Avoiding Burnout as a School Based SLP

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When I was in grad school, my parents met a flight attendant who was a former SLP. She told them that she just wanted to do something that wasn’t so stressful and overwhelming, and that she just couldn’t take it anymore.

As a student in the field, hearing this was disconcerting to say the least. I remember speaking to my internship supervisor about it at the time, and I recall that she reassured me that as long as you practice self-care, it is a fulfilling and manageable career, and you can avoid burnout. She was right. Some weeks are hard and others are wonderful, but the truth is, I love this field and I am SO glad I stuck with it.

These are some things that help me avoid burnout despite the everyday stress we all encounter.

Keep a hard copy calendar:

There is so much more to being a school SLP than diagnostics and therapy. We have duties, district level meetings, IEP meetings, BIP meetings, and the list goes on. Sure, your district might have an online system that reminds you when IEPs are coming due, but keeping a hard copy calendar will help you to keep track of EVERYTHING that is coming in one spot so much more efficiently. You will have a better grasp on when you are available and what things need your attention now vs. what can wait for tomorrow.

Don’t re-invent the wheel:

There are so many fabulous materials designed for Speech Language Pathologists, and those options just keep expanding thanks to websites like teacherspayteachers.com, where you can buy quality, affordable materials designed by other SLPs to target any age level or goal area. Don’t waste time making elaborate materials if you are feeling overwhelmed. Keep your materials organized by goal area and/or seasonally so that each year it gets easier to grab and go with your therapy sessions.

See our store here  for some time-saving materials you can use year round!

Ask for support:

Most of us have someone overseeing us at the administrative level, or at the very least a network of colleagues in other schools in the district. If you are sinking, they can’t always afford to send you full time relief, but they can almost always ask if anyone has availability to come help administer some screenings/evaluations for you to give you a chance to catch up. Just be prepared to return the favor if you ever find yourself all caught up! Our administrators don’t know we are experiencing burnout if we don’t communicate our needs to them.

Remind yourself of your professional successes:

Let’s face it. We didn’t go into the school setting because we thought we would get rich! You must have a real passion for helping people to do the work we do day in and day out, when other areas of our field (PRN Work, Private practice) could (in most cases) afford us a more comfortable lifestyle. Reflect regularly on where you have made a difference, even on a small scale. Do you have a group you’ve seen great progress in? Is there a student who has a voice through AAC because of you? Bravo! You are making a difference, in big ways and in small ways, every. single. day. Don’t let the stress of meetings and duties outweigh the joy that comes from that.

Don’t forget about your personal life:

Don’t lose sight of the things in your personal life that give you joy. These are the exact things that will refresh you when you feel the weight of your workload bearing down. Try to set time aside at least twice a week to stay refreshed by appreciating these small joys. For me, it is cooking a good meal, or playing a board game with my husband. For you it might be watching a TV show in the evening, or working out/meditating. No matter what it is for you, make sure that you take care of yourself so that you can continue doing the great work you do to take care of others.

If all else fails, remember that summer is just a few short months away!! 😀

Ana and Lacy
Do you have a tip for avoiding burnout in our field? Comment below to let us know!

Addressing Anxiety in Fluency Therapy

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I think it is important to talk a little bit about why we tackle speaking anxiety with our fluency students. A good number of you ask the question, “Is this in our scope of practice?” and the short answer is, absolutely.

So very many of our fluency students experience anxiety, and anxiety leads to muscle tension, which leads to MORE stuttering.

Anxiety

We have touched on using guided relaxation to manage muscle tension, but how do we help our fluency students learn to manage their feelings of stress and anxiety so that they can become more fluent?

Recognizing and understanding anxiety does not come naturally to children, so it helps to guide them through what anxiety is in general before just diving head first into talking to them about their speaking anxiety.

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  2. Talk about negative feelings that worries cause and the difference between negative and positive feelings.IMG_1758.jpg
  3. Talk about how we can get rid of worries and turn negative feelings into positive feelingsIMG_1761.jpg

For these and other great fluency worksheets, please consider purchasing our Stuttering Made Simple Resource, which can be found here or click any of the pictures above.

