Are you buried in paperwork?
In this podcourse, Marisha shares practical strategies and tools to help SLPs conquer the never-ending pile of paperwork on their desks. From time-saving tips to write effective IEPs and evaluations to recommendations for handouts to better inform parents and teachers, SLPs will walk away with a variety of strategies to better manage their workload.
So grab your favorite beverage, put your feet up, and listen in.
This episode is incredibly insightful and actionable. Here are a few key takeaways:
> 1. There are some amazing tools out there that can help streamline the paperwork process for SLPs!
> 2. Language samples provide super helpful information–and they can be easy to collect!
> 3. It is totally possible to survive IEP season!
Links Mentioned in the Podcast
> IEP Checklist FREEBIE
> How I Use Asana
> Hanging File Organizer (Amazon Affiliate Link)
> IEP Templates: Speech Room News
> Test Templates: Home Speech Home
> How I Use a Text Expander
> How I Collect Language Samples
> My Favorite Handouts
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Welcome to episode three of the podcast. Today we're answering the question of, how can I possibly survive IEP season? Because we are definitely in the middle of it and it's a struggle. And even if you're not in your IEP season, we're constantly being bombarded with paperwork and no one gets into speech therapy because they love paperwork. It is a constant struggle between the IEP's, Medicaid billing, lesson planning, data collection, file organization, all of the things. It sometimes times feels like all we do is manage our caseload, instead of actually doing the work that we love and being there for our students and giving them therapy. Just keeping up with all of the daily paperwork can feel like even more than a full-time job. And if or actually when you fall behind, it feels like such an enormous pressure. And I know it's something that I have definitely been weighed down by. And like I said in the first podcast, we always want to advocate for change. And if we can come up with solutions to those problems, they might not always be in our control. We might not be able to change our workload expectations or have an immediate impact on our caseload, but there are things that we can still advocate for and open up the discussion with our administrators and work together to improve the situation as a whole.
But in the meantime, we're expected to keep up with the paperwork and our IEPs and all of that. And we have to find some ways to survive while that change is happening. It's definitely not going to happen overnight and it's something that we really want to keep working on. And we do know that students who are on smaller caseloads are more likely to make measurable progress than those on large caseloads. And that is such a sad statistic. Because it's truly impacting our students. And that quote was from a study by Schooling in 2003. So these outcomes are less likely when we have really large caseloads and really expanded responsibilities, which emphasizes the importance of advocating for that change, but there are things that we can do in the meantime to survive and make it possible. Like I said, I had a caseload in the triple digits and I did find some really good ways to survive, and maybe even thrive within the chaos. But like I said, I'm going to be sharing all of these tips, but we still want to be thinking about making that change, and I really think it's something we can do together. And I hope that in the meantime these hacks are helpful.
And the goal behind all of the things that I'm going to suggest are to really save our brain power for the good stuff, for the therapy, for the things that are really going to move the needle for our students. And a lot of these are meant to save time and help us be more efficient at the things that we do, and at the things that take us away from our students. And so hopefully you'll be able to take away at least one or two tips to save yourself some time. And I don't think they'll all work for all of you, so like I said, really try and pick out one or two that you can try and let me know how it goes.
So first step is to schedule it out. Be kind to your future self. And I know I am very, very good at procrastinating on the things that I don't love to do. I've grown to not dislike it quite so much, but writing IEPs isn't always super fun. Let's just be real. And so it's something that we do sometimes want to procrastinate on, and we don't want to do it until we absolutely have to. But there is so much power in scheduling it out and trying to work ahead. So every time I get a new caseload I map out all of the IEP dates for the year. I just draw a little sheet and I have a box for March, and February, and March, and April, and May, all through the year. And then I map out when all of the different IEPs are due and inevitably there is a month or two that are absolutely bonkers. Like there's way more IEPs than any other month. And I don't want to hate my life when I get to that month. So I make a plan to schedule it out. And I don't always want to move up the IEP date, although that is an option.
