Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February Feature: Here, There, Everywhere: Speech Service Delivery in the Schools

Our February Feature today is from Jenn at Crazy Speech World! Jenna is from Florida, so we can all be jealous of the weather she has right now! 

Here, There, Everywhere:  Speech Service Delivery in the Schools

One of the reasons that I love working in the schools (besides summers off!) is the way we can impact a student across their school day.  When working in private practice you don't have the luxury of walking down the hall to speak to a teacher or have a lunch bunch or work on checking out library books very easily...but in the schools, you have access to variety of environments.  If you sit to consider a students' day, it is typically going to include class time, recess, lunch, and specials... at the very least.  These are all opportunities to build communication skills!

You know the drill...I go grab my group, I lead them like a mama duck back to my room, and have therapy.   I like this part of my job cause I control it.  I get to be in charge, make all the rules, and they have to do what I say.  :)  What kind of therapy do I like to do in my room?

  • Articulation...I have done this in my room, in a classroom, and in the hallway and I find that the best place is my room for the majority of the time.
  • Fluency...While I am a total proponent of the pop-in to see if a student who stutters is using fluency techniques during classroom conversations, I think fluency kiddos need this safe place to call their speech home.  Counseling is so much a part of therapy for these guys!
  • Pragmatics - Introducing a new skill to practice before heading out to the real world is good, especially when you are talking social skills.  
Even in my room, I try to connect my content to that of their classroom.  I often use my HM cheat sheets to help me keep track of what is going on, as well as constant teacher communication.

 In the classroom there are way more variables...mainly another adult and about 15 more kids than I am used to.  Details.  Getting into the classroom is one of the best decisions I ever made.  I love going in to work on communication goals!  I end up getting to know kids that I wouldn't normally interact with, working collaboratively with teachers, and impacting my students in the place where they spend the majority of their time.  I know this makes a lot of people don't want to turn into an aide or worry about butting heads.  I have to say, I have only run into these issues a few times and was able to work them out pretty easily.  Here are some of my tips...

  • Find teachers you work well with.  I have had great luck with inclusion teachers who have background in ESE...they usually know more about me and my role, so they are easy to work with.  Start here and your reputation will build.
  • Be flexible.  You are entering someone else's turf, so you have to put yourself in their shoes and be a team player.
  • Literacy centers are a very easy way to support communication.  I have run my own center in some classrooms, differentiated for my students based on their goals.  
  • Writing is a great area to push in for and it might be my favorite!  Great way to work on syntax and vocabulary!
  • Functional communication skills and pragmatic interventions often NEED to be implemented in the classroom for generalization.  
  • Don't be scared to take hold of the whole class!  Co-teaching means you are teaching WITH the teacher.  
  • Plan, plan, plan.  Implementing services in the context of a classroom requires tons of planning with the teacher and good communication...but we are the best at that, right?

I recently did a library trip with a student and realized that could become part of our regular routine.  He needed so much help looking for books, choosing one he liked, and the process of checking out.  That got me thinking about how I help other students all over school...

  • Lunch...this is a great time to work on social skills, functional communication, fluency practice, and articulation carryover.  Go pop in the lunchroom for a few minutes or plan to have lunch with students every week.  Either way, they love to see you there and they get added practice!  I also know many SLPs who hold a lunch bunch for social skills groups, which is awesome!  
  • Recess...again with all of the above.  
  • Outside...I have also been know to march a group outside in gorgeous weather to hold a therapy session.  A nature walk is great for expanding language and gets us out of a rut.  We happen to have gardens at our school which are also good for building language.
  • Specials...transitions seem to be an issue for many of our kids and the lack of structure in special classes like music, art, and P.E. can throw them for a loop.  This is a great place to work on communication and coping skills.

I am of the firm position that it depends on the child as to what service delivery option works for them.  Some students need resource, in my speech room, and that is how they learn best.  But I also have students who I need to think outside the box for to help them meet their goals.

Do you ever step outside your speech room to do therapy?  What do you find you love about?  What are the challenges?

Jenn Alcorn is a school based Speech-Language Pathologist in Florida.  She has been practicing for 5 years and currently works with students from grades PK to 8.  Jenn is also the author of  Crazy Speech World. Head over there and check it out! Make sure to follow her on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest!