When I first began as an SLP, I started with a large caseload that fluctuated between 72-83 students. There was no time in my day to plan for those individual students. So, my brain immediately went to using theme-based lessons that I could adapt for all of my grade levels. Using theme-based lessons that are easily adapted helped me reduce my planning time (and brain power) by hours! I am heading into my 15th year as an SLP, and using themes continues to be a super helpful strategy! I want to share with you 4 tips for picking a great theme for your caseload!
Tip #1 : Pick A Theme That Is Motivating
The #1 tip I have for selecting a theme is to make sure it’s something that is high interest and highly motivating for your students. This is a much easier task for my younger students than it is for my older elementary or middle school students. I can usually capture my younger students’ interest for any theme by simply incorporating dinosaurs, legos, or something shiny! My older students are not so easily entertained (as I’m sure many of you understand). Another SLP shared with me a little while ago that she likes to poll her older students about what they are interested in at the beginning of her school year. Her students’ answers help drive her lesson planning and theme selection. This is something that can easily be incorporated into your therapy plans for your first week back.
Why is this my #1 tip? The more we can build our students’ interest in the lessons and themes we are using, the more buy-in we’ll see, which we know leads to more progress.
Tip #2: Keep Your Students’ Environment In Mind
When picking a theme, think about what is going to be relevant to your student. What is something your students can relate to or experience in their day-to-day lives? I like to pick themes about the seasons, the environment around my student, on-going classroom topics, etc.
Selecting themes that are personally relevant to my students helps build that connection between therapy and real life (can’t forget about that generalization!). A great theme for this summer would be the Summer Olympics, especially for those of you doing ESY.
The themes you pick should also be inspiring and exciting for you too! Of course, my students’ interests will always trump mine (#therapistlife). However, if you can find themes that are as interesting and motivating to you as they are to your students, then you’re going to kill that session! Your excitement will shine through and therapy will be really fun for you and your student.
For example, I love selecting camping themes because I love going camping and hiking and it’s also a theme that my students love. This makes our camping themed therapy sessions really, genuinely, fun!
Picking a theme that you can adapt across multiple grade levels is they key to save yourself planning time. For example, an apple theme is great for younger elementary students, older elementary students, and middle schoolers. This theme can also be adapted for my older student with higher needs or benefit from a very supported classroom. I found that many of my students with this profile had language skills similar to some of my elementary student. I was able to take the same concepts and adapt them with age-appropriate photos and materials that are respectful to those students. Here are some sample activity ideas using an apples theme across different age groups:
In A Theme Rut?
If you’re having a hard time picking the right themes for your students, check out my free Themed Therapy Planning Guide. It has over 100 seasonal and non-seasonal therapy theme ideas for you to choose from! This planning guide also comes with an editable lesson plan template you can use to help plan your themed therapy sessions. If you’re still having a tough time finding the right theme for your students, I would also recommend collaborating with other teachers. See what themes are being incorporated in your students’ classrooms that can also be incorporated and worked on in speech therapy!
If you’re loving themed therapy planning that can be adapted across grade level to save you hours of planning time, check out the Themed Therapy SLP Membership. With this membership you will receive new themed materials to use with your students every month! To kick-off this challenge, I will be hosting a 5-day theme organizational challenge on Facebook. Join now for a sneak peak into the membership, great organizational tips from other themester SLP’s, and fun giveaways! Click on the photos below to learn more.
This blog post is based on my recent Facebook live called, “What Makes a Great Theme for Your Caseload“. Make sure to check it out!
Recently, I polled the SLPs that follow me on Instagram to see how many of us make individual student folders for our caseloads. It was a pretty even 50/50 split of speech pathologists that do make individual folders and those that don’t.
I personally do not make individual speech folders for each child on my caseload. I use a giant therapy binder that has tabs for each child on my caseload. If I cover two schools, then I store a therapy binder at each school.
Setting Up Articulation Speech Folders
For each student, I store their therapy logs, a communication log, their IEP-at-a-glance, and specialized data sheets as needed. Typically, I just flip back and forth between students to keep everything documented.
However, I always have certain students that I service in a quick artic model, or I want to have some specialized visuals organized for my artic students to use when running mixed groups. In these circumstances, I will make an articulation speech folder for the individual student or the particular sound/phonological process. Today, I am going to share how you can set up your own articulation speech folders to help you streamline your therapy planning process.