Because if you do it once then hopefully the next few years won't be quite so crazy. But if you don't want to, or are not able to move the IEP date, you can at least get started on the paperwork ahead of time, so you're not writing 30 IEPs in one month. And you might have 30 IEP meetings in one month, but then at least you won't be doing all of that crazy paperwork, and you'll be able to focus on just being present for the meetings and not having to miss all of your therapy sessions because you're doing so much writing, and because you have so many meetings. So like I said, I map it out and then I start working on the IEPs ahead of time. And I have a system that we'll talk about in just a couple items, but that's super helpful for me. So then the paperwork is all done, then I can just pull it and go to the meeting and I'm not quite so stressed. I kind of distribute the workload so there's not crazy fluctuations throughout the year. And that gives me a little bit more stability and sanity in those crazy months.
The second tip that I have is making checklists. So it's so incredibly easy to be overwhelmed by all of the things that we're doing. And I have talked several times about doing a brain dump and just letting out all of the things that we have on our to do list, because they end up just repeating in our brain all day long. And that's what makes us so stressed. We're stressed because we're thinking about all of the things that we have to do and we feel like we don't know when they're going to get done, and we're doubting it, and we're nervous about it, and it's just a constant stressor. And it's not fun walking around like that. So one of my big strategies is just to dump all of my tasks onto a to do list and make a plan to tackle them. But the tricky thing is with referrals and IEPs and evaluations is that there are so many of them and they're recurring. So if I were to write out all of the things on my brain for every single referral, and every single IEP, and every single evaluation, that would be a lot of brain dumping. And there's no point in brain dumping that many times for something that we do all the time.
So I seriously benefited from coming up with a process and then making a checklist documenting all of the steps, so all I have to do is just make a copy of that checklist. So I just wrote it once, and then I just copy it so I have it for every single referral. I have a different version for every single IEP. I have a different version for every single evaluation. And that's all I have to do. So you can do this in a couple different ways. I started out with a printed checklist and I just made sure that I was meeting all of the requirements and got feedback from some SLPs. Because the worst thing is when you miss a part of an IEP or a referral, and then you have to go back and scramble to get it done. Like I was notorious for forgetting to get the teacher feedback on time, so I'd be scrambling to get that. Or I'd forget to collect the language sample, and I'd be trying to pull a student. Or I'd forget to do the oral motor exam. And so it's just so much easier if you have it listed out, and then you just check, check, check, check, check. And you don't forget any of the pieces, and you don't have to have that running through your brain. Because it's just all on the piece of paper.
So I will share the templates that I used to use. If you go to slpnow.com/3, so you can download those and access them. But then like I said, that's what you used to use. Now I started using a digital task system. I really like it because I can access it anywhere. It's a little bit more environmentally friendly. I don't have to be printing a bunch of papers. And I was able to work a little bit faster on there. So I just created my ... And just to back up a second. So Asana is a digital task management system. It's a website application. So you just pull it up on your ... You can download the app on your phone, or you can go to asana.com and access your tasks on any web browser. And it just helps you keep track of all of the different due dates, and all of the different tasks for every single IEP. And I don't think it's HIPPA compliant or anything like that. So I just make sure to use initials and don't have any confidential kind of information in there. But it just really helps to manage the process. And I use it to keep track of ... Like in episode one, we talked about problem solving.
And I use that to keep a log of all the different problems I'm having. And then I use that to pull out my goals and all of that. So it's just a super helpful tool. And then when I'm scheduling out my IEPs for example, I'll just copy my list of tasks and paste it under there, and then I'm good to go. And it's totally free. So that's a really great system. And I like that I can find like on the go ... Like if I'm trying to plan an IEP meeting or whatever, I can just add in the different tasks while I am out and about, and I don't have to have my checklist with me or anything like that. So that has been super helpful. But if you're more of a pen and paper kind of gal, or guy, you can totally use checklists, or you can come up with your own system. I've seen SLPs print on sticky notes, which is kind of cool. My process is always ... Like I feel like my IEPs and referrals and evaluations have a little bit more to them than can easily fit on a sticky note, but that's an option as well.
