SLP Tips And Tools

Cover image: School based SLPs: How to get your year started off right

School Based SLPs: How to Get Your Year Started Off Right

By | SLP Tips And Tools

As summer starts to wind down for many of us (boo hoo), we begin to think about the new school year. For some of us, that means reflecting back on what went right last year and what we can do better this year. For some of us, it’s a time of excitement as we prep our new materials and decorate our rooms. For some of us, it’s a time of anxiety and uncertainty as we walk into new territory or face changes we may or may not have been expecting. If you are a new SLP, or new to the school setting, you may be feeling a lot of mixed emotions. No matter what category you fall into, I want to help you as you prepare for the new school year.

Cover image: School based SLPs: How to get your year started off right

Here are my top 10 tips for getting your school year started off right:

Preview your caseload. As soon as you are able to, print off your caseload list and look it over. Don’t just look at the number of students on your caseload, but also look at their disability codes, grade level, and service time. All caseloads are not created equal. A large caseload doesn’t always mean it’s time to panic. A small caseload does not always mean a walk in the park. Take this time to look over the list and begin to familiarize yourself with the make-up of the caseload. This will help you as you get to know the students once you start seeing them and drafting your schedule.

Scope out your therapy space. I’m not talking full decoration mode here, but it is a good idea to find your therapy space and start thinking about how you want to use it. If you actually have a room, this is a good time to start thinking about how to want to arrange it and decorate it. If you do not have a room, this is a great time to ask for one. Start looking around the building to see if there is a space that could be repurposed as a speech room. Whatever your situation is, use this time to start planning and preparing for how you will use your space to best serve your students.

Decorate your space…or not. Many SLPs enjoy decorating their space and making it their own. I’m going to be honest…I’ve never been great at décor. I always have good intentions, but it just doesn’t happen. Basically, if I don’t get it done before I start seeing students, it doesn’t happen. And that’s okay. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be the Joanna Gaines of classroom décor. But…do it if you enjoy it. Just do what makes you happy.

Organize your most used materials. If you’re at all like me, you have some materials that you use all of the time. For me, it’s my Language on the Go Bundle and a few favorite games  (Sneaky Snacky Squirrel, Zingo, Pass the Pigs Amazon affiliate links provided). I use other materials, but these are my frequent flyers…the ones I find myself grabbing most often. I like to make sure that these games and materials are easily accessible in my space, so I can grab them when I need them. If you’re a new SLP and aren’t sure which materials fall into this category, no worries. You can always rearrange as necessary.

Photo of language on the go box

Meet the teachers and staff. Sometimes SLPs tend to hide out in their own little world. We often don’t get to know anyone outside of the special education department very well at all. I want to encourage you to get out there and meet the other teachers and staff on your campus. Introduce yourself to the general ed teachers…even if you don’t have students in their classrooms. Get to know the clerks in the office, the custodians, the nurse, and the paraprofessionals. Get out to the lunch room and meet the cafeteria workers! Make your face familiar so you feel comfortable on campus and they feel comfortable having you on campus. Become a part of the team!

Set up a calendar. Having a calendar is so important in the school setting. It doesn’t have to be a paper calendar. There are so many options out there for digital calendars, too. Find something that works for you that will help you keep track of important dates and deadlines. Start out by writing down all the school holidays. This is especially important if you will be working in different districts. I typically have 4-5 different school calendars to keep track of, so I would be lost without my calendar.

view of planner and phone on desk

Plan a rough draft of IEP meetings, re-evals, and progress reports for the year. The next thing I do is map out IEP due dates and progress report dates. These dates can often seem to sneak up on you when the year gets busy, so having reminders written down in your calendar is so helpful.

Look over upcoming due dates. The first few weeks of school can sometimes get hectic. I recommend looking over your dates and noting anything that is due before October. Look at IEP meeting dates, re-evaluations, and any initial evaluations that need to be completed. Prioritize these dates and make a plan of attack to get the paperwork done. This will help so you don’t end up scrambling at midnight the night before a due date.

Learn off-limit times for providing services. Every school has times that they do not want students pulled for speech. It is so important that you find out what these times are BEFORE you start scheduling. I do my very best to schedule students during center times or intervention time whenever possible. I try very hard to stay away from PE, recess, and core subject areas. Talk to your administrators first, that way you have them on your side if scheduling gets difficult.

