Challenges — in SLP life or otherwise — can feel really big. It’s easy to think we need equally big solutions to solve them, but sometimes simplicity does the trick.
At least that’s what we’ve found when it comes to planning therapy sessions!
In her years of wrangling paperwork and caseload stress, Marisha has come up with a ton of strategies and solutions to help stressed out SLPs. For this podcast episode, we asked her to narrow it down to her top three therapy planning practices… and Marisha understood the assignment:
Marisha’s Top 3 Tips for Therapy Planning
1️⃣ Segment your caseload
2️⃣ Leverage pre-made therapy plans
3️⃣ Gather your must-have materials in advance
Let’s dive in:
1. Segment Your Caseload for Efficient Planning
Instead of planning something unique for each group, consider segmenting your caseload. This approach can drastically reduce planning overwhelm.
Marisha shares how she uses books like The Gruffalo to target multiple goals — like categories, grammar, vocabulary, and social language goals — and she gives a great example of how to segment a caseload spanning Pre-K to Grade 5.
By dividing your caseload into segments, you minimize the number of activities you need to plan. And believe it or not, using the same materials repeatedly doesn’t lead to boredom; it fosters creativity. Becoming familiar with a text helps you quickly and easily incorporate it into your sessions, no matter the group size or targets.
2. Leverage Pre-Made Therapy Plans
The internet offers a wealth of resources to streamline therapy planning, including pre-made therapy plans. Marisha admits that she may be a little biased (😜) but she highly recommends SLP Now, where you can access over 400 therapy plans tailored to different segments of your caseload.
SLP Now follows Dr. Ukrainetz’s literacy-based therapy framework for all its units, and each unit provides a month’s worth of low-prep activity ideas. These plans are evidence-backed and meticulously organized by targets, seasons, and more — so you can map out units in minutes, saving you hours of planning (and stressing) time. 😅
3. Gather Essential Materials in Advance
Essential materials — including probes, assessment tools, and visuals or teaching aids — are crucial for effective speech therapy sessions. One of Marisha’s biggest SLP sanity savers is having these resources at her fingertips for every session.
Whether you prefer printed activities or digital versions, having essential materials ready in advance is a game-changer if you want to plan engaging and effective therapy sessions.
Use these three tips to streamline your speech therapy sessions (even when you have limited prep time!) and with all that time you save, you can focus on what really matters — celebrating your students’ achievements! 🥳
Resources + Links Mentioned:
Subscribe to the SLP Now podcast and stay tuned for our next series. We’re kicking off September by helping you get your data collection, paperwork, and therapy planning processes in tip-top shape! 💪
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 week's episode.
Hey there, it's Marisha, and today we are going to be chatting about three tips for easy therapy planning. So let's go ahead and dive right in with tip number one. Tip number one is to split your caseload into segments. Now, this isn't how you have to or would necessarily want to do your planning longer term, but I think this is a really great starting point for SLPs who are feeling really overwhelmed and who need to create a little bit of extra margin. And it's also really great for speech therapists who are newer to literacy-based therapy and are getting used to the process. So what do I mean by splitting your caseload into segments? So instead of planning something different for every single group, you look at your caseload and decide which segments you can create. So I think it's easiest to explain this with an example.
So let's say that I am working at an elementary school and I am seeing preschool through fifth grade. So for my segments for that caseload, maybe I have preschoolers as segment one, and for them I plan a play-based unit and then I might segment my K-2 students and plan a picture book for them. And then I might segment my third through fifth grade students and do a science experiment for them. So I'm basically selecting a unit type that is appropriate for that segment of my caseload. Now we are clinicians, not technicians, and we will of course use our clinical judgment if that segmentation isn't appropriate for whatever reason, but I think it can be a really helpful strategy to decrease the overwhelm of that planning a little bit. So instead of planning 20 to 30 different activities, we're only planning three activities and there's some really cool benefits to using this approach.
So when I started using literacy-based therapy, I started doing this. So I had my preschoolers and I had play-based activities for them. Then my K-2 students, I used a picture book. And then for my older students, I would use a more age appropriate text, like a fiction article. And so I got to use that play-based unit across lots of groups, and I got to use that picture book and that article across multiple groups as well. And I feel like this was a really beneficial experience for me as a clinician because I got to use the same materials over and over and it's not boring. It's actually really cool because you start to get really creative. And I was doing this in my cf, in my cognitive load of just navigating a session was a little bit overwhelming. And so being able to use the same materials but get really creative as a clinician in terms of how to target multiple goals using that one book.