Why I Make Articulation Speech Folders
Let’s face it. We have limited time for planning therapy. And sometimes we are doing our quick artic in the hallways or targeting articulation goals with mixed groups. It is hard for me to keep visuals, homework sheets, flash cards, etc. organized for my articulation students. Having all of the tools I may need in one speech folder helps me to be prepared for therapy. Planning therapy is less stressful because I can grab the folder knowing that everything I need is ready to use.
Or, if I have 3-4 students working on a certain phonological process, I can make one folder for that process and have all the speech materials I need to remediate that process. The only other thing I may need to grab is a toy, a game, or a manipulative to use with all the tools in the speech folder.
Materials to Make Articulation Speech Folders
To make your speech folder, you do need some organizational materials to make it work. I am going to show you what I do, but feel free to adapt for your caseload. Amazon affiliate links are included for your convenience.
What other office supplies have you found helpful to include in your student’s speech folders? Share in the comments!
What to Include in Your Articulation Speech Folder
When setting up your articulation speech folder, you want to have an idea of where the child is performing with learning his/her sound. If the child is at the syllable level, then you can include materials and visuals for that level, as well as add in materials for the word and phrase level.
This allows you to have extra materials ready in the event that the student progresses quicker than you expected. You will be ready to adapt the therapy session easily without racking your brain on what to do next.
Here are some helpful things to include in your speech folder:
Homework forms that help track if the student is practicing at home. I use these ones from Kiwi Speech (FREE printable). For your students that you are creating home programs, you can have homework sheets in this folder ahead of time, so you can easily plan and track homework assignments. This is a free homework sheet once students get to the carryover level in my STORE.
Please share any other forms, visuals, or tools you would add to your articulation speech folders in the comments! You can also tag me on instagram @thedabblingspeechie with your articulation speech folder setup.
Blog Posts To Help You Plan Articulation Therapy
As busy SLPs, it is easy to struggle with ideas on how to increase repetitions or keep your students motivated with articulation practice. Here are some blog posts with ideas to make your articulation therapy productive and fun:
Having the right speech therapy resources for the busy SLP is important. When we have the tools we need, SLPs can serve students better and more efficiently.I know my lesson planning is a lot easier because of the speech therapy resources I have found over the years. Slowly, I have been able to build my stash of helpful therapy tools.The advancements with technology have really opened the doors for helping SLPs have access to speech therapy resources they need. Back when I was first starting out in the field in 2007, there was no Pinterest. And blogs, YouTube, and Teachers Pay Teachers were just starting out, so I had no idea about these resources.
Using Online Resources Can Help You Streamline Caseload Management
Having access to so many websites has been such a blessing for me as an SLP. The job will always be hard, but I have found some websites that I use over and over again to help me be successful as an SLP. Today, I want to share 10 websites that help busy SLPs be more effective with their jobs.
FREE Speech Therapy Websites That Help SLPS
YouTube is one of my most utilized speech therapy resources. I love that it is free, and new content is always being added. YouTube allows me to plan no prep/low prep therapy and to cover a lot of different goals. Here are some of my favoriteYouTube channels.
SciShowKids – Need a YouTube channel that has LOTS of non-fiction videos that are about five minutes in length or less? There are so many great non-fiction videos to access. I have used her BEE videos in this blog post HERE.
GoNoodle – For your wiggly students, movement brain break videos are awesome! I utilize these videos when teaching my push-in lessons for my SDC K-2 classes.
Storyline Online – This is a channel that has celebrities read popular children’s books out loud. When you don’t have time to hit the library or want to use a certain book, head to YouTube. There are lots of read-aloud books on there.
2. ReadWorks is a free website providing fiction and non-fiction reading passages by grade level. It will read a passage to a student and also includes pre-picked vocabulary that you can target in the passage. You can also get comprehension questions with answer choices for each passage.
3. EdPuzzle is a free website that allows educators to add questions to videos. You can create multiple choice questions or open-ended questions that will pause the video in the moment when you want to ask a question. I use this for wh- questions, inferencing, and vocabulary.
4. VocabGrabber – Research continues to show that teaching students Tier II vocabulary words will help them grow their vocabulary skills. So, I love using this free website to get the Tier II vocabulary from textbook passages, fictional books, and non-fiction passages.
