Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Workload vs Caseload---printable graphics; Change the mindset

It seems as though school speech pathologists work all the time.  When I read others' blogs, I read about midnight evaluation writing, staying until dinner at school to write therapy notes, Saturday afternoons spent making materials, Sunday nights writing plans.  Lots of us take on extra duties such as the School Improvement Teams, RtI committees, bus duty, student council, fundraisers, potluck cooking, clothes shopping for needy kids.  You name it; an SLP has done it!

Workload Activity Clusters--my version
        So we are super heroes in the workforce; however, when SLP positions are looked at by administrators, often it boils down to one number---caseload size.  ASHA has already done a massive amount of work on caseload vs workload in the public schools and they came up with a very wordy graphic.  Being the Boardmaker queen at our school, I decided to simplify the language, and embellish with significant icons.  You decide which you like better.  Links to both are at the bottom.  I would display copies in your office.  You will notice that direct speech/language therapy is actually only a fraction of our job.  However, if you have 80 kids on your caseload, how much of this entire job can you really effectively do?

ASHA's version

I hate to sound like a broken record, but for those of you especially who work in the public schools, it's important to elect leaders in our field who will advocate for  the workload mindset rather than the antiquated caseload mindset.  Read more about that here, and vote for your choice for the president and board.  Last year less than 4% of ASHA membership voted.

Click here if you want to vote now!!!
It doesn't take long!

Link to ASHA workload graphic.

Link to my Boardmaker workload graphic in pdf


Saturday, April 27, 2013

The other 97%


What would happen if only 3% of the U.S. population voted for president?  

I wonder why, then, it's OK with  SLPs that only about three percent of the ASHA membership chooses to vote for its President and Board of Directors?

Notes from the ASHA board
That's right! 
 97% of us don't vote.

I find that number incomprehensible since membership in ASHA is by no means free.  It's expensive, and the requirements to get your CCCs are sometimes brutal.  I work with college students who are completely obsessed with the task of joining our elite certification club--yet once they are in, most cruise through year by year without voting for the people who run the ship. 

I'd like to see this situation change.
ASHA is our guiding organization.
ASHA is our resource for best practice.
ASHA is what I turn to when to get some questions answered.  ASHA leaders can make a difference and provide opportunities.

To do my part, I voted. This year, I actually know one of the candidates for President-Elect, Dr. Judith Page from my alma mater, the University of Kentucky.  

One of the big issues affecting the SLPs in schools is caseload size.  I shared our concerns with her and asked her to write some words.  I loved what she wrote!

---------------------------full text of response--------------------

 Dear Ruth,
You may not know that I started my career in the public schools and have continued to be involved in school services as a coordinator of our student teaching program and as a team member in Kentucky’s Teacher Internship program. I am a schools person at heart and the thing that has amazed me over the years is how the role of school SLPs has changed. Recent years have brought dramatic changes to the education environment, resulting in growing pressure on clinicians. Inflated caseloads are only the tip of the iceberg. More severely involved students, the need for curriculum-based instruction, involvement in literacy, paperwork and compliance tasks associated with IDEA and 3rd party billing, increasing needs to serve culturally diverse students, and expectations for alternate service delivery models (e.g. collaboration, consultation, RTI, transition planning, AAC, etc.) have all certainly changed workload demands. Unfortunately, our traditional caseload service delivery model does not work in this changed environment. What is needed are work assignment models that recognize the full range of services school SLPs provide – including both direct services to students and indirect services that support IEPs and RTI. In response to this need, ASHA established an ad hoc committee several years ago that developed a Workload Analysis Approach to better analyze work expectations and quantify the largely invisible workload responsibilities that extend far beyond caseload numbers. While some progress has been made in getting this approach adopted, there is still much to be done, with the 2012 School Survey reporting only 21% of respondents using a workload analysis approach. If we want to better meet the needs of our students through appropriate work allocation, we need to find ways to encourage more state and local administrators to consider making the change from caseload to workload analysis. If I am elected ASHA president I would like to be involved in that effort.

Judy Page


You can read about all of the candidates for several offices here. Watch interview videos too!

