The stress-free solution for your school speech therapy schedule

school speech therapy schedule

No one ever told me that one of the most stressful parts of my job would have little do to with providing direct therapy to my students.

But I got a serious truth bomb when my supervisor at my school clinical placement showed me the daily schedule…and I almost had a heart attack.

A feeling of dread rose from the pit of my stomach as I looked at the nonstop groups of students and the constant running around and switching from different skill level, type of therapy, and age/grade level.

And the scariest thing wasn’t that I would have to tolerate this schedule throughout my clinical placement.

What terrified me was that when I got a job I’d have to come up with this same type of schedule myself.

No one told me about this when I decided to be an SLP. The only stories I heard were all sunshine and roses.

All I’d here were things like, “It’s just so rewarding!”, “You get to play with kids all day!”, and my favorite, “The job market is so good…you’ll find your dream job right away!”

As the truth set in, I prepped myself for what was in store, but when I started working in the school system there were other unforeseen scheduling obstacles that kept coming up that no one had mentioned when I was in grad school.

No one warned me about those sacred times during the school day, that are untouchable for scheduling purposes…even if building communication skills are the most important thing for a particular child.

No one warned me that I would have to bend over backwards to work around everyone else’s schedules, finally come up with something that I think would make everyone happy….only to be told that “Johnny can’t come speech at that time because of (list any reason here).”

No one warned me that I’d go to pick up my students only to be told I can’t take them today because we’re having cupcakes for Suzy’s birthday (because eating processed sugary crap is apparently more important than skilled therapy).

No one warned me that I’d spend the first few weeks of the school year in a constant state of panic because I didn’t have the perfect schedule set…no matter how much I hustled.

I’ll calm down and get off my soap box. Because surprisingly, this year I actually AM calm. Because over the past few years I’ve realized where I was going wrong:

I was trying to make my schedule perfect.

If you’ve been in the field for any length of time, you know this is impossible. There is no way that we can feasibly come up with a schedule right away that meets all of our students’ needs that will last us the entire year.

This is a classic example of a legal guideline that was brought about with good intentions; but has issues when it’s actually implanted.

The IEP says we need to see kids right away. And having the IEP is a good thing, because it protects our students’ rights.

But this causes a fundamental problem when we have to start meeting minutes right away, and we haven’t had a reasonable enough length of time to coordinate with the large number of teachers who have our students.

Some districts are more reasonable with their expectations as long as they know you’re trying; but regardless, there is a lot of pressure on us to start seeing students.

So naturally, my first few years I handled this problem by freaking out and running myself ragged trying to get my schedule set.

No matter how hard I tried, I never got the schedule right the first time around.  I wasted TONS of time and energy nagging teachers about their schedules when they were just worried about getting through the first couple weeks.

The truth is, that no one means to make your life miserable when they don’t want their students to be pulled from certain subjects, when they unknowingly plan to have birthday treats during your speech time, or when they ask you to switch the schedule for the 15th time. They are human after all, and they have pressure on them too.

And I know you can take these minor hiccups in stride if you learn to schedule like a boss.

I want to show you how to do that.

The solution? The “temporary” speech schedule.

Plain and simple. When you are getting pressure to get a schedule going, don’t strive for perfection. That will never happen the first few weeks of school.

Just come up with a schedule that’s “good enough” as quickly as possible, so you can save your energy for more important tasks. 

It’s okay to have students grouped with other kids with different goals-even if you have artic and fluency kids with language kids. It’s okay to mix across grade levels. Remember, this is only temporary.

It’s okay to have students in groups bigger than what is ideal-as long as there aren’t any major behavioral concerns that threaten safety.

It’s okay to throw something together just for the sake of getting your minutes in and checking in on your students for those first few weeks.

“Good enough” is just fine for the first month or so. 

Now let’s be clear on one thing…I’m not supporting laziness. I’m supporting efficiency.

This schedule is not going to be a permanent solution. Rather, it’s a temporary Band-Aid you can use so that you can take your time coming up with a schedule that is closer to ideal.

This way you don’t have to stress about the fact that you aren’t seeing students or meeting minutes.

You don’t have to rush around trying to get around to all the teachers to find the ideal times, spending tons of energy throwing something together only to realize it doesn’t flow as well as you thought it would.

By coming up with something quickly that’s “good enough” to meet legal requirements and at least ensure that students get seen, you’re saving your energy so you can focus on higher impact activities.

Here’s some high impact tasks you can do those first few weeks, while you are implementing your “temporary” schedule:

1.Get to know your students, so you’ll know how to group them appropriately.

Learn what goals they’ve met, what they like and dislike, and their work styles.

Determine which students work well together based on personality, goals, and scheduling. Sometimes if you’re lucky, your temporary schedule may serve as a skeleton for your long term schedule, and you might not have to change it that much.

2.Give teachers some time to get settled and get to know students.

I learned this one the hard way. I used to go around to all the teachers right away and hit them up about their schedules the first few days of school.

Most of the weren’t ready to talk to me yet, and didn’t know for sure if their schedules were set. I ended up having to make the rounds again, which took longer.

Now I just plan to pull students at time I know have worked almost every year when I set my first “temporary” schedule, and then I ask them a week or two in to school for a copy of their schedules so that I know for when I make a more long term schedule.

3. Come up with a skeleton framework for the skills you’ll be teaching your students this year based on their current levels.

This is usually fairly straightforward for certain students, such as those working on articulation.

It can be a little more challenging to come up with a game plan for those language kids, but I use the framework described in this video for many of my language kids.

4. Share information with staff about students.

I used to bombard teachers with information right away, and I found that it only overwhelmed them. They’re usually super busy the first few weeks, and they haven’t had a chance to get to know the students yet. I usually give them only the information they need to know right then.

So I start out with just telling them who their speech students are and some very basic information the first week of school (like which students have required accommodations).

I’ll wait until a couple weeks in to school to have more in depth conversations. You’ll have to feel it out, but get to know your coworkers to gauge when they’re going to be ready to talk to you.

5. Be visible.

This should go without saying. While you don’t want to overwhelm teachers with information, you don’t want to hide in your office either.

It’s always good PR to be out of your room getting some face time or popping in to classrooms to observe students and help out-as long as all your activities are focused on getting students to meet their IEP goals. Sometimes observations can even count as service minutes depending on the language in the IEP.

I wish I had before and after data on the number of minutes I’ve saved once I started using the idea of a “good enough temporary schedule” at the start of the year, but in truth I don’t have those numbers.

I will tell you that those sleepless nights and stressful mornings are gone. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow these days.

In all honesty, it can take a good month to come up with schedule that truly fits your students’ needs (and even after that you’ll have changes you need to make as the year goes on).

That’s why it’s counterproductive to stress about making it perfect right away.

We want to save our energy for high impact activities, such as getting ready to provide the best therapy possible so we can help our students meet their goals. I talk about one of the systems I use for language therapy planning here.

Remember, to run your schedule….don’t let your schedule run you.

I know that once you get your schedule created, one of the next obstacles is figuring out how to figure out exactly what to do in therapy. For language cases, that can be a huge, time-consuming challenge. There is a way to prioritize and build your students language skills, and I talk about it in this free training. 

You can join my mailing list to get it by clicking the button in the image below (and I’ll also start sending you weekly language therapy resources once you’re on the list):

tier 2 vocabulary; school speech therapy; language therapy techniques

DrKaren

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