Speech Therapy Resources with Paid Subscription Websites
5. Everyday Speech – If you have students with social pragmatic disorders who are in upper elementary school and middle school, then you will LOVE Everyday Speech’s Video Library. They have over 100 videos with worksheets included for different social skill concepts you are teaching your students. Video Modeling is an evidence-based practice for children with Autism, and these video lessons are formatted that way. My social skills push-in lesson planning was a breeze using this subscription. I never felt out of ideas and always had a good video to show. You can read more about this speech therapy resource HERE.
6. The Informed SLP – SLPs are super busy. After a long day of conducting therapy and paperwork, we just don’t have the brain space or energy to stay up-to-date with the latest research articles on a monthly basis. I want the research info, but I need it in the “Cliff Notes” version so I can efficiently figure out how to apply the research to my students. Then, The Informed SLP came along, and I became a customer. Every month, the team at The Informed SLP shares reviews of the most relevant research articles. You can read the articles on your lunch break or listen in the car. I love that I don’t feel overwhelmed after I read an article and can digest the contents in friendly spans of time.
Use A Subscription That Will Help You Make Informed Clinical Decisions
The Informed SLP is now offering CEU courses that you can listen to in the car, on a walk, when you are cooking dinner or working out at the gym! You can also listen to the article reviews in the same fashion. This membership has helped build my clinical confidence and a big reason I am an affiliate for this subscription. Click the picture above and use the code: FELICE to get 20% off your yearly subscription (This 20% discount is only available for subscriptions).
Speech Therapy Websites with FREE and PAID Resources
8. Teachers Pay Teachers – When I found this speech therapy resource, I was over the moon. It had FREE lessons and affordable therapy tools that I could literally buy and use within minutes of purchasing. When my district agreed to pay for my Super Duper orders, it took like 2-3 months to actually get the materials. Even if you don’t buy anything on the site, there are TONS of valuable FREE resources. Check out the ones in my store HERE.
9. Speech Therapy Resource Libraries on Blogs – Did you know that a lot of SLP bloggers have FREE resource libraries for their newsletter communities? You join their weekly or monthly newsletter and get access to speech therapy goodies that you can’t find anywhere else. If you need a good speech report template, visual supports, articulation carryover activities, and more, then join mine HERE. Some of my favorite free libraries are from Speechy Musings and The Speech Bubble SLP.
10. Home Speech Home has some of the most thorough word lists on the web that are FREE. When I need to come up with some words for language or articulation, I usually go there! They also have paid apps and resources on their site.
Bonus Speech Therapy Websites for Caseload Management
I know this post has 10 speech therapy websites for SLPs, but it is hard to just recommend ten websites when there are a lot of helpful tools you can access on the internet. If you are looking for some caseload management tools, I recommend trying SLPToolKit. I did a review a few years ago HERE, but since that time, the company has made a ton of updates to help streamline caseload management.
SLPs that want to digitally have access to goals (you can save your goals or they have tools to help you create), have present level assessments and progress monitoring tools digitally, then this website subscription is for you!
Those of you that struggle with managing all the goals your students are working on may benefit from the Swivel Scheduler. It allows you to set-up your speech schedule with your students goals. Then, you can print your schedule each week and it will automatically “swivel” your students goals, so you know exactly what you need to plan and target in a session!
Need More Caseload Management Tips?
One way that I utilize speech therapy websites is by streamlining systems. The first week back at work is when I get my caseload organized. You can see my tips HERE. I also used SLPtoolkit and TPT to help me make processes for my progress monitoring. I wrote a post with all my helpful tips HERE. I am not sure if Google Drive is considered a website, but this has been such a game changer for saving me time and re-inventing the wheel. Check out how Google Forms can help streamline your referral process HERE. This online tool has also helped me stay organized with report writing. You can grab my FREE report template HERE. I store all my templates in Google Drive now!
What Websites Have Helped You SLP?
I would love to know what speech therapy resources have been helpful for you. Please share any websites that you use on a regular basis in the comments or email me at email@example.com.
There has been a big shift in school districts wanting Speech Pathologists to adopt push-in speech therapy services for their caseloads. It is very easy to tell SLPs to use this model, but without guidance, this process feels overwhelming. And as SLPs in the trenches, we know that when implementing a new model or approach, many conflicts can arise that impact delivering collaborative services well.
