Not using curriculum-based intervention? You may be working too hard.
As a young speech-language pathologist, I was confronted with a large and staggeringly diverse caseload. It nearly brought an immediate end to my early career. I worked across two campuses with 65 Spanish-speaking students and conducted evaluations on another five campuses. Nearly half of my students were 3-year-olds in a half-day program, and many of them had multiple disabilities.
I wasn’t alone. Educators in my district also taught students from a range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Working with students from diverse backgrounds poses some of the greatest benefits and the biggest challenges. On one hand, we’re exposed to unique and interesting cultures and can make massive positive change in their education. On the other hand, a child might struggle academically because they lack exposure to a topic, must work harder in a second language, or actually have communication impairments.
I worked nights and weekends to keep up with paperwork and plan sessions. My reward that spring was covering for another SLP on maternity leave at another campus. As bleak (and common!) as this situation felt, it forced me to find a powerful solution.
Changing my intervention approach—to one that bases activities on the curriculum—helps me spend less time planning, helps students learn skills they can use in class, and helps me work efficiently in groups with various disorders.
School-based SLPs can’t always control our caseload. We might not know where we will work or what disorders we’ll face next year. What can we control? Our session content.
For example, next week you can choose to:
1) Create your own activities: Hungry Caterpillar paper-plate masks anyone?
2) Use the same activities as teachers: Growing things and Civil War history.
Teachers decide on their content well in advance. Give your students vocabulary they can use to answer questions. Help them to pronounce important words. Teach them the sentence structure to actually answer their parents’ daily question: “What did you do in school today?”
More opportunities to generalize
The majority of students spend 30 minutes to an hour per week with their SLP. This equates to 3 percent of a child’s academic day.
With curriculum-based intervention, we provide opportunities for students to practice newly acquired communication skills on topics they learned about in class. Homework provides additional communication practice with parents.
Having trouble scheduling your articulation and language groups? Wouldn’t it be easier to divide primarily by grade?
I used to fight the gym/lunch/recess schedule. I used to walk to one end of the school to pick up the kindergartener working on /s/ and the other end to pick up the first-grader working on /s/ and /r/. Now, I interact with most of my students based on theme. How?
Here is an example:
My four kindergarteners are learning about seasons. Using a seasons-related nonfiction book, I cover language goals by telling the story and answering questions. Students working on artic goals practice with words from the text—/s/ in sunny, ice, storm and snow, and /r/ in warm, rain and frost.
We also know from research that the more ways (multi-modal) and times (opportunities) a child practices a skill, the more the student will succeed.
By using curriculum themes, SLPs can potentially triple a student’s exposure to a speech or language concept by adding your goals to teachers’ content and parents’ review of homework.
Your approach probably differs from how the teacher presents a topic. She reads a book aloud while you use repetition, arts, craft or music. This variety of modalities improves a child’s retention.
Want to get up and running with curriculum-based intervention? Check out the next article in this series covering how to set up and run a curriculum-based session minute-by-minute.
Scott Prath, MA, CCC-SLP, is the vice president of Bilinguistics in Austin, Texas. Check out books and apps he authored and co-authored here, including Curriculum-based Speech Therapy Activities Volume 1 and Volume 2. He supports SLPs through SLPImpact and is a lead writer for The Speech Therapy Blog. Reach out to him there or at www.bilinguistics.com.