So that was number two, making those checklists. And like I said, it just really helps get things out of your brain, so you can focus on the good stuff. In terms of making sure you have a really good IEP, or you're really getting to know a student and making a good referral, and all of those pieces. So that was two. Now onto number three. I can only work on a handful of IEPs or evaluations at a time before it gets to be too much for me to manage. And that's why I really like using ... I found this hanging file folder when I was a CF. It's like a hanging thing. I'll share a link to it in the show notes. But it's this hanging thing and it has color coded folders. It's beautiful. I kind of don't want to tell you this, but if you fold it up you can bring it home too. It's totally movable. Like if you're in different schools, you can totally just pack it up with you and bring it to all of your different sites. Please don't bring it home, because we don't want to do paperwork at home. But you can do that if you need to.
But I really like the file folder. I believe it has seven pockets. And so that's probably my max that I can work on at any one time and I just use that. So I'll put all the different IEPs or evaluations that I'm working on and I'll keep them in there. And they're color coded, so I can color code in Asana. So if I'm like okay, I have some report time, this task is up next. This is a purple task, I need to grab the purple folder. And then I am off to the races. And I'm just like so incredibly efficient. I get so much more done. And it just makes my organization heart happy. I love when color coded organization actually helps me be more productive. And that is one situation that makes a huge difference. So that organization system is incredibly helpful.
I am impartial to the hanging file folder but you can totally use just any other kind of file folders. If they're color coded, bonus points. Or you can just grab manila folders to organize the paperwork. And use a desk file or just keep them at the front of your file cabinet. There are so many different options. You can just add a color. You can use a couple of markers to color code your files if you want to benefit from that, even if you're just using the manila folders. There's so much good stuff that you can do with that. But I think keeping the papers organized is so important. We're so busy and we don't have time to dig through a pile of papers on our desk. Just put them in a folder and then when you do have a minute to work on your paperwork, all you have to do is just pull that thing. You don't have to dig through things. You don't have to worry about, oh where is that thing that I need to write this IEP? It's all going to be organized for you in one place, and it makes such a big difference.
Now on to number four. We want to have some templates. So it is so much easier to write a report when you have a template to get you started. I don't know about you, but I can procrastinate like no other when it comes to writing. I think there's something incredibly intimidating about a blank piece of paper or a blank screen. Because we always do our IEPs on the computer. But it's just really hard for me to get over that initial hump. And if you are like me in that way it is so incredibly helpful to have some templates. Because then you just open up your template and you just get to start plugging away. It's so much easier to get started. I started procrastinating a lot less, and I was able to take off some of the cognitive load and just really focus on the student and what I wanted to say about that student, and focusing on figuring out how I was going to help him or her in the most effective way. And it was so amazing once I started using that. And especially as a newer SLP, it's just really overwhelming. Like what in the world do I want to say here? I've always really liked using templates. But even after writing hundreds upon hundreds of documents, it's just still super helpful.
Like I said, it helps us get the bases covered. And then we have more time and energy to focus on the student, and writing a really awesome report that's going to be really helpful for the IEP team and the student. And I used a lot of different strategies to come up with my templates. I asked SLPs that I admired in my district and who I knew were writing really good reports, and I asked if they could share some of their things with me. A lot of them had templates too, so I was able to pull from there. I think it's a really smart SLP thing to do, to have some templates. So that was really helpful. If you are in a district by yourself you can look at past reports and see if there's anything helpful there. Because a lot of times there's things that are really specific to the district that you'll want to ... Like there's just some things that your district will require. I've been in a couple of districts and each one has slightly different things, so that's why I think it's really helpful to reach out to colleagues and look at past reports as you're building those templates.
I'm not half bad at writing reports either. So if I did have to write something myself, I would just copy that and add it to my templates too. But if you are needing some extra support beyond that, Jenna from Speech Room News has a really helpful list of paperwork shortcuts. I'll share the link in the show notes there. Home Speech Home also has a really helpful page of speech therapy test descriptions, which is super helpful when it comes to writing evaluations. Yeah, just don't forget to look at your previous reports, other colleagues, and all of that. Those are really amazing resources that we can lean on. So that was step number four.