Concerns SLPs Have With Implementing Push-In Service Delivery Models
SLPs raise several questions about implementing push-in speech therapy services. Personally, I know since implementing different collaborative service delivery models, conflicts and roadblocks come up. Even though I am in my 12th year as an SLP, I still find issues with doing push-in therapy. It is an on-going learning process.
Here are some questions I have asked about push-in therapy:
How will I have time to fit in all the collaborative services into my schedule?
How will I take and keep data on these students?
Where and when will collaboration and planning happen during my work day?
More Questions SLPs Are Asking About Push-In Service Delivery Model
What do I do if a teacher doesn’t want me in his/her classroom? What if the teacher is difficult to work with?
How do I know this model is going to be effective for my student? And how do I communicate this recommendation to parents and staff?
Why is this deliver model more effective than doing pull-out therapy?
How do I structure lessons to target all my students goals?
These are very valid questions SLPs should be asking when considering a collaborative service delivery model. As busy SLPs it is difficult to know when collaborative services are appropriate, and how to manage those services. Furthermore, having the support for ways to plan effective lessons/classroom supports is time-consuming and complex. Trying a new service deliver model takes time. And it also means that you have to be willing to try new approaches and be flexible with the ups and downs with the process. One way that you can feel more confident about trying a push-in approach is getting some guidance with how to set up your push-in therapy session. Today, I will answer “How do I structure my push-in therapy session?”
Roadblocks I Have Faced Implementing Push-In Speech Therapy
I have been implementing push-in therapy sessions starting in my 4th year as a school-based SLP. Over the years, I have found the most success with implementing a push-in speech therapy model with my Special Day Classrooms. There has been a big desire to provide push-in support in the general education teacher, but one of the big roadblocks I faced was time. A lot of times, I needed to see 3-4 kids at a certain time and they all were placed in different classrooms. I physically could not push into the classroom for each child because of time. One group is 30 minutes long. If I went to individual classrooms, I would be spending one to two hours servicing that group. With the size of my caseload, my schedule was not able to accommodate a full collaborative model. For many general education students, I used a pull-out speech therapy model with a coaching/collaborative approach.
We Must Remember What IEP Stands For When Considering Service Models
It is also a good reminder that the Individual Education Plan is just that, individual. We must consider least restrictive environment, areas of need and how a student will learn best base don the present levels of performance. So, I am not in support of school districts telling SLPs that a full inclusion model is appropriate for every student.
How I Use C0-Teaching In My Special Day Classrooms
Today, I am going to share about how I do a co-teaching or team teaching model with my Special Day Classrooms. When I use this model, I know which students I am providing this support as their services. Some students that have services with me will participate in the push-in lesson, but I may schedule to see them at an alternative time because the areas of need/goals may need to be addressed with a different model. For example, if I have a student with persisting phonological processes, I will try to cover their goals during the push-in lesson as I can, but I may have them on my speech schedule to provide service for that goal in a pull-out group therapy session. Does that make sense?
Tips For Co-Teaching Model in my K-2 Special Day Classrooms for Mild-Moderate Delayed
I go into the classroom for a 50-60 minute block of time. Before starting this co-teaching model, I have set up expectations with the teacher with the support I need during that time. Even though planning out the lessons is more work for me, I found that it has helped teachers with looking forward to having me in the classroom. Typically, I will collaborate with the teacher via conversation or email about the themes and activities I want to plan. My level of co-teaching depends on the teacher. Some teachers like to participate during the whole class lesson and others need me to take the lead on running the entire lesson. Prior to implementing this support model, I share how the session time is structured and the level of support I am wanting to have with the teacher and aides.
What I Do Prior To Starting My Push-In Therapy
During this time, I also ask the teacher about how he/she structures her class and want to make sure I am following his/her classroom procedures. The classroom teacher can help take the lead on behavior management as well as pairing students at the appropriate levels. I am very upfront with my vision for the push-in and how I usually run the lessons. Before starting services, I try to make sure I answer any questions the teacher may have as well as giving them reasons why I chose the co-teaching model.
Here are some talking points that I share:
I get to learn from you and the staff on behavior management techniques. There is also an opportunity to learn about the curriculum you are using with students.
By doing services in the classroom, it helps minimize transitions and provides language instruction in a familiar, natural setting.
All students in the classroom can benefit from the language/social language instruction.
I can model techniques for the teacher and staff on how to facilitate more language/communication skills during the school day.
