With only two years in the profession as a certified speech-language pathologist, I started in the schools not knowing if the workload is overwhelming or just the norm. The 2013-2014 school year was my clinical fellowship experience. I excitedly trudged my way through the paperwork system, found my footing as a therapist and emerged with nothing but wind in my sails.
Yet wind always ebbs and flows. By December of 2014, I realized the overwhelming paperwork leading to canceled sessions was more than what my colleagues were experiencing. I spoke up at our quarterly staff meeting and made it clear I needed some help. I was done sacrificing students’ treatment time for paperwork. With only three speech-language pathology assistants in the district, I didn’t expect much, to be honest. The request was more for my sanity, so that if someone found me under a stack of Individualized Education Programs, there was a story to tell.
To my great surprise, on the first day back after winter break, I read a delightful email from one of the SLPAs reporting she would be with me every Friday till the end of the year. Yay!!
I then immediately started realizing all the things that come along with having an SLPA. I share my (small) office space, walk her through my goals for each student, supervise her with students and sign off on all the paperwork. I almost regretted my decision to ask for the help. But no, no…It was worth it, right?
Then came the self-doubt, all my insecurities crept in. How unorganized I can be with materials, how behind I get with Medicaid billing, how I feel like no one could handle the kids like I do. No, no, it will be fine, I reassured myself. And it was.
My new SLPA arrived on her first Friday. We got right to work going over the day’s schedule, reviewing goals and discussing student’s current skills. Within 35 minutes, she looked through my materials, set up her lessons and was ready for the day. She’s been an SLPA longer than I’ve been an SLP, so it was just another Friday for her. There I was, nervous and excited and she was just wondering where the staff lounge was. Funny how things work out.
I spent that first Friday observing from my desk while writing six IEPs for next Monday’s meetings and finishing an evaluation report, all before noon. None of my kids missed their sessions. If anything, treatment stayed more focused because their SLP wasn’t a crazed lady partially pondering when she was going to do paperwork versus how well they said their /s/ and /z/.
Having an SLPA, even just once a week, makes all the difference with the rest of my sessions. I plan my week out, factoring in the time I know I’ll have on Fridays. Time I spend doing evaluations, writing up extended school year data, monitoring progress for Response to Intervention, collaborating with my classroom teachers and making phone calls home. There are many things that get swept to the side when you have mandatory deadlines always approaching. Having an SLPA has already helped in ways I can’t put to words.
I didn’t realize just how stressed I was until my SLPA swooped in saved my sanity. We’re still working out kinks in the schedule and treatment details, but the benefits far outweigh any of these. If we both continue to coordinate and communicate the session progress, I know I’ll see exciting growth in those students during the final push to the end of the school year.
Katie Millican, MEd, CCC-SLP, is an SLP for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough (Alaska) School district. She graduated from the University of West Georgia with her bachelor’s and master’s of education degrees. Her interest in technology leads her to integrate it into day-to-day sessions. She enjoys connecting with her blog readers (SLP_Echo) through all things social media: Twitter, Instagram and Google +.