This is part of a continuing series of posts on therapy ideas to support assistants (SLPAs) and paraprofessionals in the schools in their work with students and their supervising SLPs.
SLPA’s and paraprofessionals are often the eyes and ears for SLPs with large caseloads, or for those SLPs working offsite in a Distance Service arrangement. Because you may see some students on your caseload more frequently than the SLP, it is your responsibility to get the necessary information to your supervising SLP so that he/she can make good decisions about the course of therapy. This is often in the form of hard data from your therapy sessions — 70% accuracy of initial /s/ at the sentence level, 60% use of irregular past tense in an independent story retell, etc. But there are cases where this may not be enough. What other information is useful to share? And how can we share in an efficient and confidential manner?
- Your observations of students’ health, interests, and engagement and any recent changes are always valuable. Have they lost their front teeth? Do they talk about the fights they get in on the playground? Are they in tears over math? These observations can help give a more complete picture of a student, but they also may help your supervising SLP determine which goals to target, and whether or not new goals need to be discussed.
- New technology has changed the way we communicate with each other – and also the kinds of information we can exchange! Instead of your notes on a session, could you share a video of your student giving his classroom presentation? Or a recording of a language sample may give just the right information. Smart phones and tablets like iPhones make this kind of exchange quick and easy. Some apps (like Notability) even support automatic synching of documents and recording with Dropbox – a place you can store shared documents. NOTE: If you are recording sessions or parts of sessions with students, it is important that you have written and express permission from parents.
- The most important step you can take towards effective communication with your supervising SLP is to make sure that you have a regularly scheduled meeting time (weekly, ideally) to discuss your observations and questions, as well as your SLP’s questions and plans for therapy. An agenda is helpful to prioritize the discussion and keep you within your scheduled time – some items will have to be pushed to the next week, or dealt with at a different time.
SLPAs and paraprofessionals should always operate within the scope defined by state and national licensing organizations and should only conduct allowable tasks under the supervision of a speech-language pathologist.