Helps With Collaboration With How To Support The Classroom Environment
It increases opportunities for the teacher and speech pathologist to collaborate about language supports.
I am able to plan lessons around the classroom curriculum or help with finding opportunities for students to practice language throughout the instructional day.
This model allows me more time to provide support with making visuals or modeling techniques to engineer the classroom for more language and communication (if you say this, then you need to make sure you do it to build trust in the teacher.)
How To Set Up Your Push-in Speech Therapy Session
You can set up a 30 minute whole class lesson or do a 50-60 lesson. Typically, I have found the most success in providing language enriched instruction when doing a 50-60 minute lesson. The longer session works best when you have teacher buy-in to help support running stations with you. The classroom teacher helps with managing behaviors and the flow of the lesson. The speech pathologist can teach the whole lesson as a group in front of the class. The second half of the lesson, break the kids up into small stations that last for 10 minutes each. The instructional aides, SLP and teacher help run a station. Students can rotate to the new language activity every 10 minutes. Or at each table, there is a different activity. If transition is difficult, then scaffold one activity to cover all students’ abilities.
Here is how I set up a push-in speech therapy session for a 50-60 minute period:
Welcome and introduce the activities planned. Review behavior expectations. This portion is implemented as a whole class at their desks or on the carpet. I utilize the instructional aides/teachers to support with behaviors and students focusing.
I read the chosen book to the class. I make it interactive by asking questions, using hand movements for verbs or have students predict what might happen next. You do not have to read a book during this whole class instruction. You can plan a lesson around a theme using songs, anchor charts and answering questions like a circle time routine.
Planning Movement Breaks & Whole Class Instruction After The Book
Then, I implement a movement break or a quick activity to keep the students focus.
At that time, I either do a Google Slide presentation with short videos, pictures to answer questions or working on “I see _______.” If I don’t do a Google Slide presentation, I have come up with a quick language activity to work on basic concepts, answering simple questions or describing an item by attributes. This portion of the push-in can be 20-30 minutes depending on attention spans and content planned.
Then, I explain each of the stations, who will run the station and which students will go to each station. The first month, you may have a heavy emphasis on transitions and behaviors around transitions. I use a lot of behavior visuals to explain what the child needs to do and how I will signal when it is time to move to the next station. My behavior visuals to teach routines and expectations has helped me support the class during this time. If you want to read more about behavior management, click on this post HERE.
Small Group Work Stations With Other Staff Allow Additional Meaningful Practice
Each station has an activity to do that is aligned with the common core standards and targets a language skill or a students goal. Typically, I give the aides and teachers the activities that are easier to implement, so if I don’t have time to give a lot of feedback and direction, they know what to do. I provide cheat sheet instructions or try to make the lesson straight forward, so the aides and teacher feel confident.
At my station, I may use the same activity with all the students or I may vary the activity instruction to give that focused time on specific goals. I try to make my lessons at stations aligned with many of the students goals, so they get multiple opportunities to practice. Station activity time can take 10-15 minutes. I usually make sure to allow 1-2 minutes for transitioning students to the next station. If you have a class that struggles with transitioning, you can just move the activities to the next table and eliminate having students moving from table to table. Also, if you find that you want aides/teachers at the three stations, you can do one activity at a time while you float and model skills across the different tables.
Planning Push-In Lessons
Planning push-in lessons can be time consuming and overwhelming. It can be difficult to come up with lessons that are easily adaptable for different language levels and skills. In my next blog post, I will be providing information on how to plan a push-in lesson as well as showing you a sample lesson plan. If you need language lesson plan guides with activities already thought out for your next push-in lesson, I have lesson plan guides for different themes that will help you feel more confident about going into the classroom. You can check those out HERE. If you have questions or tips for how you do push-in therapy, please share in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Need More Support With Push-In Services?
If you are tired of feeling alone and insecure about your abilities to implement collaborative services, I created an ASHA CEU course that will help you have the tools to feel confident with implementing push-in services with your caseload. Sign up today HERE.
How many times a year do you progress monitor speech goals? I have to do it 3 times in California and then for the annual IEP. In some states, I have heard of SLPs having to do it 8 times a year! Share in the comments how many times your state/district makes you progress monitor.
