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This Week’s Episode: How to Start Using Smarter Scheduling for School-Based SLPs

This month, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with BeckyAnn Harker all about service delivery, tips, and strategies to help us schedule smarter in the schools. BeckyAnn is a school-based SLP near Youngstown, Ohio, and she has 24 years of clinic and school-based experience. She is currently a doctoral student in special education at Kent State University, and she’s very interested in caseload management and vocabulary intervention. For this podseries, we will be focusing on her caseload management expertise!

So far in this pod series, we’ve discussed a brief intro to smarter scheduling for school-based SLPs, a review of different service delivery options like RTI, and last week BeckyAnn shared some tips on how to navigate scheduling and different service delivery models to better manage our own workload and also better serve our students.

This is our last podcast of the series with BeckyAnn and today we will be continuing our conversation about smarter scheduling but we will be diving into some more nitty-gritty details on how to get started.

Let’s jump on in!

Key Takeaways + Topics Covered

Start small: Start by implementing 10-minute articulation drills with your students who have speech-sound goals, including those you are seeing through a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) or response-to-intervention (RTI).

✓ Talk with your administrators, teachers, and parents.

✓Assure all stakeholders that shorter, individual sessions are more efficient and effective, allowing students to make progress more quickly.

✓ Find out the best blocks of time when you can see each teacher’s students. You can have several teachers within one larger block for more flexibility.

✓Adjust IEP minutes in a new IEP or amend the current one. Fewer minutes will be needed to meet your goals and can help with caseload management. Write your time as minutes per month, as possible, to accommodate block scheduling and 3:1 schedule

Additional Links

ASHA Leader: BeckyAnn Harker Can We Break From 30-Minute Group Sessions in Schools?
ASHA Leader: Jennifer Taps RTI Services for Children With Mild Articulation Needs: Four Years of Data
(Kuhn, 2006- Speedy Speech)
Bruce et al., 2018
Plante et al. (2019)

Next Up in this Pod Series

6/7/22: An Intro to Smarter Scheduling for School-Based SLps
6/14/22: A Quick Review of Service Delivery Options for School-Based SLPs
6/21/22: How to Navigate Alternative Scheduling for School-Based SLPs
6/28/22: How to Start Using Smarter Scheduling for School-Based SLPs

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Thanks so much!


Speaker 1: Hello there and welcome to the SLP Now podcast, where we share practical therapy tips and ideas for busy speech language pathologists. Grab your favorite beverage and sit back as we dive into this weeks episode.

Speaker 1: This week, we are continuing our conversation with BeckyAnn about smarter scheduling in the schools and just navigating different service delivery models to better manage our own workload and also better serve our students. And so the past three episodes, BeckyAnn has shared tons and tons of tips to kind of help us rethink how we do service delivery as SLPs in the schools. And today we get to dive into some more nitty gritty details on how to get started. So , where do you think SLP should start? Like if they're listening to these episodes and they're looking at their caseload and their schedule and was like, "Oh, I'm seeing all of my students in 30 minute groups." What would you suggest to those SLPs if they're looking to make a change?

BeckyAnn: So I can imagine it would be very hard to start in the middle of the school year, but I am also okay with starting stuff in the middle of the school year. It's do what you can when you can. Right? It's overwhelming and it really takes a paradigm shift. You get so stuck in understanding your schedule. You have been working in 30 minute blocks for your entire professional life. And so I think it is hard maybe to figure out maybe a little scary to step outside of that box a bit. I think the first place you can start is with your new referrals, really looking at using RTI to seeing those kids do your interventions, especially if it's just like articulation so start there. Start with the brand new ones. And like I said, if you need to go to an evaluation because it's really significant or it's really impacting their education by all means do that, but also know that you can be doing those five minute articulation drills or 10 minute articulation drills and even for some of the kids that just have some grammar issues, you can be doing those interventions and I would start there.

BeckyAnn: Then as your IEPs come due and you're meeting for your IEPs, I really suggest trying to reduce your minutes. And I say that, and people are cringing and people are going to say, "Oh my God, my parents are going to freak out and my administration's going to freak out." And they might, and I know there are some parents even that just hold onto somehow your 90 minutes, 120 minutes, like that's golden. I have reduced minutes.

BeckyAnn: Now I'm going to say this did happen during the pandemic is when I really started making the switch. And I used COVID to my benefit because I did have to see kids individually. We were in person and remote, but for the in person, kids, I really was trying to see those kids individually, which is how I wanted to do it anyway. But the only way to do that was really to reduce minutes. But every parent that I talked to and presented this to, I told them that it makes a lot more sense that I can see your child individually for less time and get better therapy than keeping them for this magical 30 minutes in a group with other kids and not meeting their goals. And I have not had one parent complain. I haven't had one administrator complain.