Then, if you are a member of ASHA, click HERE to vote. You can obviously guess who I voted for.   I hope you vote for someone too.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Batu wedding, volcano views, and other snippets of the Peace Corps

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you also know snippets of my life.  One of my life events recently has been sending my daughter off to the Peace Corps in Indonesia.  Right now, she is learning the language, getting multiple immunization shots, visiting schools, and living with a host family. 
She attended a wedding there recently.  You see from left to right--her host mother, her host brother, the groom, the bride, Andorra, and and unknown girl. I thought this wedding photo was awesome!  I've put a few of her other pictures below.  Andorra's host family doesn't have internet, so things move a little more slowly with digital pictures and these few will have to suffice for now.  She'll move to a new place/family after her training ends and with a school job, will have access to more internet.


This is all for the quick update.  Andorra does have her own blog going on.
Go HERE if you'd like to see it.  She'll post more when she has better internet access.
Batu has several volcanoes nearby.


Never heard of Batu?  Here's where it is.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ladybugs Everywhere--printable book

Everyone loves The Very Hungry Caterpillar, so when I was thinking about another book to make, I thought "Caterpillars Everywhere"!  But I started thinking that even though the Eric Carle caterpillar looks so sweet, a lot of caterpillars together is more of an infestation, and brings back some flashbacks of when we lived through the gypsy moth caterpillar problem in Virginia.  They truly were everywhere!  I decided not to write that book.

Instead, I've created 'Ladybugs Everywhere'---similar in pattern to my other books.  It works for my kids!  There's also a link here to a great ladybug math craft website.

Click here to download this book in Boardmaker.

Click here to download this book in pdf

You may not want cute ladybugs all over your house either!  The kids will laugh though.
My daughters collected both caterpillars and ladybugs as pets.

All of you SLPs out there should consider voting for your ASHA president and Board.
Click here for my thoughts.  If you are burdened by an impossible workload, vote for those who know schools.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Earth Day printable


Earth Day has snuck up on me!

Here's a free book from Tarheel Reader if you want something quick  (a class somewhere made it).
You can print it, or just show it on your SmartBoard screen, or on the computer.

It's eleven pages, very simple sentences, clear illustrations, easy to adapt.  Icons are added on the last page for you to cut out, laminate, velcro, or however you wish to use them with the kids.

Click here if you would like to download the book,

......or click the Tarheel Reader link above to view it there.  I like this because it's simple.
 That's what my students need.



Friday, April 19, 2013

Butterflies; and a website for free materials

Before blogs became popular, I was always searching websites for ready-made materials.  One of my favorite places to go was the Jefferson Parish Public Schools Speech/AT website.  There are lots of books to download and assemble!  Some require Boardmaker, while others don't. If you look at the screenshot, you'll see that the materials are organized by age, and within each age group, they are categorized by subject.
categorized by age
in each age, downloads are categorized by subject

Click on an age, and the window on the
right will appear. 

one example of selections--this is the insect theme

Click on a subject, and a selection of materials free to download, will appear.  They will either be in Boardmaker,
Powerpoint, or PDF.


If you look at the list on the right, you will see "Butterfly Story".
I printed that and you can see the pictures below.
I really like it with my kids because it's simple, yet teaches concepts of color.  The kids often just try to match the colors, but they have to listen to, or read the sentence that goes with the page.

The author included all the icons you need for the kids to make sentence strips to go with each page.  I didn't have these at my house tonight.  I suggest you go to this website and print it all.  It's a nice little book for the spring.

Since this book is not mine, I don't have it in my Google drive for you to download.  Go HERE and click on Butterfly Story.  It's all there!

I hope you all are having a nice spring.  My graduate intern leaves after this Monday :(

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Budding Actors and Social Skills Goal Setting---Snippets of a Lesson

I'm still learning how to teach social skills.  I went to a couple of Michelle Garcia Winner's talks, read her books, perused her website, but I still feel like a student teacher. 
  A resource teacher and I team-teach four third-graders who have been in our group this school year.  Our last few weeks have been fun, so I thought I'd share.  If you have any ideas to make things better, let me know. As I said, I'm still learning how to do this.

FIRST---the children didn't know what a social skill was or how to define it.  The first day of this unit was spent defining, sorting, and generating more examples.  The photo speaks for itself.  We have subsequently used this vocabulary (academic skills/social skills) frequently when talking about school.
Now they know why they come to our group!
SECOND---I looked in the book to the right authored by Michelle Garcia Winner for ideas, and she suggested having the kids help set their own goals.
Since my students were a little on the young side, they required a great deal of scaffolding for this, so we developed individualized skits in which specific weaknesses were pointed out, and all the kids took turns playing the teacher, themselves, and other students.  A portion of a sample is pictured below, but you can view a complete script HERE.  I made a skit for each child, and it took us two days to get through the acting and goal-setting.  The kids totally got into playing the parts, and then the cool thing was how they were then able to reflect a bit on their own behaviors and formulate some goals.