Create your first draft of your schedule. Yes, I said first draft. Your schedule will change throughout the year. It will most likely change a lot during the first few weeks of school. Be flexible. Do your best to group students by similar grade level/goals, but don’t be afraid to combine goals/grades if necessary. Mixed groups are pretty much a given in the school setting. Once you start seeing students and running through your schedule, you can make adjustments as necessary. There might be students that you discover do not work well together at all. It’s okay. Just communicate with teachers and revise the schedule.

The first few days (and weeks) can sometimes seem overwhelming. It is my hope that this list of tips will give you a game plan that you can make your own. My biggest advice for anyone who is new to the school setting, a new SLP, or just new to your school is to get out there and try not to feel intimidated. Be friendly, communicate with your teachers, have confidence in what you know, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Now that I’ve shared my tips, I want to hear from you. What back-to-school tip do you have to share? Leave a comment below with any tips or questions you have.

I’ll be back with more tips for the first couple of months of school in a few weeks. If you want to make sure that you get notified when I post new blog posts, resources, and freebies, click HERE to become an Insider.

State Testing…An SLP Survival Guide

By | SLP Tips And Tools

Springtime. Blooming flowers, green leaves, rain showers, warmer temperatures (hopefully), and…standardized state testing. Oy.

In Texas, we have two major testing weeks…one in March/April and another in May. Our first round of state testing begins tomorrow (April 10) and will include 4th/5th grade as well as middle and high school students. Then in May, everyone in grades 3 and up will test.

Most school based SLPs do not have to administer state tests (though I know a few who do), but testing weeks definitely still impact us. At several of my schools, the speech therapy room is used for small group or individual test administration, so I lose my therapy space for several days. Any schedule I have been working from goes out the window due to students testing or rearranging of PE times, etc. Testing weeks are not easy for anyone, including the SLP.

But have no fear! I am here to share some testing week survival tips. Just a few things that I have found make my week(s) a little easier to deal with.

1. BE FLEXIBLE – This may be easier said than done. You may show up on Tuesday with a plan, and then show up and find out your plan needs to be scrapped due to a sudden schedule adjustment. Just roll with it and expect that last minute changes will occur. You may need to be flexible with everything from your location to how you group your students. Just roll with it and do your best.

2. GET CREATIVE – One of the biggest challenges I face during testing week is not having a therapy room to see my younger students. To this I say, ‘No problem!” I use this opportunity to get creative with where we have speech therapy. If the weather is nice, we might go outside. Can’t go outside? Try the gym or cafeteria, or another empty room. Walking the halls is probably not allowed when testing is going on, but you might be able to find another space and make it an adventure! You could also try pushing in to your students’ classrooms for the day.

3. CATCH UP ON PAPERWORK – Sometimes, testing schedules make it pretty impossible to get any kind of therapy done. This is when you can use your time to catch up on paperwork. Write IEPs, reports, or progress notes. Maybe you have Medicaid billing to catch up on…

4. GET SOME CEUs DONE – If you can’t see students, you could spend some of your day completing online CEUs. There are so many great courses offered online now and days. I am a member of (affiliate link) and can pretty much complete CEU courses whenever I want to. I hear Medbridge is also fantastic. Or check out the ASHA website or Northern Speech Services and see what they have to offer.

5. CHECK IN WITH YOUR TESTING STUDENTS – When testing is finished for the day, I always check in with my students who had to test. There is usually enough time at the end of the day to get a session in. I do not force my students to come to speech after testing all day, but many times they want to come. I always check in, see how their day went, and ask them if they want to come to speech. I also make sure to have something extra special planned if they do make it to speech.

Testing weeks are usually not fun for anyone on campus. Stress levels are high and schedules are a mess. Just try to stay positive and know that it will all soon be over. Try to be flexible and get done what you can get done. Hang in there and just be thankful that this only happens once (or twice) a year.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you have to help administer state tests? How do you handle testing weeks? Leave a comment below.

5 New Things to Try in the New Year

By | SLP Tips And Tools

Another year has come and gone. It’s time to recharge and start fresh. I always enjoy seeing the end of year recaps and how everyone celebrates the new year. From end of the year count downs, to top social media posts from the previous year…and all the goals and resolutions for the new year.