And I spent some time putting together my templates. But then I realized that I had a hard time ... Like my document got really really long. It ended up being I don't know how many pages of templates. And it was just challenging to find what I needed when I needed it. And it ended up still letting me procrastinate because I was like, I don't know where to find what I need. So that's where number five, the text expander comes in. It is absolutely amazing. I love it so much. In my district I use my personal computer to write my reports. I'm just a little bit more savvy on a Mac. So I use the app called Text Expander. But I believe they have a windows version too. And I believe it's free for educators. I would just double check that. And you might have to go through your IT department to get it setup. But it is such a helpful tool. So how mine is setup, I have different categories. And you can organize it in whatever way makes the most sense. But I have different categories of just general evaluation, I have ones with the tests, I have different ones for the different components of IEPs that I'm writing.
And I wrote a blog post, and I'll share the link in the show notes too, that dives into a little bit more detail. But I'll back up a second too. A text expander is ... So if I type .ILI or whatever I decide the shortcut is, it can expand, so hence text expander, into whatever I program into the app. So if I say, I love IEPs is the expanded version of .ILI, then every time I type .ILI it'll expand to say I love IEPs. And so for an example of an phrase that I made, so I would do ... In one of my IEP systems we had to do a bunch of prior notice things. And I ended up writing really similar things all the time. So for the first box I did .PN1. So prior notice 1. And that would have kind of the templated things that I say all the time, and then all I have to do is just edit it. So I might remove some components, add some components, whatever makes sense for that student. So I just do .PN1 and it would expand to whatever I need to fill in that first box. Then .PN2 would be whatever I need to fill in the second box. And I just go through there.
And like I said, this isn't replacing our clinical decision making. We're not being brainless. It's helping us get the basics down, so we have more cognitive resources and time to really do that clinical thinking. So it's meant to make our reports better and not just to make them be super templated. So one more example of how I use this, I have kind of general things that I like to look at for present levels for the first grade, versus second grade, versus preschool, versus kindergarten. So I'll do .PL for present levels, and then I'll just add the number or the grade. So I'll do .PL1 for first grade, .PL5 for fifth grade. And that's how I set that up. So I try and make it be really easy to guess which phrases I need to use. And then I have a general thing that I would often say about behavior, so that's BX for example. So you can really think of those different types of things that you're writing all the time to make it a little bit easier. And then for evaluations you can do like .GFTA, .CAAP, .PLS, or whatever ones you give all the time. And then you just fill in from there. So that's a really helpful tool. Its been such a huge game changer.
But then when you're using those templates, you also have to make sure that you don't make silly mistakes. Which brings us to number six. Find and replace. So I decided to use three asterisks to replace any names. So when I'm writing the report, then I can do command F, or control F on a PC, and then it depends on which software you're using, but I'll go to the replace option. So I'll type in the three asterisks and type in the students name. And then I came up with ... Like I do two asterisks for ... Or no, that won't work. Yeah, but you have to have like a space. So remember to do space, three asterisks, space, and then space two asterisks, space. Because if you just do the two asterisks then it'll be a mess. So just use that system. And then I was able to replace all of the pronouns. Just like the he or the she or the they. And then I used four asterisks for the possessive pronouns. And then it just made it really easy, and then it avoided the situation of parents being frustrated that I was calling their beautiful girl a he or any of those kinds of things. And it just doesn't make us look good if we can't use the correct pronoun.
So the find and replace tool is a really good trick. And if you are using templates, just decide on what you want to represent the he and the she and all of that. So that's one really helpful trick to make sure we're getting it all right. So those are the helpful tips when it comes to writing the paperwork. One thing that I mentioned before is that I always forgot to collect a language sample ahead of time and that ended up being a little bit of a problem because it takes a little bit of time to put together. And I think part of me ... Like I knew how incredibly important it was to collect a language sample. But a part of me did not want to do it because it was so intimidating and it took so much time. There's a lot of research out there that shows why we want to take the time to collect these language samples.