Speaker 1: Yeah. And you have those beautiful research articles that show that students can make rapid progress in less time and they're missing less time in the classroom. This is to benefit the students. It's not just because we don't want to work. We want to do what's best for students.

BeckyAnn: Right.

Speaker 1: So sharing those articles, which again are linked in the show notes, I think is a really great resource to share if parents are questioning or if administrators are questioning.

BeckyAnn: And I think like we had said earlier, just simple math. I can see your kid in a group of three for 30 minutes. That's 10 minutes that your kid is going to get to talk. That's simple math. And that's not even, like I said, with the activities and all the other things, even the hi how are yous, all of that stuff that takes extra minutes, your child is getting less than 10 minutes when I see them for 30. And that means they're missing 20 extra minutes out of the classroom.

Speaker 1: Yeah, absolutely. Do you have any other tips when it comes to presenting this to administrators or teachers or parents?

BeckyAnn: So, and I think this is thinking about like that block schedule that we were talking about, you need to talk to your teachers first. And how I presented this to my teachers was that I was going to try to do some more in class therapy was really, really my goal. I try this every year. I need to be listening to podcasts and talking to people about how to really do good in class intervention because I feel like I don't do a good job of that. I try. And I presented all my teachers this. So if I come in during your language arts block and I am there during these times and this way I can help, if you need help, I can be there and do therapy within the classroom or I can pull them out. And they're like, "Oh yeah, yeah, sure." And so they were really open to me just coming in and they'd feel comfortable with me just popping in. And sometimes it just means I'm standing in the back of the room watching what's happening, but sometimes I'm also helping and sometimes I'm taking the kids.

BeckyAnn: So getting the teachers on board from that way, just understanding that we're going to be really flexible, that we're not just going to be taking kids at this prescribed time because I can't tell you how many times I felt like I was imposing on the teacher or they just kind of look at me and go, "Okay." because they know that's their time, but they were in the middle of something. And I feel like if we can have that flexibility and we can respect their time, they will also respect ours because you might be at a time like, "I really need to see this kid. He's been absent three weeks." And whatever and I really need them. And even if they're teaching, they might be, "That's fine. That's fine. I know you do."

BeckyAnn: So to kind of make that connection with your teachers. And you may need to talk to your administrators too, especially if you're planning on reducing minutes. That might put their hairs up too and they're worried about, I don't know, lawsuits or something, but like you said, we do have the research to back that and we are trying to do what's best for the kids. So make sure you talk to them. And then along when you're talking to the teachers it's just really trying to talk to them about when their best time in the day is, and really try to work around that. I have some flexibility. This year has been great. I've been in one school three and a half days. I usually jump between schools. So there's a little less flexibility if you're only in a school building one day, but really trying to work with those teachers and find their best time and it's really to make friends and understand that you're all on the same page.

Speaker 1: And I feel like this approach would be more conducive to building those relationships because you have that flexibility to be in the classroom and to kind of adjust depending on the students needs and all of that. And yeah, I think like just being present and being visible versus popping in at the scheduled time to take the student and then them walking back by themselves, there's a lot more interaction with that and opportunity for collaboration.

BeckyAnn: And I think just understanding what the students are doing. I've been amazed sometimes now that I'm in the classroom. I'm like, "Whoa, you're really making them do that. That's amazing." Or I'll take whatever they're working on and help them with their writing assignment. Even if it's in my speech room, I may take them, pull them out and still work on those skills or use the book that they're reading and ask questions. And so I can just kind of understand what they're working on, their standards and their curriculum instead of living in my little office, my little cave. I feel like I'm kind of part of the school more and more involved with the kids' lives.

Speaker 1: And I feel like that would help with our own job satisfaction too.

BeckyAnn: I am the happiest this year that I've been, and this is where I'm in full force doing all of these things. I know.

Speaker 1: Wow. That's impressive. Because I feel like a lot of SLPs, I feel like the pulse is at an all time low. The fact that you are the happiest you've been after how many, 24 years?

BeckyAnn: And this is my 10th year in the district and yes, my numbers are a little lower this year. I still I've been around 60 to 65 all year and that's workload. So that's including my RTI kids. Right? But that's still 65 little humans that I'm working with. I do feel better. I know I shouldn't say that out loud because there are a lot of people that are like, "This is the worst year of my life." And I feel bad for them, but maybe, maybe doing some of these things and trying to take control of your own schedule. You can only control what you can control. And these are some of the things that I could do within the parameters of this school day. And I am the happiest I've been.