Progress reports are like cleaning your bathroom. You know the bathroom needs to be cleaned. Each day you walk past that bathroom thinking about all the germs that have started to build up in that toilet. You want your bathroom to be germ free (who doesn’t!?). But the thought of going in there to clean your bathroom after working all day makes you want to cry. So, you just close the bathroom door and use the guest bathroom for a few days. Then, when you know that you can’t stand the idea of a germy bathroom, you slide on those yellow gloves, get the cleaning supplies out and start scrubbing. While you are cleaning, you think to yourself “if only I cleaned the bathroom last week. I wouldn’t have to be here for 30 minutes deep cleaning everything”.
Who doesn’t want a squeaky clean bathroom all the time!? We just wished someone else would do it for us, right? Progress reports are one of those necessary chores we have to do as speech pathologists. We try to avoid them, but they never go away. As much as I have tried to get better at doing them, I still don’t like them. I know why I have to do them. I see how it can be helpful when communicating with families about their child’s progress. And, it is definitely an important part of tracking the progress my students are making towards their goals. They just take a long time (insert dreadful, complaining face).
Maybe it is my caseload of 55 students that makes it such an unwanted task? Hmmmm….. or maybe it is those students that come to me with goals that I didn’t write, and I am wondering how on earth am I supposed to measure this goal??
Progress Monitor Speech Goals With A Checklist (save your sanity)
To stay organized and make sure I don’t miss a step in the process, I made a progress monitoring checklist. That way if I have a 20 minute opening between therapy groups, I will know exactly where I left off with progress reports. When you are organized with the process, it is easier to navigate. Download the free checklist by clicking the pink button below.
Tips On How To Progress Monitor Speech Goals Efficiently
I have come to accept that progress reports are not going away. In an effort to bring calm to the chaos, I am always in search of strategies to make them feel less overwhelming. I share a lot of my tips on how I progress monitor speech goals efficiently in my blog post HERE.
One of the best strategies I have found to progress monitor speech goals is to write better goals. Taking the time to really think about those areas of need and make sure my goals are S.M.A.R.T. simplifies my therapy planning. It also helps me to take better data in a session. I usually picture my therapy sessions and think about how I am going to take data in a mixed group. When I have more data, I can write up my progress notes a lot easier.
Plan progress monitoring days where you have individual worksheets or activities for everyone in the group. During the session, have each student come work with you, so you can progress monitor any goals that you need.
Resources To Help Progress Monitoring Speech Goals With Ease
Here are some resources I have found to be helpful with progress monitoring :
Read Works has free non-fiction and fictional passages sorted by grade level and even have comprehension questions included for your students working on listening comprehension.
Use rubrics on those therapy days (I like the ones from The Speech Bubble SLP HERE) when trying to manage a group’s behavior–teaching an engaging lesson and writing down data on each student just isn’t going to work.
Here is my FREE Articulation Data Sheet that can help you with progress monitoring students when they are doing tasks that are more conversational or multiple sentences and taking tally data can be cumbersome.
Find resources that have pictures with the skills you need to progress monitor. Put all the tools in a binder for that skill such as pronouns or noun-verb agreement. Then, pull out those tools during progress monitor time to see how your students are doing. I like to administer 5 stimulus items with minimal prompting to see how they work independently. Then, I will add in visual cues/prompts or give answer choices to know exactly where the student is with his/her level of independence.
If you work as a school based SLP, getting speech therapy referrals for the R sound is pretty common. The /r/ distortions are pretty noticeable by teachers, parents and staff. Have you ever gotten that referral from a preschooler or kindergarten teacher and think, “I should probably get that teacher a developmental norms chart ASAP.”
A couple of years ago, our SLP Professional Learning Community discussed how to handle speech therapy referrals for /r/. Guess what happened…..there were a lot of varying answers and viewpoints. It stirred up a hot debate (all friendly discussion). And we left the PLC without a clear direction with how to handle /r/ speech therapy referrals.
What I learned after the Professional Learning Community Discussion
The perspectives of the /r/ referral varied from SLP to SLP. Some felt that you should take them younger (6-7 years of age) if they are stimuable. Other SLPs felt that the student wouldn’t meet eligibility for an articulation disorder based on educational code, but the student would receive support via Response To Intervention (RTI) with speech improvement. There were some SLPs that didn’t feel comfortable with providing RTI because of potential legal ramifications for seeing gen ed students without an IEP.