Ebert and Scott, in 2014 wrote an article that talks about them as a valid compliment or even an alternative to Norm-reference testing. Language samples address many of the weaknesses of Norm-reference testing. Like they are more culturally sensitive. You don't have to worry about items that students from different cultures or with different dialects will get incorrect, because of how the test was created with a specific culture in mind. They also provide rich, in depth information about how a child uses the language in real world situations. That gives us stronger ecological validity and it makes it a lot easier to come up with language treatment targets. We have to be careful when we're writing treatment targets based on standardized or Norm-reference tests. But with language samples, we get to see how the students are using the language in this very real life situation. And it helps us come up with better goals. There's also very few behavioral requirements. We don't have to have a very "sterile" testing environment to be able to make use of the results. We can listen and see what the student is saying on the playground, or in recess, or in the speech room when playing games, or whatever it needs to be. We have a lot more flexibility. And this is great for diverse ages, and diverse impairments because it gives us lots of options and we get to make it work for the student.
They've also been a valid assessment for diverse populations, including bilingual children and speakers of nonstandard dialects. And it doesn't have to take you hours upon hours to analyze. There's some really great ways that we can look at the language sample that doesn't take you a long time. I ended up creating a Google sheet. And you can totally use it as a spreadsheet in Excel too. But I made this spreadsheet that I use. I open it up whenever I'm collecting a language sample. And then I just start typing what the student is saying. And I like to collect a couple different types of language samples, because it is so incredibly interesting to see how the students language changes across different situations, and it provides some really helpful information. And then it gives more data too, to back up my goals and different assessment ideas. So when we type this language sample into the spreadsheet we can do it in a couple ways. So we can just type the words that they're saying and then I just type that as they're talking, and then at the end I'll go through and make any comments about grammatical or syntax things that I noticed and any other notable observations. And then I can use that to calculate the average length of a sentence.
And so we can do that in words if we leave things as is or we can add spaces between all of the more themes. Because like I said, we're doing this with Google Sheets and Google Sheets is not smart enough to know what an morpheme is. It's a pretty genius tool, but not a speech therapist. So if we go through and add spaces between all of the morphemes, we can get the average morphemes in every utterance. And there are some really great norms out there that we can use to analyze this sample and kind of get an idea of whether the student is meeting the expectations or is in line with the norms for his or her age. And that is a really helpful indicator. We won't be diving into this in this presentation or this podcast, but we can look at different other measures as well. There are some really great articles out there, and if you guys are having that as a problem and figuring out how to analyze your language samples or how to write goals around them, definitely let us know. Submit that as a question at slpnow.com/ask, and we can dive into that in a future episode.
But just a quick overview of how that works. I just open up the sheet. I will enter the student's name. Some districts have the HIPPA compliant version of Google, because they use it across the district. Definitely check even if your district uses it. But we didn't have that upgraded version or whatnot, so I just used initials when I was setting up my sheet. But I just put in the date and the time, and then I made a note of which type of sample I was collecting, and then I would copy that. I would just copy that sheet so that I could use that for the other types of samples I wanted to collect. And then I just navigate between the different tabs. But I like to time the language samples so I have a good idea of how much they're saying in how much time. Because that's helpful. Like I said, I just add relevant notes and observations, and kind of looking at their content form and use. Then I just process the spreadsheet and clean up any extra rows. And then enter the number of utterances that I typed in. And then the sheet automatically calculates the MLU for me, and I can print this and add it to their file, or I can attach it to the report if I want to use it as a type of work sample.
But it's just a really nice little system that I like to use. And like I said, it's super helpful when it comes to writing goals and it gives us so much helpful information. I love using this as a system. Then the next thing. So we're on number eight. We are almost there. This is the last super specific thing, and then I have some really good lessons that I learned when navigating through my crazy IEP seasons. But up next is gathering handouts. So I used to really struggle to get ready for IEP meetings. I would be running around gathering all of these things at the last minute. And I was like, there has to be a better way. I can't be running around like a headless chicken before every meeting because it make me look crazy and then I'm a little flustered when I'm going in. So I decided to create a binder with all of my favorite handouts so I wouldn't have to go dig for them every time. And I got them super organized. I got a pretty binder. I put in sheet protectors. And then I used tabs to organize the different sections. It was amazing.
