Gray: From the American Speech Language Hearing Association… This is ASHA Voices. I’m J.D. Gray. And today, we’re going to school… sort of
We’re looking at the work of school-based speech language pathologists, and here’s the class schedule, just two periods today: 1st period: We’ll take a look at how and why SLPs advocate for themselves and the role creativity plays in that process. We’ll be joined by Kim Murza. She says this could mean reimagining some of the ways services are delivered.
Murza: I went to grad school, like all the other SLP’s, to be a therapist, and to work with kids. And some of these new roles, or hats that I’m suggesting people wear, that might be outside of their comfort zone.
Gray: And in 2nd period, we’ll talk to Sean Sweeney for a look at tech you can use during speech-language treatment, including a look at “fail videos”
Sweeney: We can kind of turn to the idea of language and story grammar because many stories start with a problem, an initiating event.
This is ASHA Voices.
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Support for ASHA Voices comes from the ASHA Continuing Education Registry. You can earn ASHA Continuing Education Units by joining the ASHA C-E Registry and track your progress with your digital C-E Registry Transcript. Learn more at asha-dot-org-slash-C-E
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Gray: Today on ASHA Voices, We’re looking at the work of school based SLPs.
First up is a conversation with Kim Murza. Kim is a faculty member at the University of Northern Colorado and also a contributor to the ASHA Leader magazine.
I met with Kim at ASHA Connect 2019 in Chicago. We discussed how SLPs can get more out of their time when they already have so many responsibilities. From speech-language lessons to paperwork to lunch duty, it’s no secret that school-based SLPs are doing a lot of work. It can be overwhelming… But in our conversation, Kim says there’s ways SLPs can look at their work, and their roles, and find ways to improve their situation. Here’s Kim:
Murza: SLPs in the schools have a lot on their plate, and so we have to be creative in how we use the time that we have, and the time with our students, but also the, the time that we have with colleagues, and stakeholders that work with students.
Gray: You said “creative”. What ways can SLPs engage their creativity to do that?
Murza: I think SLPs naturally are some of the most creative people I know, because when you’re working with students, you can have a Plan A, B, and C, and often you have to go to D. When you think about service delivery in the schools, a lot of us who work in the schools have large caseloads, there’s a lot of expectations for you to participate outside of direct service delivery for students.
Gray: If I am a school–based SLP, what does my day look like and how much of it is really gonna be doing speech-language therapy?
Murza: A lot of SLPs in the schools I think would say they spend a lot a time on paperwork, on IEPs, meetings, planning time, supervision, billing Medicaid. So there’s a lot of those… activities that aren’t direct contact with kids, and that’s why we all went into this field, we want to help people. And of course, all of those indirect activities are supporting students, but we have to be maybe a little bit more creative in how we use the time that we have. And to do that, I think we should wear different hats. So beyond just the interventionist hat, and… the diagnostician hat, we’ve got to sell what we do by wearing our advocate hat. We’ve got to collaborate with other people, and coach them in how to support students. And a lot of times our colleagues spend so much more time with kids than we do, and it’s such a great opportunity to have them become communication partners. So, I think you have to wear your coach hat, and you also have to wear your independence facilitator hat, and begin with the end in mind, and really think about where you want students to be at the end.
Gray: Okay, so you mentioned 3 different roles; coach, independence facilitator, and advocate. These are all 3 distinctly different ways you might approach your job. Let’s start with coach. What does that look like? If you had to personify it, who would the coach be?
Murza: you have to let your colleagues see what you do and let them share in your successes with students. So first you have to become visible in your school, and that does take some advocacy. And you have to start small likely. I mean, I know when I was working in schools, I jumped in, and I was like everyone’s gonna work with me! Why wouldn’t they? But everyone is so busy and spread so thin, that I had to step back and say okay, who am I friends with? I’m going to start there, develop a relationship and recognize what they bring to the table.
Teachers and especially para educators, who often work in schools for many years, they’re part of the community, they know these kids, we just need to empower them to see themselves as a communication partner, independence facilitator, and less of a helper. And when we started doing that in a school district a couple years ago, we saw such great changes in the para educators in that system.
Gray: And, and who was it that did this, and where?
Murza: in Colorado, I worked with 2 of my colleagues, Tammy Castle from the Colorado Department of Ed, and Charlie Buckley who’s an SLP and works in special ed at Metro State University. And we were trying to get SLPs to wear the coach hat a little bit more, and to sell the idea of the importance of engagement in what we do as SLPs, engaging our students, and that taking priority more so than task completion, etcetera. So as a different way of kind of viewing special ed services. And so what we found, which was so exciting, in this school district, like many, they had a high turnover of special ed teachers. It’s a really hard job. And so, what, what the schools would see is they’d have para educators who were kind of there for many years, maybe even working with the same students over many years, and they had that history while new teachers were trying to get up to speed really quickly. And so, instead of relying a lot on the special ed teacher who was frazzled and just really had a lot to figure out, we went and focused a lot more of our time on the para educators, and, asked them about students, valued what they knew about these kids. They often had the best relationship with these students, because they’re with them so often. And we just tried to get them to think of themselves more as a communication partner.
Gray: How did that change things?
Murza: They felt that was very empowering, because often they’re like oh, I’ve got 15 minutes; we’ve gotta get through this worksheet, we’ve gotta do these cards, or whatever, this task. And because we had administrator support, and teacher support, they… were able to kinda jump on this idea that let me put this down, let me focus on just building that relationship and keeping the communicative engagement going.
