10.21.2013

Staff Development

I have been getting tons of referrals lately - some necessary, and some not so much. I realized that this may be because the role of the speech pathologist can be sort of a nebulous concept in the public schools. I am also brand new, and I haven't had a great platform to get the word out about my referrals system yet.

I've interacted with pretty much every teacher by now, but it is clear that some people still don't quite get what it is that I do. I'm referred to as a "speech teacher," and no one really knows what the "L" in SLP is all about. (For the record, being called a "speech teacher" drives me nuts - I'm a therapist, not a teacher, and I do way more than correct speech errors! The occupational therapist is referred to as an OT, not a handwriting teacher, so why should SLPs settle for the title of "speech teacher?!" I've made a point to tell my kids and introduce myself to the staff as an SLP, not a speech teacher, to subtly increase awareness about this issue. Jenn Alcorn from Crazy Speech World wrote a nice positions piece about this for PediaStaff - check it out!). So in order to raise awareness about my role and making referrals (who, when, and how to refer), I created a super short Prezi and presented it at our staff development meeting this afternoon. I got some great feedback about it, and thought you may want to use it at your schools as well! Click here to access the presentation.


A caveat: In my school district, SLPs do not work on swallowing, reading/writing, or voice. I know a lot of SLPs who do (and I think we should!) but my district just hasn't caught on to this yet. So be aware that this presentation just discusses language, articulation, and pragmatics. It does not mention anything about pre-literacy, reading, writing, swallowing, or voice.

Here is a slide-by slide (rather, frame-by-frame) run-down of my spiel.
1) To set up the Prezi, click on the 'present online' button and then the 'start online presentation' button. "I'd like to talk briefly about my role in supporting the students and staff here at [school]. Some of this will be a review for many of you, but I'll also be going over the referral process for speech and language, which is a little different this year."
2) Read, "An SLP assesses and treats students with...." "And just to elaborate on what I mean by 'speech and language difficulties,' this may be difficulty with the form, content, or use of language, as well as the articulation of speech. These difficulties may exist in the expressive (what the child says) or receptive (what the child understands) domains. In [x district] speech-language pathologists only deal with oral language, not writing or reading."
3) "So now I'll elaborate on those areas of speech and language that I just mentioned. We'll start with articulation. Articulation basically refers to the sounds of speech. There are different types of articulation problems..." Read, "children may say one sound for another..."
4) "Here is a speech sound development chart. I'm bringing this up not because you need to memorize this information by any means, but just to illustrate the wide range of development of speech sounds. Children should all go through the same pattern of development, but there may be some variation in the time it takes to complete this process. Just like the development of ability to crawl or walk, there are varying degrees of proficiency along the way before a child reaches adult-like ability. There have to be a few stumbles, so to speak. The green bars demonstrate the range of typical development - until 85% of children are able to use the sound in conversations. As you can see, some sounds may still be developing up until about age 8. It is important to note that this chart is just for monolingual english speakers, something that is a rarity here at [school], and that every sound acquisition chart presents slightly different results, depending on what research it is based on. The important thing to remember is that there is a range of normalcy in development of speech sounds."
5) "Fluency as it refers to speaking is often called stuttering." Read, "children may exhibit..."
6) "I've put up some tips for teachers for those of you who have students with fluency impairments in your classrooms as well as some 7) myths about stuttering. Both of these handouts come from a great organization and would be helpful for you to review when or if it becomes relevant for you."
8) "As I mentioned earlier, SLPs think of language as being divided up into form, content and use. Form  basically means grammar. This may be evidenced..." read "expressively or..."
9) "The content of language basically means semantics. That is, the vocabulary and concepts a child is able to understand and express. This may include things like..." read "prepositions..."
10) "Finally, language use refers to pragmatic, or social language ability. Although [the counselor] and I work closely with students on skills like conversational turn-taking, initiating and maintaining conversations, and following conversational conventions, I work mostly on the more language-critical components, like understanding and use of figurative language, social intents, humor, and that sort of thing."
11) "As you know, communication impairments can result in problems across the board." Read "Communication problems may affect success in..."
12) "So now let's talk about which students you should refer. I would like to talk with you about any student who has trouble..." read "being understood by their peers..."
13) "Moving on to how to make a referral. I would love to talk to you about your concerns personally, and that conversation is one that we should have. But just to keep me organized, I would like to to fill out an official referral form as well - if you do it through the link it will send directly to me, or you can attach the paper form to an email or slip it in my box. Before I bring up how to find that form, I want to really stress that in order to qualify for services, the impairment must cause/contribute to some degree of educational impact. This is the part that is hard for us and parents to understand - Unlike the private sector where SLPs can treat anyone who has a disability, because the work I do is publicly funded, an educational impact must be demonstrated in addition to the presence of a disability. For example, this means that just because a child has difficulty with the articulation of one or two sounds (we usually see it with 'r'), it doesn't mean that he or she will qualify for services. But if the issue is affecting his or her ability to form social relationships, have the confidence to contribute to classroom discussions, or be understood by peers and teachers, that is when I'm able to step in."
14) "This first picture is of the paper referral form. You can find it under the speech folder on the share drive. You'll see at the top there is a link to the electronic form, which is the version that I prefer. If you choose to complete the paper form, just print it out and put it in my box or attach it to an email."
15) "And this picture is of the electronic form. You can find the link to this form in my email signature, or on the last form I showed you, which is under the share drive. Any email I've sent out to you will have a 'Make a speech/language referral' link. This is a Google form, so once you input the information, it will go directly to me. Whichever way you decide to do it, after I get your referral form I will set up a time to come and observe the student. There is a place on the form to write times that best work for you and your classroom schedule - Please think about a time when I would be able to observe the student participating in group instruction as well as have an opportunity to chat with them individually."

The end!

You'll notice that I have some pictures of my referral forms in the presentation. I created the electronic form using Google forms, which I've discovered as a WONDERFUL tool for caseload management. You should definitely check it out! I'd be happy to send a link to mine if you want to see the whole thing, but I don't think I can share it on here otherwise it would be linked to my Google Drive.

Have you given similar presentations at your school? Do you use Google Forms for caseload management?

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