3 Tips for Taking Care of Paperwork so Creative Fun Can Start!
Is the paperwork on your desk piling up higher and higher as you are trying to get the actual creative fun of therapy started? The joke goes, “More paperwork, please!” said no SLP – EVER!” Check out these 3 tips for taking care of paperwork so creative fun can start.
Despite some differences, there is a flow to therapy routines over the course of a school year that can help you prioritize how to spend your time each month and get that dratted paperwork done to get you to the creative flow of therapy.
For example, have you ever received a student from another school system with IEP goals that make you wonder? Why does he have this goal? How is working on this going to help him this year? Is this really what he needs in his current classroom placement? My middle schooler, “C,” made me wonder these things, yet I had all of the monthly business to take care of, too.
Tips for What To Do
Click on any of the topics if you’d like to read more information on it. You will be taken to another blog post specifically for that topic.
Business for the First Month
Every year, the first month is busy with organizing your materials and therapy space. If you’d like some tips (and horror stories) just click on the topics. Some school systems move SLPs around depending on caseload numbers, but almost every school has you packing up for cleaning over the summer. So each year, you get a chance to revamp your therapy space and get organized.
In some schools, therapists have the same caseloads each year, with changes occurring when new students start at the school and others move on. Other schools, with multiple therapists, give out new caseloads every year. Either way, there are lots of IEP reviews and material purchases (or creation) going on to meet new IEP goals and student needs.
Don’t forget, you also need to set up your room behavioral expectations and make sure that the students you have grouped together fit in some way.
Because of all this paperwork, and having new students and/or new IEP goals, having open-ended activities around can be very useful at this time of year. Other lifesavers include books, crafts, comic strips, wordless videos, and computer activities.
Business for the Second Month
By now you have probably gone through multiple scheduling changes. If you don’t use post-its for scheduling yet, you should definitely give it a try. SLPs usually need to make schedule changes all year long for a variety of reasons: classroom schedule changes, students coming and going, and IEP related service changes being a few.
Many schools have a back to school night sometime during the fall that SLPS are expected to attend. It is a good idea to think about these general topics ahead of time in case you get asked questions.
- Do you give homework and how would you like parents to help?
- Do you have a session make up policy in your school system?
- How do you stay in touch with parents regarding student progress?
- What are your room rules and incentives?
- Have a general discussion of what speech/language therapy involves ready to educate parents. You may be surprised how many really don’t know why their children are coming to you. Excellent free handouts can be found on TpT.
- Have a statement ready to let parents know that this is not an individual conference, but that you will be happy to talk to them another time regarding their child’s specific needs.
- Parents always love to see work their students have done. Make a bulletin board in your room for this!
Now that you hopefully have some of the basics going steadily along during the school day, the second month is a good time to do some informal assessments to get a better idea of your students’ strengths and weaknesses, both in their IEP areas and general speech/language skills.
Options can include:
- Language samples
- Pre/post tests
- Recordings of speech production
- Using computer activities for skill assessments
- Making videos where they explain something they have completed, retell a story or give a narrative about an event.
My verbal students loved recording themselves and knew more about using Quick Time than I did. If you haven’t used it yet, here are some links to get you started.
CREATIVITY- the Magic
You know all of those additional assignments that SLPs tend to get? It is true, they take us away from that endless pile of paperwork we have to complete, but they also provide an opportunity we might as well take advantage of since we are stuck.
To me, the creative magic of therapy comes with a flow you get when students are really involved, interacting with each other, and getting a chance to improve skills that they really need. Not just what the IEP goal says.
“What?” You might be asking yourself this. Speech/language test results and IEP goals are based on concrete, measurable skills, but life isn’t concrete and measurable.
Take “C,” a sweet middle school boy who was floundering in a regular education class despite having a good auditory memory, great syntax and sentence structure, and comprehension of facts. He came to my caseload with a goal for following directions, but he could follow 4+ steps and most concepts. I felt the magic begin to happen when I started to figure out what he really needed.
“How?” you might ask.
How to create the magic
Observe. While you are walking to the photocopier, doing bus or lunch duty, or popping into the classroom, observe your students in their natural interactions of the school day.
Listen to what your fellow educators have to say about this student, especially the classroom teacher. They don’t look at the student’s problems from the same perspective as we have, obviously, but teachers spend a lot of time with your student in a group setting and are your best resource for real life observations. Respect your teachers for the skills they have in managing groups and understanding the larger picture of how your student functions in that group, all while teaching a curriculum and managing their own paperwork. Your therapy will be much more on target!
Act. When you co-ordinate the observations of your fellow educators regarding your student’s needs, the observations you have made of how the student functions in the school environment, and your knowledge of communication needs, you can apply all of this information to how you address the IEP goals and the creative flow begins! You may not ever place a number value on it, or write it on a session note, but when you integrate the social, behavioral and communicative needs of your student into your therapy sessions, you will make noticeable changes that impact your student’s whole school day.
And my student, “C”? After doing this, I realized that his real problem was being too literal! He didn’t follow classroom directions well if they were ambiguous or could be interpreted too literally. So, we worked on following directions by figuring out different meanings of words and sentences, then reasoning out which one the teacher actually meant. Success!
So, don’t let the endless paperwork get you down! Use these tips for taking care of paperwork. Once you have the basics outlined here under control, you can use your knowledge of your students’ needs to start getting creative in therapy!