Scheduling for Speech

Remember in High School when you could have sworn that your English teacher threw all those essays up his stair case. The ones that landed nearest the top step received “A”s, the next steps received “B”s and all remaining papers received a “C”? That teacher was the reason I refused to take any English classes in college.

And remember college acceptance time? When those college admission officers stuck their hand into the Santa-sized bag of applications and pulled out those lucky few?

Well, scheduling 60+ speech students into a school week looks a little like that.
Only, instead of throwing papers up a flight of stairs, I throw 100 post-its onto a huge piece of paper that has been divided into multiple columns.

My goal is to schedule every student to see me at least once per week, and see either my assistant or myself the other time in the week. But, hang-on, I can’t have the speech time interfere with ESL, lunch, recess, a 90-minute reading block, music, PE, library, other special education services, or Title 1. And being the last to schedule my students makes it extra-fun in a “I sure enjoy an impossible brain puzzle” kind-of way.

Although I’ve been serving students for several weeks, today marks the day in which I think I finally have scheduled all of my students.

That is… until someone graduates from speech, someone moves in, someone qualifies for new services, or anything else about the school schedule changes. At which point, I’ll start throwing post-its again.

Other school-based Speech Pathologists: How do you create your schedule?

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  1. I don’t know how people do it, but the land of mandates that are virtually impossible to follow is a difficult place to be.

  2. i usually send out a massive email. first come gets their choice of times.
    this year … i just scheduled similar to you … and it doesn’t seem any better or worse.
    my favorite is when teachers don’t respond that it does or doesn’t work. and then they are NEVER in their rooms and get mad at me.
    i started the 5 minute kids program for my less-involved articulation kiddos this year … must say i LOVE it so far.

  3. I’m at my first school ever and it’s middle schools. I’ve been rocking spreadsheets, and when I need to completely reboot I use a blank spreadsheet with the times on it and write in pencil. I think my schedule is kind of sort of set as well, but Friday they had a different bell schedule because of student elections and I wept inside.

  4. Congratulations – I think you’re amazing! Isn’t it just typical though, that speech can’t interfere with such important activities as music, PE, library, or ESL. I guess communication just isn’t as important?

    I used to encounter this in schools. The best schools would say, “Speech is vital to this student – everything else can wait.” Others really didn’t value my service at all, and placed communication as a low priority for these struggling students.

    Now, working in private practice, I wonder if the schools realise they are receiving hundreds of dollars worth of professional services?

  5. But you asked how did I do it?

    We worked on an allocative model. There were X schools in the state and Y SLPs and although the number of SLPs was always far too small, services had to be distributed equitably.

    This meant I had an average of 17 schools on my caseload at any one time.

    Each school would have to prioritise their list of referred students. The schools in my district were weighted and received a certain number of speech therapy “places”.

    For example, a school of 300 students would receive 6 therapy places. Theoretically that meant that 6 highest-priority students could receive direct intervention, but more often, creative options meant that more students could receive services, e.g., the 6 places could be used this way:

    – 3 places would enable 3 students to receive direct one-on-one therapy
    – 2 places would enable me to see a small group of up to four students with similar needs
    – 1 place would give time for me to have input the the IEPs of up to four other students.

    A school with 6 places would see me for 2 hours a fortnight. They really had to prioritise speech and make sure the students could be there for my visit.

    These systems were put in place so that we could (a) provide equitable state-wide services, (b) protect our workload, and (c) actually see some outcomes by providing better services (to fewer students than we used to!)

    Sure, only one third of referred students could receive a SLP service. But every year, each SLP in Queensland still keeps meticulous stats on the number of referrals and unmet need. At a state level, this information is constantly being used to lobby for more positions to be created.

    Other states in Australia aren’t so lucky – they don’t even have therapists employed by their education departments! I think many states outsource from Health departments.

  6. Chicory Blue says:

    I am on my 6th revision (????) in the last month. My schedule nightmare is that I see kids in their preschools or homes-when they are there.

    I have schools that have M/W and T/H am/pm classes 1/2 day classes. Other schools are M, T, W or T, W, TH (half day am/pm) I have kids only in daycare W, Th or T, W. I have kids whose parents schedule changes so the only day they are “consistently” in school is Monday. I have kids I see at home with “private therapy” 2-3 days a week and parents don’t want speech on “those days”…or other parent demands.

    not to mention the varying SCHOOLS schedule of “no speech” during snack, circle, “teaching time” or outside time (well, I can see them during outside time..but I have to go on playground. That’s fine in warm months….and other demands…

    Plus I have to allow time to actually drive to these places, schlep in my my stuff, etc….

    and I get new kids moving up from 0-3 or through finding in community screens…

    How do I schedule?

    I have a word processing document with a 5 day schedule grid on 1 page. Each day has a spot for time and student/place. (so 10 columns total). No day is the same.

    I have all the students schedule issues listed at the bottom. I also have a list of when the child receives other services.

    Right now I am not sure I can actually do my morning schedule same days (driving time might be too short)…I have been lucky to have a child absent each of my tightest days.

    There are only 3 times in my schedule where I have more than 1 child in a school at the same time/day. So I visit some schools 3-4 times in a week.

    Scheduling is the thing I hate most about my job.

  7. Do you do groups? They do individual time with our largely non-verbal son, but his brother has a group of four kids he’s with. He’s down from five days a week to three this year, but you sound like the kids you see only get speech once or twice a week. Maybe his school can get away with meeting higher-demand IEPs by putting the kids in a group together. His group is basically all the kids who do three days a week with that speech pathologist. His group last year was all the kids who met with that speech pathologist five days a week.

    His group is all in the same classroom too (by design, I believe), so she can pretend to be a classroom aide in the classroom and do speech with whatever they’re doing if there’s something they shouldn’t miss. I suppose these are the benefits of being at a school that places special education services in inclusive classrooms as one of their highest priorities.

  8. Making my schedule is actually really easy. I set up the groups of students who will be coming together. Then I let the teacher know which students are in the groups and then let the teachers make my schedule. It’s on a fist come first serve basis, where they come to the library one day after school to pick their time. They are the one that have to work around lunch, recess, music, P.E, art, library, and computer class. It’s so nice not to have to worry about any of it. I try to make my schedule first so then the resource teachers can make their schedule. It’s the easiest thing to do and I never have any complaints from teachers.

  9. i have been in speech k though 12 have u tried groups of kids learning together. i have not been reading this blog a lot come visit me,

  10. Yikes! That looks like a never ending and impossible task. Good luck.

  11. When I was a special education teacher I watched in amazement as the speech, reading, and other specialists attempted to answer that question. And as a case manager it was always a headache to make sure no one was missing anything “important” for those services.

    Now, I try to schedule my three year old daughter for her speech. Somehow that seems harder!

  12. Wow! I can’t imagine!

    I’m waiting for our school to get back to me about starting my daughter in speech therapy. We’ve seen a pathologist and she needs help for her stuttering. It’s a family thing; I stutter. Perhaps it’s the scheduling why we’ve been waiting for a phone call for three weeks.

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