I’ve never been good at setting (or keeping) new year’s goals or resolutions. I usually start out with good intentions, but somehow fall back into my same old routine sometime before January ends. 
This year, instead of making a new year’s resolution, I wanted to share 5 things that I plan to try in my speech room. You may already do some (or all) of these things, or you may not. Either way, I hope you will read and share your thoughts with me. Maybe you have some expert tips for me as I try these new things, or maybe you want to try them, too. Let me know!
1. Sensory bins
I know many SLPs are already sensory bin experts. I, unfortunately, am not. I tried using a sensory bin one time before Christmas Break and it went okay, but did not end well. The bin of rice ended up spilling in the back of my car.  I may or may not still need to vacuum up the dry rice mess.  This year, I want to give using sensory bins my full effort. I want to try using bins of different materials with all my speech groups. I know The Dabbling Speechie and Ms Gardenia’s Speech Room both have a ton of sensory bin activities to help me get started!

2. Monthly speech newsletter
When I was a teacher, I often sent home a monthly newsletter to parents. The newsletter included a recap of what we worked on the previous month and plans for the upcoming month. I also included tips and information to help parents work with their children at home. I want to improve the home-school connection by sending home a monthly speech newsletter. I think it will be a great way to keep the lines of communication open and offer tips and ideas for working on speech and skills at home. There are several editable newsletter resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, including some from Nicole Allison and Speechy Musings
3. Growth Mindset Teaching
I have seen posts and info about Growth Mindset all over the place, but I have never really looked into it with any amount of depth. This year, I want to learn more about developing a Growth Mindset and teaching my students about it, too. Badger State Speechy and Speech to the Core both have great Growth Mindset resources, and I am ordering the book (Amazon affiliate link for your convenience).

4. Literacy Based Therapy Plans
Confession time…I have had this as a goal for a while. I just have not given it my full commitment. I love the idea of literacy based therapy, and I have a ton of resources to help me get started…I just need to commit and dive in. I actually have a full membership to SLP Now that I don’t even use. Why? The SLP Now site is full of great literacy and theme based resources to help make this type of therapy easy. In the new year I plan to really dig in to all the resources I have and give this a go!

5. Step Out of My Comfort Zone
This is really one of those things that we hear often. Why is it so hard? This year, I know there will be changes in my professional life. I plan to step out of my comfort zone and explore all options available to me. It’s time to be confident and not hold back. This is necessary for me to really try items 1-4 in my list. Anything new is often uncomfortable and scary. I will not hold back. Go big or go home, right?

There you have it…5 things you must try in the new year. Are you already an expert in any of these areas? Share some tips or words encouragement with me in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!  Or, let me know if you plan to join me in trying something new in your professional life. Let’s go for it together!

Happy New Year!

Busy SLP? 5 Tips to Make Your Life Easier and Less Stressful

By | SLP Tips And Tools

Welcome to post #3 in my series, Tips and Tools to Make Your Life Easier and Less Stressful. I’m sharing tips and tools that help busy SLPs on a day-to-day basis. You can read about tool #1: SLP Toolkit HERE.

Today I’m sharing some tips from my SLP life that will hopefully help you in your busy SLP life. I work for a rural special ed co-op and serve 3 different school districts. Most days I travel to at least 2, if not all 3 of my schools. I have to manage my caseloads at each of the districts, juggle meetings, conferences, RTI, therapy, testing, and all that other fun SLP stuff with limited time on each campus. That means I need to be on top of things and stay as organized as I can. If I slack even a little, all of the plates I have spinning come crashing down and it is exhausting trying to get things back in order.
So here are my top 5 tips to make your busy SLP life easier and less stressful:
#1: I know this may seems impossible, but I do my very best to never take work home with me. Taking work home means you are also bringing the stress home with you. I always try to keep work at work so I can focus on my family and recharge for the next work day. Think about all those times you have brought work home and then you don’t get to it. Do you feel guilty for letting it sit? Do you forget about it and have to lug it back the next day still unfinished? Or maybe you actually get it done, but end up staying up late to do so…On days when I feel swamped and think I need to take my work home, I fight the urge and leave it. I think it’s better to go in early, stay a bit late, and work through lunch if necessary. You need time to escape the chaos of work and recharge. Keep the work at work. 🙂