Some students will pick speaking anxiety as an example, and if that is what they pick it is fine to to talk through it with them. If they pick something else, such as a fear of the dark, test taking, etc. that is still extremely effective. Although it may SEEM off topic, you are helping the student learn important strategies that they can then carry over into fluency related tasks.

If you feel that the topics of conversation are out of your area of expertise and require more intensive, non speech related therapy beyond just discussing simple positive and negative emotions, that is when I personally would choose to involve a social worker or mental health professional. Working as a collaborative team is important in these instances. Make sure the professional knows your fluency goals and that they are respectful of those goals as they move forward with their therapy. Keep in contact and collaborate as a team with any mental health professionals involved in the care of your client. This may require a signed release of information, which can be completed at the discretion of the parent or guardian of the client or by the client themselves if they are an adult.

It is important that we do not ignore anxiety as it is an integral part of fluency therapy.

As always, if you have any questions about this or any fluency related topic, feel free to comment on this post or email us at speechinthesand@gmail.com!

Ana

 

Tuesday Tip: Trimming Velcro Without the Annoying Residue

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To say we use “a lot” of Velcro as speech pathologists would be putting it lightly! If you’re like me, you like to buy the big spool of Velcro from the craft store, both to save money  and because you can cut it down to the exact size you need, which prevents waste.

**bonus tip: most of the major craft stores WILL accept the 40-60% off one regularly priced item coupon for Velcro rolls**

The residue that would be left behind on my scissors after I trimmed my Velcro used to drive me crazy, and I hated trying to scrub it all off. One day I heard about using cooking spray to prevent this issue, and let me tell you, it WORKS!

Lay down a paper towel or piece of scrap paper, place your open scissors down, and lightly spray the exposed blades.

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Trim your Velcro to the desired size.

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Rinse the cooking spray off of the scissors using warm water.

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Dry the blades thoroughly to prevent rusting.

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Hopefully this tip helps make your prep and planning days a little easier!

Ana

Tuesday Tip: “Pinning” Documents With a Stapler

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Do you ever staple your draft IEPs together to stay organized for a meeting, only to remove all the staples to make copies of the signature pages later? If you don’t already know about “pinning” documents with your stapler, you are sure to be excited about this one!

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Open your stapler and lift up on the bottom plate

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Rotate the plate

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Close the stapler and place your pin

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Voilà! Your pages are pinned together so you can stay organized, but  these “pinned” staples will be easy to remove later!

 

We hope you found this tip helpful! Happy pinning!

Ana

SLPs and OTs: The Benefits of Co-Treatment Sessions (and Five Great Resources to Get You Started)

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I am lucky to work with some fantastic professionals from other fields. Some of my favorite people happen to be OTs (Occupational Therapists) and COTAs (Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants).

Co-treating with OTs the school setting is so rewarding! In one case I planned a weekly, hour long push in group with the OT in a classroom of students with varying exceptionalities. We would ask the teacher for her letter of the week and reading theme and we would each plan two activities to go with that theme. We would keep in mind each other’s target goal areas by choosing activities that were both language rich and had a fine motor component.

I see SO much growth in these groups because there is opportunity for carryover!! I continue to learn so much about the OT objectives in therapy and am able to carry over many of these in my sessions during the week. My OT friends report the same with my language rich goals and tell me they find themselves encouraging students to elaborate verbally on their ideas, make requests and use their AAC devices in ways that they hadn’t thought of before.

It is both fun and productive collaborating with other professionals and learning about what they do to help our students.

Here are some of my favorite products available on TPT for co-treating with OTs to get you started with thinking about tasks to include numerous target goal areas:

Say it
This is one of my favorite resources for co-treatment because students can practice articulation words by saying the sound, writing the word, then drawing a picture of the word in the box provided. You can also have the student describe the picture to hit language targets, or have to student follow your verbal directions to draw the picture a certain way!