I decided to send out a survey on Speech Therapy Referrals
The discussion with other SLPs in the room was helpful in learning about different perspectives regarding an /r/ referral. However, I didn’t leave the discussion with a clearer understanding of what our district was supporting SLPs to do. Everyone had valid points and reasons for how they handled /r/ referrals, but we lacked a cohesive game plan for /r/.
My biggest question to the SLPs in the group was “when do you consider an /r/ error outside normal development?” I also wanted to know when SLPs took students with /r/ distortions on their IEP caseload or if they treated it through RTI.
Again, answers varied from SLPs. This prompted me to wonder what other SLPs thought across the United States. I figured I could get a bigger perspective by surveying a larger group.
Here is the situation I shared with SLPs
You have a 7 year old in second grade with a distorted /r/ in all positions. The teacher shares that at times it is difficult to understand the student. The parent also has concerns about his articulation. The parent signed a screening form for you to do a quick observation of his speech. You noticed that the /r/ is pretty distorted and he is not stimuable for /r/ when given prompts.
These were the results from the survey on how SLPs would handle /r/ referral:
Speech Therapy Referrals – Considerations about /r/
Many SLP’s commented that they would do an RTI model for this student; however, their district does not allow them to see students without an IEP.
Some SLP’s shared that they would not get an assessment plan signed until after age 8 because their district eligibility guidelines would not allow them to take a student for /r/ at age 7. Interestingly, some SLP’s shared that their district would not deem a single sound error of /r/ to meet eligibility for speech services. (There is an argument that /r/ is not a single sound error among some SLPs).
Many SLP’s also shared that because the teacher and SLP are observing reduced intelligibility, this may warrant a full assessment of articulation.
What I learned from being in the school setting & doing this survey
In certain districts where I have worked, I would not be able to get a signed assessment plan until the student turned 8. I was also told that I could not serve students in an RTI model because this would impact legalities with my job.
When looking at an /r/ referral, I have to determine if the articulation disorder is adversely impacting the student’s academic progress. This is where we ask ourselves if the student’s /r/ distortion is adversely impacting the student’s ability to meet the speaking and listening standards. We would also want to determine if the student’s intelligibility is below 80% intelligible. If it isn’t affecting academics or intelligibility, it is highly likely that the student will not meet eligibility for an IEP under an articulation disorder. That being said, if you feel that the /r/ distortion is adversely impacting those two areas, it is very important to make distinct mention of that in your report findings.
A few SLP’s shared that the classroom teacher must do 6-8 weeks of general education intervention before moving towards an assessment.
Many SLP’s shared that when the student’s /r/ is addressed earlier than 7.5-8 years in a “speech improvement model”, the /r/ improves. Furthermore, many have found when they monitor the student’s growth just by checking in with the gen ed teacher, that most develop the /r/ in third grade without intervention.
We must also consider our professional judgment with dealing with these referrals. We use the developmental norms as a guideline and really need to look at educational impact when looking at a student with articulation errors.
How I handled /r/ referrals in my previous job
Based on some reading that I did on ASHA’s website, federal law may impact an SLP’s ability to take students with /r/ on an IEP. Serving students in an RTI model may also lead use to legal implications. ASHA recommends SLPs not label intervention as RTI, but rather call it a “speech club.” I call my intervention “speech improvement class.”
Here is a link to RTI information on ASHA. This could be a great discussion piece to have with your districts and speech departments. I also found the Speech Sound Disorders page on the ASHA website helpful.
At the time of this survey, my speech department was having a lot of discussions about implementing a “speech improvement program” or seeing students on an IEP for /r/. There was not a final discussion. So, I did see a couple of students in speech improvement class that have noticeable /r/ distortions. The students were in second grade and between 7 or 7 1/2 years of age. Parent permission was obtained and the speech improvement class was for 6-8 weeks.
What are your thoughts about the /r/ referral or single sound error referrals?
How does your SLP department and district handle speech therapy referrals for /r/? What are your thoughts on taking an /r/ student in the school setting? I would love to hear your expertise. Feel free to email me at email@example.com or share in the comments below.
Do you have students that are at the generalization level with their articulation? I have some articulation carryover therapy resources that will help you plan therapy that also go well with mixed groups!
Need some free visuals to support self awareness and functional practice of your student’s articulation sounds? This blog post has FREE printables and ideas for how to organize your articulation therapy.
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