#2: Find a planner or calendar that works for you and USE IT! Everybody has different ways of keeping track of important dates and deadlines. Are you a phone person? Does Siri remind you of your deadlines? Or maybe you are like me and love a good paper planner. Whatever it may be, find a way to keep track of deadlines and stick to it so it becomes a habit. I love my Happy Planner from Michael’s. I got it on sale and used my educator discount, so it wasn’t very expensive at all. I love that it has 3 rows for me to track my life. I use the top row for work related events, the middle row for family/life events, and the bottom row to help me track  my TPT Store and blog. This is the best way for me to stay on track and not forget meetings and deadlines. I look at my planner every morning so I know where I need to be that day…especially since it’s always different! If you need some help finding the perfect planner, you can check out this SLP Planner Roundup post.

 #3: Build reminders into your calendar. Yes, I write down meetings and deadlines, but I also write myself reminders into my calendar. If progress reports are due on March 24, I will write a reminder to myself on March 20 that I need to make sure I have good data for each student. If I have a meeting on April 17, I will write a reminder to myself in the margin of the week prior so it doesn’t sneak up on me. IEP meetings due in May? I’ll make a list in the margin of April to remind myself that I need to schedule and prep the meetings. These little reminders help me to stay on top of my schedule rather than being overwhelmed by it. 

#4: Take 5 minutes of your day to breathe and recharge. Use this time to do something that helps you to take your mind off your busy day…breathe, take a long restroom break, sip your coffee, check social media, read a page of a magazine or book, or just sit and enjoy the silence or a good song. Just make sure you set a timer so you don’t go over your time and end up more stressed. I like to sit in my car for 5 minutes before I get out at each school. I gather my thoughts and go over the game plan in my head before I go in. This time helps me to focus and prepare because once I get out of my car, it’s fast paced and go go go until I get back in my car. 
#5: Try using no print or no prep materials with your students. I have to admit, I am a speech therapy materials junkie. I love interactive books and cute themed games and activities…but I also have 3 schools I have to carry my materials to/from and very little time to laminate and prep. This year, I have developed a love for no print and print-and-go types of resources. With no print activities, all I need is my iPad and I’m ready to go. I use articulation apps in place of artic cards. I download no print resources from Teachers Pay Teachers into iBooks and have them on hand at all times. Print-and-go activities are great because it takes less than 5 minutes for me to access the file on my computer, print it, and set it down on the table ready to go. There are so many great no print and print-and-go resources on Teachers Pay Teachers and many are free! Just add NO PRINT or NO PREP to your search when you are looking for resources. I have several FREE print-and-go resources in my TPT Store, including activity booklets for /th/, activity booklets for /f,v/ (temporary freebie), articulation sudoku, a spring themed compound sentences packet, prefix & suffix worksheets, and a comprehension and sequencing freebie. Click on the links or the images at the end of this post to get these FREE NO PREP resources.
These are just a few things that I do to help me manage my busy SLP life, making it easier and less stressful. Do you have any tips to share? I’d love to hear from you. Share in the comments or feel free to send me an email. 🙂
Links to my FREE NO PREP resources on TPT. Click each image to be taken to the file. 
 FREE /th/ Activity Booklets

/f,v/ Activity Booklets

 FREE Articulation Sudoku

 FREE Comprehension & Sequencing Practice

 FREE Compound Sentence Packet
 FREE Prefix & Suffix Worksheets

Busy SLP? Tool #1 to Make Your Life Easier

By | SLP Tips And Tools

We’ve all been there…a long list of students to test, reports to write, IEPs to prepare, and progress reports…oh the never ending progress reports. Springtime paperwork seems especially never ending and overwhelming. Unfortunately, the paperwork will always be there, but there are ways to make it easier and more manageable.

Today, I want to share one tool I have been using to help streamline my paperwork. It’s seriously one of the best tools for busy SLPs, and I can’t recommend it enough. SLP Toolkit!

SLP Toolkit is a web-based service designed to help SLPs be more efficient with their time and management of all that paperwork. It helps with data collection and documentation, progress tracking, writing present levels, IEPs and more!

I have been using SLP Toolkit regularly since right before Christmas Break.  It has reduced my stress level immensely. I want to share a few of my favorite features of SLP Toolkit and how it can help make your busy SLP life easier.

