#138: Assessing Language: Getting Started

This Week’s Episode: Getting Started with Language Assessment

This month we are diving into all things language assessment with Kallie Knight.

This first episode is a primer on best practices, and then we’ll spending the rest of the month diving into formal assessment, informal assessment, and how to pull all of that data together for meaningful recommendations.

Let’s jump on in!

You just got a new language evaluation…

In this episode, Kallie dives into her step-by-step process for tackling new language evaluations. Listen to the episode (embedded above) for all of the details, but here’s a quick overview of Kallie’s process:

✔️ Review the referral packet (Use this to determine an overall assessment plan.)
✔️ Map out your evaluations/IEPs at the beginning of the school year (Kallie does this to help her manage her workload and effectively manage her “docket” as referrals come in.)
✔️ Use checklists to keep track of important tasks
✔️ Use folders to organize students’ documents
✔️ Schedule blocks to complete assessments and paperwork
✔️ Rember the purpose of the evaluation (Is there a disorder? What is the quality of that disorder?)

✨ Want to see Marisha’s general evaluation process? Check out the checklist here!

✨  Need the SLP Now Paperwork Binder to help streamline your process? SLP Now members can grab it here!
(Not a member? Sign up for a free trial and search for “paperwork binder” once you’re in!)

Here’s what to expect this month:

October 4: Getting Started
October 11: Formal Language Assessment
October 18: Informal Language Assessment
October 25: Making Recommendations

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Transcript

Marisha: 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.

Marisha: Hello there and welcome to the SLP Now podcast. This month we are in for a treat. We are diving into all things language assessment with the one and only Callie Knight. She is a school based SLP based in Texas. You might know her for her Instagram content at K Knight therapy, so K and then K-N-I-G-H-T therapy on Instagram. She shares so much amazing content, lots of research based stuff and really, really funny reels. So if you aren't following her already, I would highly recommend it. And you might also recognize her from a previous podcast episode. So we talked all about evaluations for culturally and linguistically diverse students, which was a big hit on our podcast. So Callie, I thought we could just take a quick second to touch base because you've had some pretty big changes over the past several months. So what are you up to these days?

Kallie: Yes, changes is exactly right. I finished up the school year and then in June I had my first baby. So that has definitely been my life for the past few months. I didn't resign my contract, so I'm not working full time in the schools this upcoming year. I'm going to stay home with my baby and just do some stuff on the side, but I'm still super excited to be able to support my comrades on the front lines because I am a school based speech pathologist through and through, regardless of whether I'm working full time right now or not.

Marisha: Yeah, I feel the exact same way cause SLP Now kind of got so crazy, it was really hard to manage. I feel like SLP Now is, for me, it's like four full time jobs in addition to a full-time school job was just a little too much. But I'm definitely still a school based SLP at heart and do plan to go back.

Kallie: I'm right there with you.

Marisha: Good place to. And so in the meantime, we're just going to nerd out about all things language assessment. So in this first episode we're just sharing some general tips. I'm going to pick Callie's brain on what things we want to think about when we get a referral and we're getting started with a language evaluation. And then the next three episodes, this is a month long series, so in the following episodes we'll discuss formal assessment, then we'll go into inform assessment, and then we'll work on tying that all together and chatting about recommendations in the last episode of the month. Let's kick things off just with some general tips. So Callie, if we just got a new language evaluation, what are some of the first things that you would do? What would you kind of do to get organized and what would you start thinking about?

Kallie: So I'm assuming that, at least for school based SLPs, if it's a referral, at least in my districts, I've always received a referral packet. So of course it would have the student's name and information, what they're being referred for. Sometimes it was just speech and language, sometimes it was speech language and then something from another professional. It usually had teacher information forms, maybe work samples if they participated in MTSS or RTI. It might have data like that. But I probably just read through first whatever they gave me to kind of prime my brain for what I'm looking at. And I think you'll see a lot of probably what the concerns are there. And that helps me know, "Okay, what do I really need to evaluate?"Because we have so many areas we could evaluate and we may not need to evaluate every area formally. So I would probably look at that packet first.

Kallie: I think you have a checklist that's actually really good. It actually is very similar to what I think about in terms of, "Okay, once I have this referral packet and I've reviewed it, what I'm going to do next." And I'm sure you have that linked or saved somewhere for people. Right?

Marisha: Yeah. So it's funny, the day that we're recording this, is the day that that episode went live. So it's episode 134 and it gives just a basic checklist for an evaluation. And I can just do a super quick recap, but go to episode 134 if you want to see all the details. Some things that we would do, just like Callie was saying, going through that, if we get a referral packet, I never got a really nice packet of information. It'd just be a teacher being like, "Hey, evaluate this student please." And then I'm like, "No, no, no, no. Let me give you some..." I developed my own little handout and teacher form and all of that. Although we did sometimes do child, I think they called them child study teams.

Kallie: Well this will be good then, because we probably have people that have been in your shoes where they're like, "Nope, I didn't get that." And maybe it was because we have an RTI, MTSS program, so they're putting data in there and they're supposed to be in that program for a certain amount of time and not make progress before they get to me. So maybe that's why I had more information, but I know unfortunately that's not actually the case in many places. So I think your two cents will be really valuable for a lot of the people that maybe didn't have what I just went over.

Marisha: Yeah. And we do have a paperwork binder. I'll link that in the show notes as well. So I worked with another SLP Monica Lynn on building that binder. If your school doesn't give you a beautiful packet with helpful information, the paperwork binder has some forms that you can share with teachers to help you get that information. It also includes information about doing a classroom observation, which I think is super helpful. That was required in all of the districts that I worked in. If I recall correctly, Callie, did you have to do classroom observations?

