If you want happiness for a lifetime - help the next generation.
How are you doing with your assessments? In my history as a Speech-Language Pathologist, this is the time of year when I would usually gasp a wee bit. Not only would I want to complete all the pending assessments for the current school year (which were sometimes on the wait list from the previous year), I would also struggle to schedule in screenings in preparation for the next school year. Quite a cycle. Gasp.
Today, I spoke with a special education teacher and I asked her what would be an ideal result for her if she could receive the services her school needs. Her response was to have 70 assessments done.
Assessments are so valuable for many reasons. Assessments help to identify children who qualify for funding and special support services. The collective outcomes can help schools acquire more support staff. Assessments often kick start the involvement of professional support and future referrals to other sources of help for the student. At the very least, assessment results can help us create a road map for helping the child access the curriculum; engage with peers; and enjoy a successful, feel-good kind of day.
This inspired me to pass on some ideas for Speech-Language Pathologists, especially those of you who are in a situation that puts time in your hands.
My colleagues and I visit communities that simply need help with catching up and starting strong. After building a relationship with these communities, we offer a special circle of care - the assessment package. It is like a SLP in a box - the SLP visits the community and brings all necessary materials. We learn all about the community and the schools' goals - then we set up a plan to make a difference. Our visits have lasted as short as one day to as long as three weeks. The average time in a region is one week. Sometimes we revisit the community two or three times a year. If the district would like to continue service, we then provide direct speech therapy or consultation via TinyEYE.
Tips for Getting Started
• Collaborate with a key contact person in the school community to confirm everything ahead of time. This includes the budget, scheduling, assessment rooms, informed-consent forms, time frame, accommodations, and travel to and within the communities. Develop a contract.
• Do every single step that is possible ahead of time. This can include file preparation, report templates, and templates for notes to parents and teachers. Set yourself up to be completely productive. Remember - the more you can do during the session will save frustration after your visit if you are left with a tremendous amount of reports to write. Offer the school some options for reports - you might offer to use a template that you can easily fill in and share sooner than later with the school. This will save them costs, while providing them with key information in a timely manner.
• Talk to the school about their needs and what they expect from the assessments. Discover what you can commit to during your visit by considering their answers to these types of questions: What would be a dream come true vs. what would be ideal vs. what would be necessary? Do they need standardized scores for all students or would an outcome statement suffice? Is the goal to secure funding, implement strategies, complete education plans...? Answers will help you decide how much time you need, how in depth you need to go with each student, and how to formulate the reports and goals.
• Be realistic about what you can competently complete during this visit. Regardless, leave your soft footprints by giving teachers and parents a minimum of one trick, one insight, one thing they can start doing now to feel like they are making a difference. Build capacity.
• If the schools need help with deciding who to refer, offer the teachers a referral checklist to identify those who are most in need of an assessment. Knowing the key concerns will also help you to bring the proper assessment materials and relevant strategy sheets to share with the schools.
• If you do not have standardized assessments, ask the school district if they have an assessment library. In the very beginning, I borrowed assessments from colleagues. Bring your informal materials, too. Between you and me, I have acquired my most exciting informal assessment materials from the dollar stores and Wal-Mart. Books, magnetic scenes, manipulatives, markers and games are so useful for eliciting skills and challenges. Never ever forget to bring stickers for the students! ...and high fives all around.
• If you are from out of the region, ensure you meet the licensing requirements and that you are knowledgeable about any relevant funding qualifications.
• Learn about the school district and its culture. You are a visitor and it is your privilege to serve them.
• Most importantly - - - MAKE IT COUNT. Do not blink until you know that you have delivered the outcomes that will without a doubt make a difference for those children.
Please touch base with me if you have other ideas about helping communities who are suffering from barebones or no services at all. If you would like to consider joining our out-reach team, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marnee Brick, MSc
Speech-Language Pathologist and Director of of Speech Therapy
TinyEYE Therapy Services (Speech Therapy Telepractice)