Present Level Assesments
My absolute favorite feature of the Toolkit is the Present Level Assessment library. I use these with every new evaluation or re-evaluation, when I get new transfer students, and before every annual IEP meeting. There are a variety of assessments available to help assess student strengths and areas of need. (Just a few are shown in the picture below. There are many more.)

Each assessment features questions and activities that thoroughly assess a child’s skills. I use the elementary and fluency assessments the most, but there are so many different ones available.

A few weeks ago, I needed to prep pretty quickly for an annual IEP meeting for a pretty tough student. I stressed about it for about a day before I remembered SLP Toolkit has some great functional communication assessments, too. I ended up with a very good list of the student’s strengths and weaknesses and was able to fully justify my new IEP goals with good solid data.

After you select and administer an assessment to your student, you can save the results in the Toolkit and print a summary. This is the fastest way to get a good picture of a students strengths and needs, and it’s paperless!!!

The Toolkit also gives you a list of suggested targets for goals based on the student’s needs.

You can then select areas to work on and a progress monitoring test will be created and linked to that student’s digital file instantly! It’s like magic!

Progress Monitoring
I use the progress monitoring tests to track student progress on specific goals. The Toolkit tests make it quick and easy to collect data and track progress. It even provides beautiful charts and graphs that you can print or snip and insert into your IEPs!

This is a great way to show growth and progress over time. It’s also a great visual for you to see improvement.

A third feature that I love in the Toolkit is the strategies library. In all of our IEPs and evaluation reports, we are required to provide strategies teachers/parents can use with the student. The strategies library in the Toolkit helps make that so much easier. All you have to do is select the area the student has needs in and a list will pop up with strategies that can be used for that particular skill.

There are many, many more features in SLP Toolkit, such as goal writing, printable data collection sheets, and more!I could go on and on about the features and tools. If you are interested in learning more, I suggest looking through their Facebook page or blog. You can also try it for free with up to 5 students.

Be sure to check back next week for more tips and tools to make your busy SLP life easier and less stressful. 

Busy SLP? Tips and Tools to Make Your SLP Life Easier and Less Stressful

By | SLP Tips And Tools

Busy? I am the queen of busy. Between my full-time job as an SLP in the schools, PRN work, my daughter’s gymnastics schedule, my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and all the miscellaneous things that go along with being a wife/mom, I always have something going on. Can you relate? Because I am so busy, I have to manage my time well or things get chaotic fast.

Part of my time management plan is making sure I don’t bring work (paperwork, planning, etc.) home with me. I have enough to do at home as it is (and that is where all the TPT magic happens), so I can’t allow myself to spend evenings and weekends doing paperwork, progress reports, etc. I keep it at school and that’s just how it is. Now, I’d be lying if I said I was always successful at that. There have been times when a deadline had to be met and the work had to come home, but I try to avoid that if at all possible.

So, how do I do this? How can a busy SLP get it all done at work? Therapy, RTI, teacher consults, IEPs, evaluations, report writing, progress reports, observations, and all that other stuff we do…how is there time for it all?

I have some “tricks” up my sleeve…okay, not really tricks, but they are pretty awesome tools I use to make my life as a busy SLP more manageable. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing some of these tools with you.  These are some great resources available specifically for busy SLPs who just need help getting it all done, and getting it done well. It’s not just about meeting deadlines and getting the work done…we also have to be able to stand behind our work and ensure that it is our best.

So, stay tuned. The first post will be coming up Thursday. I’ll be sharing how I use a great web-based app to help me collect and organize data and write killer IEPs.  Can you guess what it is??? Check back Thursday to find out…

In the meantime, comment below with your biggest challenge as a busy SLP. Completing paperwork? Planning therapy? Data collection? Time management? What gives you the most stress at work?

Tips for Effective and Efficient Teamwork

By | SLP Tips And Tools

Teamwork – the combined actions of a group of people, especially when effective and efficient (Google definition)

This week, The Frenzied SLPs are all about teamwork. Working as part of a team can be tricky, and may not always be easy. Sometimes it takes great effort to make the team work.  Many SLPs (like myself) travel between schools, which can make the “team” concept even more challenging.  I would like to share some tips with you that I have found to be helpful in making it all work.

