Connecting with the Curriculum

Curriculum Books

For a while there, I had no idea what “IDEA” was and “504″ could have been a building for all I knew. And then there were the word associations; “FERPA” made me think of a Sherpa, “HIPAA” of hippos and an “IEP” of the movie ET. Moving from Australia and launching a speech-language pathology career in the American school system was a completely different field to wrap my head around and I had a dilemma.

I had never worked in a school before.  Apart from the acronyms, numerous vocabulary challenges and having to change my naturally accented schwa to the vowel controlled “r” to be understood, everything fell into place except for one thing: the curriculum. The ASHA website for speech pathologists working in the School Setting gave me much needed direction, so I started looking for speech-language curriculum related materials on the Internet.

Then I looked a little more.

And more again… until I gave up.

I couldn’t understand that with Pinterest, TpT stores and school-based SLP blogs inspiring many of us to don our creative hats, that there was not more school based resources out there. I couldn’t help but think “Pirates are pretty cool…. but where do pirates fit into the curriculum?” Why do speech pathology materials constantly revolving around seasons and holidays such as Valentine’s Day, winter and St Patrick’s Day? We know that our students need repetition after repetition after repetition to cement their learning, so why are we introducing our own themes and topics with new vocabulary if it will not help our student’s succeed with the language and knowledge that they are learning in their classroom?

So I want to set a challenge: Really think about the following ASHA guideline, broken into two parts for clarity:

  1. Individualized programs always relate to the schoolwork.
  2. Therefore, materials for treatment are taken from or are directly related to content from classes.

Are you doing this in your school-based practice? If the answer is “no,” then why not set yourself a challenge to be more curriculum focused? Just think that every year you could recycle and add to your language materials like our teachers do! It may be some work in the beginning but you could set yourself up for years of minimal planning and support language in the curriculum at the same time.

Here are some ideas to get you started on how you can add some more curriculum to your therapy practice:

  1. Ask to borrow your grade level teacher’s curriculum handbooks and get acquainted with their themes.
  2. Get a grasp on the Common Core Standards and investigate what skills your students should have in the areas of speaking and listening, language, writing and reading.
  3. Borrow your student’s grade level books from the librarian or classroom teacher and use them in therapy.
  4. Find the website on which your curriculum is based for online games and glossaries.
  5. Ask the grade level teachers for tips on where to find resources or look up their teacher site on the school website. Many teachers provide a list of related and helpful links for parents, so start searching through there.
  6. Contact your favorite speech pathology blogger and ask them to start making materials that are curriculum related.

So take the challenge! Change your practice and connect with your student’s curriculum.

Rebecca Visintin is an Australian trained speech-language pathologist. She is currently working in elementary and middle schools in Washington state after experience in the Australian outback and as the sole speech-language pathologist in Samoa. She provides information for SLPs working abroad and free therapy resources on her site Adventures in Speech Pathology.