I put multiple copies of any given form in the sheet protector. And I like that because it keeps the forms nice and clean. And then it just makes it easier to flip through. And one little hack that I like is that if you use a yellow highlighter ... I just put a big X in yellow highlighter on my original copy of the handout. So this way I never accidentally give away the last copy of a handout. Because it's annoying to try and dig for that handout and then once you give it away, you don't remember which handout was there. So that's why I started using the highlighter method. I just make sure I make a note to go through and make new copies every couple weeks or whatever. But I will take out the original handout whenever I'm out, and then place it on the copy machine. And because I used yellow highlighter, the highlighter doesn't show up on the new copies. And it's just a really great little trick that I love to use so I always know which forms I have and I am always able to keep them up to date.
So I will share a link to some of my favorite forms in the show notes. But I wanted to give a quick overview of the ones that I really like. So Jenna Rayburn from Speech Room News has a really helpful handout that just explains what we do. It's called What Is An SLP. And like I said, it's totally free. And I really like sharing this when I get the feeling that a teacher or a parent doesn't really know what we do. I love it because it goes over what we do with speech, and language, and fluency, and voice, and social language. It's just a really helpful handout. I also really like the one that Amanda Newsome made. It's a bundle of different handouts and it is also totally free. It is a great companion to the What Is An SLP handout, because then teachers understand what we do. But then it also gives them an idea of what would make a good referral for someone or for a student in their grade. So that's one that I use a lot.
I also have some forms that I use when getting ready for IEPs and evaluations. There's a teacher input form that I really like. I always have this and it let's me collect their concerns for articulation, fluency, language, all of that good stuff. There's also a student observation form that I love. It helps make it a lot easier to know what to look for in the classroom and it helps structure my observation. And it makes it a lot easier to write about when I'm going back into the speech room to write all of my paperwork. And then in terms of managing the other parts of the paperwork, Shannon from Speechy Musings has a really great language sample analysis checklist. I think this is a fun companion to the little cheat sheet that I made, the spreadsheet that helps you calculate MLU. It just gives you some more structure when you're looking at those. In terms of navigating evaluations, there's a bell curve visual that I love to use when I'm preparing for evaluations. I'll pull this out ahead of time and then I will kind of map out where the student falls, so when I'm explaining the results of the formal testing, it makes so much sense to parents and I'm not getting that glazed over look. And it's just a really helpful tool. And it helps them know where the student is at.
So all of the ones that I've mentioned so far are totally free. There's a couple that I really like from Natalie Snyder's that explains the different areas that we target. And it's really a great overview for parents who are new to special education or if their student has just received a diagnosis in a number of different areas. It's really helpful to explain that. And I think parents get kind of shell shocked when they're coming into especially their first evaluation. There's so much information there. And even for parents who have been doing this for several years, it's still a lot of information and we forget how much we already know and how much we're still supposed to be teaching them. Because it is seriously overwhelming to navigate all of this. So I think it's really helpful to have handouts and to reference them as I'm explaining something to a parent, but then also to give them the option to review it at home. I think that's really powerful.
And then there's a number of other handouts that I like to use, but I'll let you check out the blog post if you want to see more of those and access the links to the handouts that I just mentioned. But that is a super helpful resource. And I just love being able to organize them in that little folder.
So then we're on to our last three. So for number nine I'm talking about gratitude. I think this is so incredibly important. It is so, so, so easy to complain about all of the paperwork that we have, and talk about how much it sucks. But who does that really benefit? If we talk about how much we hate evaluations, or how much we hate writing, it just makes our job worse. It doesn't help us. So I really like to think about how I can ... Like what the benefit is for this thing, even though I really, really don't like to do it. So I think about how amazing this is. Like it's a way to celebrate progress, and it's a way to document all of the progress that a student has made over the past year. That's amazing. For a student who's just receiving services, it's such a powerful document that shows what their strengths are, but also we get to figure out how we're going to help this student. And I think that's a fun part of the process, or we can try and make it a fun part. But it opens up the door to all of this support. This student is struggling and through this document we're able to help them and we are coming up with a plan to make that a reality. That's powerful stuff.