Kallie: It was definitely expected. I think even in Texas, I mean our Texas form of ASHA, TSHA is what we call it, they have that best practices to do an observation. So certainly is something that I try to do. I wish I had more time to do it, but it is certainly something that's there.

Marisha: Yeah. And it can feel super overwhelming but like I said, the paperwork binder has some really good resources to help you navigate that and it doesn't have to be a massive thing. There's just little checklists and stuff to make that easy and help you know what to look for. The checklist also talks about figuring out what we want to do for formal assessment and informal assessment, which we'll be diving into in a lot more detail in the next episode. So I think we'll save talking about that.

Marisha: Since this is our getting organized, kind of setting the framework, there's a lot to manage. So I'm curious what your process looks like. So you get that packet, how do you keep track of the information and the timelines and kind of scheduling out? Cause there's a lot of pieces. I guess in the packet you get the work sample and the teacher input, but we still have to figure out when we're doing the classroom observation and the informal formal assessment, writing the report, pulling it all together. How do you manage that on top of all the other caseloads?

Kallie: This is a loaded question because there a lot of things we do, right. There are some things that I do far before I ever get a referral because you're balancing so many things. So one of the things I do at the beginning of the year is I look at all of the evaluations and maybe referrals that I had from the last year that we didn't get done yet. So I have their deadlines and I kind of rough draft out. I mean, I know we have 60 school days and I wish I could get them done faster than that, but I usually schedule their deadlines for me two weeks before their real deadline so that I hopefully get it done. But then I at least know what I've got going so that when I get referrals midyear and that packet lands on my desk, I know whether I need to try to schedule it earlier because I know I'm going to be really busy or not.

Kallie: But I think that's something that's really helpful is knowing what's on your docket already so that when more comes, you're not like, "Shoot, I don't have enough time." I mean, let's be honest. Do we really have enough time ever? No. But at least if you're going to maximize your time.

Kallie: I have also used folders and on my folders I'll just... I know some people have really nice things, but I just have a sticky note and I have the name and the due date on it and a little checklist of I need to do this, this, this, this for the kid and then I can manually scratch it off. And I have my folders kind of lined up in, not chronological order, but order of when they're due. So I typically work on the one that's right in front of me and then move on to the next one. But we all know sometimes you go to pick up that kid and they're not there. So I'll just move on to the next one. You just kind of got to be flexible.

Marisha: I love that. And you're describing exactly what my system looked like too.

Kallie: Oh, good.

Marisha: Folders with the checklists of the things that we need to get done. I had it happen way too many times where I was writing up a report was like, "Oh, I forgot to observe." Or, "Oh, I forgot a language sample." And it's like it happened enough times it's like, "No, we need a checklist to make sure that we don't forget the important parts."

Kallie: When we look at the quantity of information that we have to hold, there is no way that we can just hold it in our heads. So I am not the only queen, but I say I am a queen of checklist because I have to make the internal, external and actually mark it off, otherwise we're going to forget things. And it's not because we're negligent or that we want to forget things. It's exactly what you said. It's like an oh shoot. It's like we just can't do it all. So having that little checklist, especially on a sticky note is so easy to just say, "I've done this, I've done this, I've done this."

Marisha: Yeah. And it's, like you said, making the internal external, then we're not... I feel like that's such a great way to reduce the overwhelm because it's like I've got a great system, the system is taking care of it. I just need to make sure that I'm checking my folders, but the checklists have got it taken care of. I don't need all of these random tasks swimming around in my head. That was a game changer for me not having to constantly run through everything all the time.

Kallie: I absolutely agree. Could not agree more.

Marisha: Did you block off time throughout your week to work on?

Kallie: So for the most recent district that I was in, we had four days a week that were therapy all the time from the second I was there to when I left. And then we had one day a week that was set aside for IEP meetings and then paperwork or evaluations, whatever I could get in. Of course, I was also doing that stuff throughout the week because one day is not enough but that was kind of the way that my district had it set up was you had one day dedicated to things that weren't just therapy.

Kallie: I know that's not the same for everyone. My first year in my CF, it was different where we had therapy scheduled all week and we just had little blocks of time where we had blocked off. I'm going to evaluate it this time, or I'm going to do meetings at this time, which I have to say in retrospect was harder. So I was glad when I got to a district that had a different model, but that also could bone in your paper if you can get your district to do a model that's going to be good for you, or if your district just lets you choose a model that's good for you.

Marisha: Yeah, I assume all the special education teachers and everyone used the same... Oh wait, no because if that's the district model, then everyone is scheduling meetings on that day.

Kallie: In Texas, we called IEP meetings OURD, so it's an our day. But every school, I mean, some schools might have the same OURD day, so every single person in the district may not be doing it on Tuesdays, but my school and my staff within my school might be doing it on Tuesdays. So that was also helpful because it's so hard sometimes to schedule those things with everyone.

Marisha: Oh, that does make it a lot easier if there's one day that should work or it's a lot easier to find because there's probably other meetings and all of that, but that's really cool. I love that. Yeah. And I think that's really great overview. Is there anything else that you would share in terms of making that process just a little bit less overwhelming?

Kallie: No. I think just also keeping in mind, and this is more of a general thing, but I constantly have to find myself thinking about this because there is so much going on. But it's even just like, "Why am I evaluating?" Sometimes you have to take a step back before you even choose everything" be like, Why am I evaluating? I want to know is there just even A or B? Is there a disorder? Is there not? And then what is the quality of that disorder?" And then that helps me also choose. So even just remembering to step back and be like, "Why am I doing this?" And then the why helps me choose exactly what I need to do and then we talked about of course, like the actual physically doing it and we'll talk about the rest of it here soon.

Marisha: I love it. So that is a wrap on this first episode and join us next week where we will dive into all these formal assessment. 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.

 

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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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