After each skit was performed, the child who was the star would then generate a goal.  We used a teacher (me) as an example first.  The worksheet  to the left was adapted from the book pictured above.  If you would like to download a copy of the worksheets, click HERE.

Obviously, we are not really done filling these out. The worksheets functioned more as a discussion guide and we still have a few lessons and discussion to go.

So this is a little snippet of my day in social skills group!  I'm still learning, but the kids love it, and they make comments outside of the group which indicate that they are learning the social thinking vocabulary, and generalizing some of the skills.



Sunday, April 14, 2013

You Make More of an Impact than You Think You Do

Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell 

where their influence stops.

Henry Brooks Adams

I guess technically I'm not a teacher.  I work in a school, though, and co-teach with a resource teacher in a social skills group with four adorable first grade boys.  One little boy has been under the table squeaking for a good part of his instruction over several sessions; I questioned to myself whether our lovely instructions about expected behaviors, turn-taking, sharing, speaking on topic, or other assorted goals had any impact whatsoever.  Then, he took a turn for the better!  Before spring break, we had the boys dye Easter eggs (there are a lot of social skills that kids have to apply to this activity!)

The child in question wrote spontaneously in his writing journal in his first grade classroom: "I also had an died/easter egg from Social Skils Goup (SSG). It is the best thing I ever been in!  
       My jaw dropped when his teacher showed this to me.  This kid, who resists interaction, who dives under tables rather than make eye contact, who refuses to talk about remote events or answer questions, not only acknowledged our group, but claimed it was the highlight of his life---unsolicited! 

Needless to say, I can't wait to see him again on Wednesday!  I think all of us make more impact than we realize, and the effects can continue on and on.  When IEPs and paperwork get you down, think of the little successes that happen during your day!  Someday, a kid or parent will remember you and thank their lucky stars that you were a part of that child's life! 

My favorite movie, but all of you create little miracles daily-sometimes more than you know.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I'm a Clinician, not a Magician---Caseloads and what's within reason

After a few of my articles have been published about therapy data documentation, one of which you can see here, I've received a few polite inquiring emails.  Every one of these email authors have asked about  caseload size, basically other SLPs wanting to know how many children I work with.

 One reader wrote that her caseload was 71, while another said 80.  That same reader said that they had difficulty finding certified SLPs to work in their setting.  My response is this:  I couldn't and wouldn't work in that setting either.  How could an SLP possibly treat 80 students? Taking adequate data on IEP goals would be impossible.  Just taking attendance would be a challenge. My ramblings on using Google forms and spreadsheets   wouldn't exist because I would have no time to create spreadsheets or take much data.  My work life would be more of mere survival.

When I first thought about being an SLP, I was determined that I would NEVER work in a school setting.  My life changed, and with my family, I discovered the school schedule worked.  Through luck and picking and choosing my settings, I've worked full time first in a residential school for children with autism (caseload 7), then full time in a rural public school in Virginia (caseload 30), and now full time in a public school in North Carolina (caseload under 30).   I'll never work in a setting where I can't do my job adequately due to huge caseload size.

A look at ASHA's 2010 Schools Survey showed the average caseloads around the country in a school setting.  Take a look at Indiana.  I'm no magician, so if I did have that setting of 80 kids, I know that job is not for me!  Maybe I know my own limits, while other SLPs may have more clinical and organizational skills to pull it off.  When I read others' blogs, though, I see a lot of frustration with caseloads and paperwork, so I'm guessing there is a lot of stress out there.
I don't have magic answers, but.....
there are a few things we do as a group in our school system to keep our caseloads down.

1. Advocate, advocate, advocate.  We have a lead SLP, and she and the one before her have been instrumental in attending higher level meetings, and advocating for reasonable work loads.

2. Become known to the important people.  I've gone to school board meetings and given speeches.  We SLPs use email to educate, and we encourage parents at times to do the same about important issues. We make our faces known---at the PTA meetings, leading a school improvement team, doing presentations, writing grants, going to the local autism society meetings, sitting on the RtI team, writing letters to the editor.  I've done all of that and so have my fellow SLPs.