And if you are so beyond and you cannot think of any benefits of this paperwork and you absolutely hate it, try and think of things that you're grateful for in other parts of your job. Do you have an amazing colleague or a friend who kind of helps you navigate the craziness? Or did you have an amazing therapy session? Did a kid make you laugh? Did you get a high five in the hallway? And just thinking about those different things is just so incredibly helpful. And I love the quote by Rachel Hollis that says "It's impossible to feel anxiety and gratitude simultaneously." And she also says "Interrupt anxiety with gratitude." I think this is so incredibly true. I definitely have had some anxiety around getting through all of the IEPs and keeping up with the paperwork and making sure I was doing the best for my students. But if I can be grateful for ... Even if I can't be grateful for the entire process, if I can be grateful for components of the process, it just makes things that much more doable and it makes them that much less painful. So I think this has been a game changer for me. When I started doing more work around gratitude I found that joy in my job again even though things were crazy and things were hard. But yes, I love that.
So then the 10th thing that I have is to connect with positive SLPs. I love the quote by Jim Rohn that says that "You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with." And it is so incredibly true. I've surrounded myself with people who didn't love their jobs and they loved to complain all the time. And I loved to complain all the time. I was right there with them. And I was trying to get out of this hole but then I just kept going in this cycle and I was emulating them and I was being like them. And we do spend a lot of our time with three year olds, our children, so I don't know what this says about me but I think it's important to have at least a couple role models or people that we look up to. And if you're in district by yourself or even if you're in a large district and you guys just don't have the opportunity to connect with SLPs in real life, I think it's so incredibly powerful to connect with SLPs. Even if you're connecting with them on Instagram. Just follow a couple people that you really admire who have a positive outlook, who you want to be like or who seem to enjoy their job or who can at least poke fun at the parts that aren't so fun. Or who can help you through this.
Because you will be the average of those people that you connect with and who you interact with. And I think that's so incredibly powerful. So even if we can't change our immediate environment, we can change who we're learning from and who we're connecting with virtually at least to kind of change how we're thinking about things. And that is so powerful.
Okay. Now last one is just doing little things throughout the day to interrupt the craziness. So you can take a second to think about what you're grateful for. If you want to circle back to the ninth thing that I shared. But there's other fun little things that we can do. If you're just not feeling it, pull up your computer and look at some pictures of cute animals. There's actually research to support that that can help productivity. So yes, look at some cute animals, pull up one of your favorite songs, dance it out for a second, watch a short video clip of something funny, look up some jokes, whatever floats your boat, whatever will interrupt your stressful thinking or your overwhelm. Just find something that will light things up. You can even just change your screensaver on your computer and have pictures of your family or cute animals or whatever works for you. But those are all of the strategies that I use to survive the crazy seasons. And they are not a magic ... They're not magical but they sure do help. And they make it just a little bit more doable so you can keep going and showing up for those students.
So just a quick recap. The first tip that I gave was to schedule it out and be kind to your future self. Just try and work ahead on your IEPs as you're able. Use checklists to keep track of the process so it's not all in your head and super overwhelming. Implement an organizational system for all of the paperwork. Because there's nothing more overwhelming than a massive pile of paperwork staring at you all day long. Number four is to set up templates to make it easier to get through that paperwork. Five is using a text expander to organize those templates and make them easier to access. Six is using the find and replace tool to make it easier to enter student names and pronouns so you're not calling a parent's lovely daughter a he. Using a language sample tool. Using the little hacks that I shared to make it easier to collect those samples.
Gathering handouts for all of the different purposes that you need them for and keeping them in one nice folder so it's really easy to get them. And then practicing gratitude because we can interrupt anxiety with gratitude. Thank you Rachel Hollis. Connecting with positive SLPs. Because we're the average of the five people we spend the most time with. And then finding little things throughout the day. And I didn't mention this before, but you could use a piece of chocolate or you can use cute animals or pictures of your family, whatever will make you a little bit happier even on those days when it seems like everything is going wrong that can make an incredibly huge difference.
So thank you for joining me here today. I hope this was helpful and we'll see you next time.
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