Mazes For Articulation
This resource is great for some of your more advanced students! Consult with your OT to see if it would be appropriate for your co-treatment group. There is also a language version that you can buy here! You start by working your way through the first maze until you reach the target picture. Practice your target word or use it in a phrase or sentence 5 times. Five boxes are provided directly under each picture for easy data collection!

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This awesome resource from Ms. Gardenia’s Speech Room incorporates fine motor and handwriting skills into phonemic awareness activities and articulation drills. SLPs, OTs and students alike love the fun and interactive nature of these activities. It really is worth investing in the bundle!

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We use SO much playdoh in our co-treatment sessions! You can use playdoh for following directions activities or as a reinforcer for open ended games and activities. Sometimes the OT brings a thicker clay that is harder to work depending on the needs of her students. These awesome mats by Creating Communicators take the guesswork out of planning a playdoh based session. The children can choose items that belong with the main category to increase their vocabulary skills. As the child chooses items from the main category, they can then label each item, targeting their expressive language skills. We have smashed playdoh directly onto the mats, and sometime the OT has the students use another item such as a tongue depressor to do the smashing!

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Almost any kind of craft is also great for co-treatment sessions! Cutting, gluing, tying and attaching are all prime targets for OT goals, and requesting, labeling, following directions, and sequencing are all great for our speech and language targets! You can find so many great easy craft ideas on Pinterest or you can keep it quick and simple by using these great pre-made craft ideas from Peachie Speechie! It’s great to have this bundle in your arsenal of materials for those days when you need a craft idea in a flash!

Do you co-treat with the OT or COTA at your school or clinic? Let us know what your favorite activities are!

Happy Co-Treating!

Ana

Tuesday Tip: Use Nail Polish to Make Materials Last

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I hope you are all having a great Tuesday!

I want to share some tips that make my life more convenient, starting with this awesome way to help your materials last longer!

We are speech pathologists. We live to laminate. Sadly, there are some things that you just can’t fit through that laminator slot!

For those items, I love to use permanent marker followed by a coat of clear nail polish! This ensures that my writing stays smudge free and bright for lasting materials!

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Ana

Supporting Educators As They Implement A.A.C.

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Hi everyone!

I want to talk about an area of difficulty many of us experience in the schools when working with students with complex communication needs. Often we put in the time and effort to implement a communication book or other high tech AAC device only to experience abandonment of these tools at the classroom level. This can be frustrating, to say the least. So, how can we get teacher buy in in order to help our students succeed?

Teach the teacher Set aside time to train the teacher. Sometimes it is easy for us as SLPs to see an AAC device as intuitive without considering that to a teacher or aid, this may not be the case at all. Try not to drop the student off with a new device one day, sight unseen to the teacher and expect them to just roll with it. Sit with the teacher and those working directly with the student and model for them how you expect the device to be used.

Give it time If a teacher is able to jump in and use the device with the student all day from the very beginning, great! If not, try to start small and work your way up. The first week, have the teacher use the device during a specific time, such as morning circle. Try to be there during this time to support the teacher and model the use of the device.  The next week, add in several more blocks of time. This will help the teacher and the student feel more confident with the huge change in their schedule.

Unexpected use Explain what to do when a student is using the device in an “unexpected” way.  For example, I have had students who will press one button over and over when they get a new device or who ask for a desired item, such a cookies repeatedly instead of participating productively in classroom discussion. The teachers have taken the device and put it out of reach to solve the problem. Explain to the teacher that this is like turning off a student’s voice and is unethical. Tell them they should treat the student like any other talking out of turn, by telling them “It’s not time to talk about cookies, right now it is math centers.” They should redirect the behavior as they would with any student.

Push in when possible The more time you are able to spend working with the child in the classroom setting, the more modeling you are doing both for the student and the teacher. Buy in is best when there is a shared understanding of the goals and usefulness of the device.

Do you have any advice to share about helping educators value AAC? Share it in the comments below or send us an email!

Ana