I shared the google definition of teamwork above because it paints a great picture of what working together as a team really is.  It’s more than just “working together.”  It’s working together AND being effective and efficient.  That’s what makes a great team. The following tips are my suggestions to help build effective and efficient teams. 

1. Remember whose team we’re all on in the first place.  Teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, SLPs, counselors, custodians, office staff…everyone is on the same team.  We are here for our students.  It can be easy to get lost in the “us vs. them” rut, especially in times of disagreement.  If we can remember that we are all here for the good of the students, it will help us get through those difficult times.

2. Be willing to learn from others. Experienced SLP or newbie does not matter.  We can all learn from each other.  I have learned a TON from my supervising SLPs and more experienced colleagues, but I think they have also learned from me.  We each have our own unique experiences and knowledge we can share with our colleagues. SLPs can learn from teachers, and teachers can learn from SLPs. Be open and accepting of what your teammates have to share.  You never when you’ll learn something new!

3. Make an effort to mingle. A lot of days I am behind on paperwork or stressed out about deadlines and difficult sessions, and I just want to sit in my room and eat lunch with my door closed.  However, I try to eat with the teachers at my schools as often as I am able to. It’s not every day, but I am for at least once a week at each of my three schools. This is so important because it allows you to get to know each other better, outside of IEP meetings and conferences where it’s all student talk. I enjoy these times and it helps me to feel more like we are a team when we can relax a little together. 

Those are my teamwork tips.  What great teamwork tips do you have to share? Feel free to leave a comment below.

For more teamwork talk, click through the rest of The Frenzied SLPs linky below. 

Best Year Ever Bonus Sale & Tips from the Frenzied SLPs {Linky}

By | SLP Tips And Tools

Ahhhh!!!  I’m not ready!  I’ve been back at work since August 1, students start this week and I’m still not ready.  How can that be?  Too many meetings, training sessions, and staff development to attend.  In reality, I am more prepared than I feel.  I have a ton of great resources and lessons planned, my data binders are organized and ready to go, and I’ve read up on all of my new students.   It’s going to be a great week.

To help kickoff the BEST YEAR EVER, Teachers Pay Teachers has announced a BONUS one day sale for Monday, August 22.  The Frenzied SLPs have linked up to share some great resources you will want to check out during the sale.  We’re also sharing some back to school tips of the trade to help make your life a little less frenzied.

My best tip for busy SLPs is to establish procedures for screenings and referrals early on.  If you have clearly explained the protocol for speech referrals, it will save you so much time down the road.  Things to consider: Who will handle initial screening of students?  Will the SLP conduct a whole class screening?  What if teachers have speech or language concerns as the year progresses?  How will RTI work? These are all things your district has most likely established guidelines for.  Make sure you understand the process and clearly communicate it with your teachers.

To help with speech sound screenings, I use this articulation screener.

 This screener is quick and easy to use.  I use it if I need to screen individual students, or entire classes.  I also pass a copy to my teachers if they ever have an articulation concern with one of their students.  Since I’m legally not allowed to screen a student without parental consent, loaning this screener to their teacher helps them to be able to know what is or is not developmentally appropriate.  My teachers find it very easy to use, too!  It also comes with this speech sound development chart, which is a great resource for teachers!

You can find this easy articulation screener in my store on Teachers Pay Teachers. Don’t forget to use the code ONEDAY on Monday, August 22 to save 28% off everything in my store!

How do you handle speech referrals and screenings in your district?  Feel free to share in the comments below.

And be sure to head back to the linky and check out all the other great Frenzied SLP resources!  There are some great ones!

The SLP Commute – 5 Tips for Productive Drive Time

By | SLP Tips And Tools

1300 miles.  That’s how much work related driving I did last month.  Roughly 20 hours spent in the car.  That’s almost a full day!  This can easily be wasted time, or I can choose to make it more productive.  Here are 5 tips for making your drive time more productive.

We spend a lot of time driving.  Commuting to/from work, traveling between schools/therapy sessions, and all the other day-to-day driving we do can really add up.  I work for a rural special education co-op in Central Texas.  The two school districts I serve are 35 miles away from each other.  I do my best to work out a schedule that minimizes travel time, but I still clock anywhere from 1000-1300 miles every month, and that only accounts for work related travel.  My personal driving easily doubles that number.  To give you a better perspective: I bought my vehicle BRAND NEW in August.  It’s the beginning of April and I already have 19,000 miles on it.  That’s a lot of driving.

