA team serve?
A full-time SLP/SLPA team can certainly be expected to serve more than a full-time SLP caseload, but not quite double. Our general rule of thumb is that an SLP-SLPA team can serve approximately 1.5 – 1.7 times what would normally be assigned to a single SLP. We use this equation as a starting point when we’re working on assignments for our SLPs and SLPAs and make adjustments based on the specifics of the population they’re serving and the particulars of the district. We always follow the district’s lead, especially when it comes to dividing buildings and caseloads amongst staff.
What variables need to be taken into account when deciding how many students should be on the caseload?
The list is almost infinite! Here are the 4 that we think are the most important:
- Space – The more space that is available to the SLP-SLPA team, the more efficient they can be with their time and the more students they can see. For example, teams with adequate space for both the SLP and the SLPA to be seeing groups at the same time will be able to see more students in a day than teams who only have room for one group to run at a time. Similarly, teams that have the space for the SLPA to be seeing students while the SLP works on other tasks (e.g. IEP writing) can work at greater efficiency.
- Flexibility in scheduling – The more options an SLP and SLPA have for scheduling and grouping students, the more efficient they can be with their time. Can the SLPA be seeing students for quick artic in the hallway while the SLP does evaluations? Can the SLP push-in to co-teach in the resource room while the SLPA runs a language group in the speech room?
- Clerical support – The clerical requirements on an SLP can be a significant part of the workload. If the SLP-SLPA team has access to special education clerical support (printing, distributing, and filing paperwork), they can serve more students. If, however, the SLPA will be the person responsible for the clerical duties, this will reduce the number of students on the caseload.
- Student population – Different types of students are associated with different workload demands. For example, elementary caseloads with more initial referrals may take more evaluation and case management time. Secondary students may require more teacher collaboration and consult. Special populations (e.g. AAC users) and self-contained classrooms are other factors that significantly contribute to staffing considerations. Caseload weighting models can really help with figuring this part out!
In the end, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the SLP-SLPA caseload question. Clear communication between the admin team, SLP team, and building principal and staff so that everyone understands and can support the intended service model will lay the foundation for smooth and efficient service to students.