Speaker 1: Yeah. And I love that you're sharing that. It's not meant to be like, "I'm happiest and you're not."

BeckyAnn: Right.

Speaker 1: It gives hope. It's like, "Okay, so there's this SLP who's implementing trying some strategies to help with her scheduling and her caseload management and she's the happiest she's been." Even if you are that SLP who is at the lowest, there's hope there. There's a way to make it better. And maybe even to make it the best it's ever been, which is, I don't know. I think that's incredible. Cause you said something about three and a half days. Are you seeing that many students in three and a half days?

BeckyAnn: I also am at the high school. The high school I can't do the fancy scheduling, but they're already kind of fancy scheduled. Right? I see kids during their period that I can see them. But even then I keep them for often half of the period. They used to split the period up, like around the lunch times it would be split. And I don't know, I just kind of got into that habit. So I think if I see you for about half the time, but sometimes it's less, usually it's more, it's just whatever the kid needs for that day.

Speaker 1: Yeah. I love that. And I think the overarching trend is just what's best for our kids.

BeckyAnn: Right.

Speaker 1: How can we get them best possible services?

BeckyAnn: Get them dismissed if we can.

Speaker 1: Yeah. Get them back into the classroom. That's the ultimate goal. That's where we want them to be.

BeckyAnn: That's right.

Speaker 1: Okay. So let's just do a quick recap of the different strategies that we touched on during this episode. So you mentioned starting small. So if you get a new student, if you're new to RTI, maybe diving into that a little bit and doing some quick artic with those potential students. As renewals come up, we can look at shifting our service delivery times and working with them. If there's that kiddo, who's still on your caseload and just needing to wrap up his R we can try the strategy of 10 minute articulation drills. You shared so many wonderful strategies about getting administrators, teachers and parents on board. I won't recap all of that. You can listen back if you want that. And we talked about sharing that evidence to show that students can make rapid progress with those shorter sessions. Yeah. I think that's like a good recap of the strategies. There's a lot that goes into that communication piece. So I have one more question, Becky.

BeckyAnn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 1: Is this something that your whole district has started to adopt or are you kind of the...

BeckyAnn: Pioneer?

Speaker 1: Yeah. The pioneer for making these types of changes.

BeckyAnn: So I have talked about it with my colleagues. I don't know that they're doing this yet. RTI, I think a little more, I've been kind of spouting about that for a few years. So I think that they're definitely trying to do RTI a little bit more. I'm not sure about the scheduling, but I will have them come listen to this. And if they can hear all the wonderful things that they should be doing instead of just from me, it'll be on a podcast. So maybe it gives it more credence. I don't know.

Speaker 1: It's so official. After the [asher 00:12:25] leader and the SLP podcast. Come on.

BeckyAnn: Right.

Speaker 1: No, I love that. I think that can give SLPs hope too. You're able to implement this without having a massive district overhaul and policy change. There are other SLPs could be the pioneers in their are districts to start implementing this.

BeckyAnn: Do what's right for you really. That's what it comes down to. This is what has worked for me. And maybe not all of it will work for everybody else. And every state is different. Every school district is different. Every special ed director is different and administrators, but do what you can. Take control of what you can take control of. And so if you can reduce the minutes so that you don't have to see that kid more, but know that you're going to see them better. I think that's going to be the key and we're trying to make progress and you might be able to show, "Well, look, I've been able to get this many kids off my schedule." Which is also our plan, right, to manage our own workloads.

Speaker 1: And it benefits them because they should be in the classroom.

BeckyAnn: Correct.

Speaker 1: That's a win, win, win. Yeah. I love that. I am super excited for SLPs to hear all of these amazing tips and strategies. Is there anything else that you'd like to share Becky on as we wrap things up?

BeckyAnn: I'd like people to be able to try this. I don't know how I'd be able to get some feedback to see if it works for people or if it doesn't work, but try it. Maybe you too can have a good year after these terrible pandemic years and whatnot.

Speaker 1: Yeah. I would love that. That is my goal. And what I set out to do, because I've been in the just locking myself in my therapy room, shedding some tears, all of that. I don't want other people to experience that. So that's why I started sharing different resources and tips and it sounds like you're doing the exact same thing, BeckyAnn, so very, very grateful. And hopefully this inspires a couple SLPs and hopefully they can have their best years ever too. Thank you for your time.

BeckyAnn: Well, thank you so much for allowing me to do this, to share. This is great.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the SLP Now podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please share with your SLP friends and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast to get the latest episode sent directly to you. See you next time.


Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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