As I drive I often think about how I can make more efficient use of my time.  Today I’m sharing 5 tips for making the most of drive time.

1. Brainstorm/Plan
I do my best thinking when I’m driving.  This also means that I have no way of writing down all of the fabulous ideas I come up with.  Solution: Voice recorded memos.  I will often use my voice recorder app to record my ideas while I am behind the wheel.  I have also used Siri to send myself a text message reminder about something I need to do right away.  Using the Bluetooth in my car and Siri allows me to remain hands free and safe, while still getting my ideas recorded while they are fresh.  Don’t have or don’t like Siri?  Try the Dragon Dictation speech to text app.

2. Read
Wait…what? Yes, read! Audio books are becoming more and more popular and are a great way to read on the go.  Audible is one way to listen while you drive.  The selection of books is large and they have an app, which makes listening on the go simple.  SYNC is another great and FREE way to get audio books.  This is a summer program in which audio books are available for FREE download throughout the summer.  You can download the books this summer, and have them to listen to when school starts back up in the fall.  Their target audience is teens ages 13+, but check out their 2016 list and you may see something that interests you.

3. Learn a New Language
Who wouldn’t like to be bilingual?  I am currently working on learning Spanish.  I bought Rosetta Stone, but have also been looking at Duolingo because I was told it’s free and easier to use on the go.

4. Listen to Podcasts/Audio Courses
There are a ton of great speech and education related podcasts to listen to.  Erik Raj has a post with great SLP podcasts.  You can read it HERE. Listening to podcasts while you drive can be a great way to grow as a clinician. also has some great audio courses available to their members that would be great to listen to while driving. Only drawback…no way to take notes while driving!

5. Rest and Recharge
Being productive during your drive time can also be as simple as taking some “me” time.  Sometimes I just want to listen to music and take a break from the chaos of my day.  My work commutes are really the only time I am alone in my car and have full control over the radio.  I can listen to any music I want to, or even just sit in silence.  It can be a great time to give myself pep talk or just dream about my next Disney cruise.  We need time to ourselves.  While it’s not a massage or pedicure, your commute can still be relaxing if you allow it to be.  

Driving a lot can be exhausting and stressful.  I hope these tips help you to embrace your time in the car and begin to think of it as productive time, rather than wasted time.

Have any other suggestions for how to make the most of driving time or know of any great SLP podcasts to check out? Share in the comments below!

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Things SLPs Should ALWAYS Say {Frenzied SLPs Linky}

By | SLP Tips And Tools

For this week’s post I am linking up again with the fabulous Frenzied SLPs.  A couple of weeks ago, we shared things SLPs should NEVER say.  For part 2, we are sharing things SLPs should ALWAYS say.

Since we work with so many different students and staff members, there are not really any cookie cutter sayings that are always good all of the time.  For that reason, I am sharing two general ideas about what SLPs should always say.

1. Always share a student’s STRENGTHS.  When we are in IEP meetings, writing progress reports, or discussing students with their teachers/parents, it is so easy to get caught up in the child’s weaknesses or difficulties.  Often times, challenging behaviors, lack of progress, or just overall severity of their disability can dominate our discussions…especially during annual IEP meetings.  It can be discouraging for everyone, especially the parent.  To help these situations, we as SLPs can really lead by example and share our student’s strengths.  Yes, we are required to do so in our IEP documents, but I’m talking about really sharing some good info on what the child is doing well.  Don’t just rush over this part.  Providing good positive information to the team can impact the mood of the entire meeting.  It’s so important to have good information to share about what the student is doing well because there’s always something. 

2. Be specific.  This ties in with number 1.  Providing specific feedback is much more constructive and useful than general statements.  Instead of saying, “Little Bobby is making good progress in speech,” give specifics.  A statement such as, “Little Bobby is attentive during speech sessions and is now able to produce his /r/ sound 50% of the time,” provides much more specific information to the parent and teachers about how our student is doing. 
We also need to be specific when providing feedback to our students.  Saying things like, “Good job,” don’t let the student know what they did RIGHT.  “That was a great /s/ sound,” or “I didn’t hear your /s/ sound that time,” provides more specific feedback so they can replicate it or try to correct their error.  It’s easy to fall into the habit of giving general feedback statements (and I have to really fight it myself), but providing specific feedback is more helpful to our students. 