3.  Make sure kids on your caseload are in need of speech therapy to access their education. We, as an SLP group, strive to make sure that the children on our caseloads meet the criteria for needing speech/language therapy according to North Carolina guidelines.  To do this, our lead SLP pushed us to begin a peer review process.  For example, after I evaluate a student, I record scores and pertinent information on a Peer Review Form.  I present this case, usually in person, to a team of three other district SLPs who help determine whether the child actually meets North Carolina criteria, and if the child then needs speech to access his education.  I'll write more about this process in a subsequent post.  I really like peer review, though.  Caseloads are consistent through the district, and the children are truly in need.

 4.  Use RtI as a preventative measure.  We see children with mild articulation problems in RtI rather than as a full-blown speech impaired IEP kid.  A child with a single sound error (such as R) is not eligible for a speech IEP under NC guidelines.  Short term intervention under RtI is an option, and an easier process for everyone involved.  Of course, there still needs to be negative impact of his speech sound error in the classroom.

I could write more on this topic, but then it would be more than a simple blog entry!  The bottom line is that we all want children to make progress.  A manageable caseload is one factor to ensure this.

5. VOTE for your ASHA Board and President.  Vote for a change in the status quo.
          Go here to read more about that.  Only 3 percent voted in the last election.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring Counting---free printable adapted book with icons

Life has been busy and interesting lately.  (See last post)  Even though I did not actually join the Peace Corps with my daughter, the experience of sending her off to the other side of the world, and then compulsively checking her flight status, her take offs and landings, and waiting for gmail chat to link us has been exhausting!   She's fine now, and settled for a little while in Surabaya (I'm learning all of these new places through her!).


So, now I'm ready to mentally return to speech therapy.   Spring has totally arrived here, pine pollen and all.  Here is a simple spring counting book I found on Tarheel Reader.  I changed one picture, added a last page, and added icons so you can have your kids match.  A sentence strip is included if you want to use it.  Cut the icons up, laminate, add velcro and bind the book---you have a simple book to read with the kids!

I'll get more creative in subsequent posts. Simple often works for me.  How about you?

Click here to download the book.

Click here to download the icons in Boardmaker

Click here to download the icons in pdf.

Friday, April 5, 2013

In Awe

Tomorrow is the big day!  Andorra (my daughter) is leaving for the Peace Corps in Indonesia.  I've been anticipating this with a whole spectrum emotions depending on the day--joy, excitement, dread, grief,  then back to happiness, then anxiety.

Today we said our good-byes, and curiously, I didn't break down into an emotional mess.  I was happy and at peace with her leaving, and tonight as I'm typing this, the main feeling I have is awe-- of her spirit, her bravery, her energy, and her willingness to try new things and make the world a little better.  I'm in awe of the fact that she's willing to be away for 27 months--away from her boy friend, missing the birth of her niece, away from the comforts of her home.  I'm in awe that she gave away most of her possessions to do this--clothes, car, electronics, books. I'm in awe of her taking on a job of teaching English to a group of kids who don't share her language. 

Tomorrow, she'll fly to San Francisco and meet up with a group of Peace Corps volunteers.  They'll fly the next day as a group to Surabaya, Indonesia.  It'll actually take two days since they cross the date line.

Her stops--Dallas, San Francisco, Tokyo, Singapore, Surabaya

When I get pictures from Andorra, I'll post them here.  I'm looking forward to her adventures!
Life is good.


Springtime Preposition Bingo--free printable

I'm still on spring break, and it's actually beginning to look like spring outside!  Since I was so happy about that, here's a quick spring printable I put together in case you liked Easter Preposition Bingo, and St. Patrick's Preposition Bingo!  Did I ever tell you that my kids do well with Joint Action Routines?  You teach language in one context, then change the activity a bit but not too much, and in this way, you encourage generalization.  That's what these Bingo games do for me. I hope they work for you, too!

There are three Bingo Boards, directions, and one board to cut up as the call cards.  

This item is now on Teachers Pay  Teachers as part of a packet.
You can get it here for a modest price.

Happy spring!  I hope your weather is good where you are!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Chubb Chubbs!

I hope you all saw my last post where I said that I was on vacation. Here's a short animated movie that is unrelated to speech therapy, unless you want to show it to older kids and have them retell it, or explain the humor, or the ending is such a surprise. It's a great little movie and very funny--this will relieve your stress and take your mind off of evaluations, reports, and IEPs.

This won an Oscar, by the way, for Best Short Animation in 2003. 

Looks can be deceiving!  Teach your students that!