Let's get a little bit more specific. So one of the books that I used was The Gruffalo. And so I used that book across multiple groups. And it was really cool because I was working on categories and grammar goals and other types of vocabulary goals and social language. And I got to use that one book to target all of those goals. And it was just really fun to get creative and I felt like I had the space to get really creative because I wasn't trying to figure out all of the logistics of what was even happening in the text. I was really, really familiar with it and it just opened up more room for creativity. And I think over time that became easier of just grabbing a text and being able to target any goal with it. But I think that initial experience was really beneficial for me, and now I'm able to pull anything from the classroom and use it and it's really easy and efficient and I can pick it up really quickly.
But I don't think I would be able to do that if I hadn't done that caseload segmentation and practice using the same text to target tons of goals. And so my planning now looks a little bit different, but I think splitting your caseload into segments can be a really beneficial strategy to go back to. Like I said in the beginning, if you're new to literacy-based therapy and that part is feeling overwhelming, or if you just have a massive caseload or you're new to a school and you haven't built relationships with the teachers to grab those curriculum-based materials and all of that. So that is tip number one, splitting your caseload into segments and planning accordingly.
So tip number two is to use pre-made therapy plans. So there are tons and tons of resources available on the intranet to make this possible, but I have to do a plug for SLP Now. We have over 400 therapy plans that you can use for pretty much any segment of your caseload that you could come up with. So I mentioned a few of the unit types that we have in step one or tip one. So I mentioned our play-based units. I mentioned our picture book units. I mentioned the science experiment units, but we also have core vocabulary units, some of which are more play-based and some of which are literacy-based. We also have fiction and non-fiction articles, which is really great for those older students. And we also have vocational videos, which is really great for those functional communication goals. So one example of a vocational unit is a video we hired secondary students, so it's peer modeling. So secondary students are going through scripts of ordering fast food, for example, or checking out a book at the library.
So that's what we have inside SLP Now, and I'm not super familiar with how other units are set up, but with SLP Now you have access to... we use Dr. Ukrainetz's literacy-based therapy framework for all of our literacy-based units. The science experiments and videos are set up a little bit differently, but for all of those units, you have a month of activity ideas. You have a little bit of a pacing guide in terms of what you want to do in any given session. We also have activities that you can access digitally. So you can literally plan a unit as students are walking in the door. You just need to decide which text you want to use. And then you have instant access to all of the activity ideas and all of the digital resources so you don't have to do any prep.
And then for those of you who have a little bit more time or really want physical materials, we also have printable resources that go with that unit and you just click into the unit, you see all of the activities, you can click to access all the digital resources. There's another tab where you see all of the printable materials. And the best part is because one of the most challenging things about targeting all of these goals using a book is that one, it can be hard to know which targets to choose. I've talked to a lot of speech therapists who struggle with that. And so in our therapy plans, there's a tab called targets, and we've analyzed every single book and text for all of the relevant targets. And so you can just look and you can see, "Okay, these are all the categories in the book. These are all the high frequency speech sounds in the book. These are all the grammar targets in the book."
And then you can click on the target and it'll give you access to teaching materials for that specific target. And then in the main unit plan, you can also find book specific practice activities. So you would literally have everything right at your fingertips. So this is a feature that came out last summer and it's been an absolute game changer. So I used to do hour long calls with members to map out a whole unit, and now you can have it in literally seconds. That's tip number two, using pre-made therapy plans. I'm partial to the ones we have in SLP Now, but I am sure that there are other fabulous options out there. This is absolutely something you could create on your own. You can analyze the book and identify the targets and all of that.
But today we're talking about easy therapy planning for speech therapists who are overwhelmed and short on time. So I just wanted to let you know about a way to make that even easier. So that brings us to tip number three, which is to gather your essential materials ahead of time. So what do I mean by essential materials? So to me, essential materials include probes or assessment tools and visuals or teaching tools. And we've talked about how to build your materials library in previous episodes. So this was in episode 161 where I talk about tips to build that, but I just wanted to emphasize that again here, because if we have our caseload split into segments, we're just prepping three units on average. You can adjust that number, but let's just go with three because that's easy to navigate. So you pull up three units. If you're running super short on time, you just use the digital versions of everything.
If you are able to make time to print off some visuals and manipulatives, then you can do that as well. So that's your first step. Then if you're using SLP Now, that's done for you in a matter of seconds. So we have our unit and then we just need the materials that we need for the core of our therapy. We need to be able to monitor students' progress, and we need to have a way to teach them. And then the units that we've selected give us a perfect language rich context to practice these skills and start working towards generalization as well. So that's how I wrap my brain around therapy planning and make it possible to do that with very little prep time while still providing really high quality therapy. So just to recap the three tips. So tip one, split your caseload into segments.
Tip two, use pre-made therapy plans. And then tip three, gather your essentials ahead of time. Head to episode 161 if you want to see or hear more details on how to build that library of essential materials and how to do that in an easy way. And that's a wrap on this episode. I hope you enjoyed the three tips and looking forward to chatting with you again soon. 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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