These are two areas that I always try to be conscious of in my own SLP life.   To read some other things SLPs should always say, be sure to click back to Doyle Speech Works and read the other blogs that have linked up. 

Things SLPs Should NEVER Say {Linky with The Frenzied SLPs}

By | SLP Tips And Tools

For this week’s post, I am linking up with The Frenzied SLPs to discuss things SLPs should NEVER say.  It’s a topic with a wide range of discussion, and I’m happy to link up and share my take on the matter.  

As school based SLPs, we encounter students with a wide range of abilities. We are constantly assessing students (formally and informally) both in and out of our speech rooms. We use our professional judgement and training to determine whether students have a need for our services and we help support their academics as much as possible. Through this process it is so important for us to NEVER say, “I think ______ (insert student’s name has _________ (insert diagnosis).  
Allow me to elaborate.  
The main problem I see with this statement is the uncertainty of using “I think…”  First, we are professionals with an abundance of training and knowledge.  If we are formally making a diagnosis related to speech-language (which many of us do not do in the school setting), we should not be using words such as “I think…” because they make it sound like we are not sure in our findings.  We spend hours collecting data and making determinations. We should present our findings with confidence and choose our wording carefully.  
It is also worth mentioning that in many districts, SLPs don’t make formal diagnoses.  In my district, I use my evaluation data to determine whether or not a student meets eligibility criteria as a student with a speech-language impairment, but I do not diagnose specific disorders myself.  
Another possible problem with this statement is that it is sometimes used out of the proper context. We have all had those situations when we are at the park, visiting with friends, etc. and meet a child who we really think could benefit from speech therapy.  Our ears are constantly listening and informally analyzing the speech-language of children we encounter.  It’s just hard to turn off.  In these situations, it is so important to make sure that we are not throwing out statements such as, “I think your child has autism/apraxia/etc.’ without a proper evaluation.  We need to be very careful using statements that sound like we are diagnosing or making recommendations when we don’t have data to support our statements.  
It is so important to be thoughtful in the words we use when talking to parents/teachers about their children.  To read some more on this topic, be sure to click over to the linkup and check out the other posts.  There are some great ones!  Thanks again to The Frenzied SLPs for a great topic of discussion and to Doyle Speech Works for hosting the linkup!

My 3 Favorite Organization Tips for SLPs {Frenzied SLPs Linky}

By | SLP Tips And Tools

I have to start off by saying that I am a pretty organized person, but sometimes my business overpowers my need for organization.  As each school year goes on, my therapy room and desk gets a little less organized every week.  I always say I will get back on track, but materials pile up and my shelves get messier. But there is one area that stays organized all year long…my therapy binder.  I cannot function with a messy therapy binder.  The 3 organization tips I am sharing today all relate to this binder.

1. Have a place to keep all of your important working paperwork.  For me, it’s a 3 ring binder.  My binder has a section for each student on my campus.  For every student, I have a “face sheet” with their name and eligibility info, copy of their IEP, sheets for recording daily notes, and parent contact log.  I use these pages daily to keep track of progress and record session data.

2. Use a calendar to keep track of important deadlines.  In my therapy binder, I also have a master calendar.  I have 4 different school calendars to keep up with, plus paperwork deadlines, and other misc. events.  To help keep track of important dates, I keep a master calendar where I mark all important deadlines, including school holidays, report deadlines, meetings, etc.  I keep this with my therapy binder so I can access it anytime I need it.

3. Use a caseload summary sheet to track FIE and IEP due dates.  I keep a caseload summary sheet at the front of my binder.  This sheet has every student, their date of birth, service time, date of initial evaluation, due date of their re-eval, and IEP date.  I mark on this sheet throughout the year and update it as needed with new student info.  Many IEP programs have an option to print a form like this for your caseload, but I also have the one I created posted for free in my TPT store.  You can download it HERE.

So, those are my organization tips.  Good organization can really impact your day.  For more great tips on organization, be sure to check out the other posts in the Frenzied SLPs blog linky.  Click HERE or on the image below.

Thanks for reading!