Gray: And in that way it was through the coach’s hat.
Murza: Yeah! And so, one thing that was so empowering for the para educators was we videoed them interacting with students.
Gray: What did you see in those videos?
Murza: We saw those para educators interacting with students, and naturally using a lot of great communicative partner supports. Like great wait time, or modeling, or proximity, and all that stuff. And when you really, we taught them all the different types of communication partner strategies, and really talked about it, and then had them try to identify that in themselves, and even in one of our workshops we… got permission from one of them to show the video to everybody, and it was so empowering for her. She said, when her colleagues were tasked with just focusing on what she did well, and hearing that from her peers, she’s like “Oh you know what, I’m actually pretty good at this!” (Laughs) and then she was more interested and kind of buying into this, this process, because she, she realized she had a lot of strengths and abilities to bring to the table.
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Gray: We’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, Kim will share the other two roles, or hats, she says SLPs can wear to view their responsibilities creatively, and a little later, we’ll talk to Sean Sweeney about apps, videos, and tech tools for speech language treatment.
This is ASHA Voices.
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Gray: Support for ASHA Voices comes from the ASHA Continuing Education Registry. The ASHA C-E Registry serves more than 120,000 ASHA members, and offers access to opportunities to earn ASHA C-E-Us to keep your practice credentials up to date. More about these and many other benefits at asha-dot-org-slash-C-E
Support for ASHA Voices also comes from the 2019 ASHA Convention. Learn about the latest research, expand your clinical skills, discover new products and earn continuing education credit. The ASHA Convention will take place in Orlando from November 21st to the 23rd. Registration is open. Find out more at Convention dot ASHA dot org.
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Gray: Now back to our conversation with Kim Murza, recorded on site at ASHA Connect 2019. She says SLPs can envision themselves in three roles: Coach, Independence Facilitator, and Advocate. I asked Kim about the independence facilitator’s role.
Murza: We have to begin with the end in mind. But, one thing I’ve noticed in myself and in my graduate students and SLP’s I work with, we get really good at prompting, and keeping students successful. And we have all these tricks that we naturally do, that sometimes we don’t even recognize we’re doing it. So we’re supporting students. But, if we don’t plan for what happens when we’re not around anymore, and we don’t pull back on those prompts and start counting that support that we’ve giving, we’re not gonna get to generalization and maintenance.
part of the… the way I think we can go about wearing the independence facilitator hat is focusing on what we teach our students, the very beginning, and all of their communication partners, and working with them. One thing that’s I think really important for us to think about at the beginning, is helping our students buy into this. They have to own their goals, they have to understand why they’re working with us. We have to connect what we’re doing with their goals. They should be part of the IEP team meeting as early as possible, and they should keep their own data. That ownership is necessary for them to generalize and maintain the effects of treatment.
Gray: You said that with certain prompts, you can get the responses that you want. Is it scary to go away from those?
Murza: I think as we keep moving forward as a profession, we do have to reimagine how we deliver services to, to students and all of our clients, and I think that’s really scary. Because, I went to grad school, like everybody else, all the other SLPs, to be a therapist, and to work with kids. And some of these new roles or hats that I’m suggesting people wear, that might be outside of their comfort zone. But we’re still helping students. And even more so if we get other people involved. If we help students realize their own potential and start owning their goals, that is still therapy. And so, I think it’s scary, but I think it’s a necessary next step.
Gray: I wanna go on to the third hat; the advocate hat. Tell me about that.
Murza: So I think wearing the advocate hat we’re all doing that, wearing it all the time as we advocate for our students. I think that’s what feels comfortable. SLPs are naturally advocates for their students and clients they serve. What’s harder I think is advocating for ourselves and our profession, and letting people know what we do, who we are, and what we need to impact students even more.
Gray: if we’re gonna see a movie of the advocate in action, what would that movie open with?
Murza: think the first step is to really try to understand where that decision–maker’s coming from, and what he or she values. Often for SLP’s, the person in a decision–making role is the principal, and principals value things like student success, like the school culture, like test scores (Laugh), all of that. So, first it’s about understanding where they’re coming from.
Gray: We talked a little bit about what’s at stake and, and the things that can become better by wearing these 3 hats; the coach hat, the independence facilitator hat, and the advocate hat. Underlying all of this is this idea of a lot of work that isn’t speech therapy; that’s paperwork. Or it could be the burden of a large case load. There’s a lot of SLP responsibilities and they stack up fast. And I’m just thinking, can we talk a little bit about… Is this leading to burnout?
Murza: I definitely believe so. I think that’s why we’re at a really key point in our profession where we have to do some things to change. Because, this is a really hard job. And people go into it to feel like they’re helping students. And some of this other stuff that you mentioned kinda gets in the way. So I think one thing we can also do is, think about what specialized services means, and whether that always has to be direct services with kids. So when we think about service delivery and the IEP, and how we plan for how we’re going to help these students achieve their IEP goals, maybe it’s not always us that does that direct service. And I think, if you begin with the end in mind, and think about where your student is in terms of intervention stage, what they’re working on, a lot of times those goals can be better addressed in the classroom, or through consult. I think we just have to keep an open mind about that.
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Kim Murza is a faculty member of the University of Northern Colorado, and she was a presenter at the 2019 ASHA Connect conference this year.
Read more of Kim’s ideas in the August 2019 issue of the ASHA Leader, or go to leader dot pubs dot asha dot org
We ended our conversation by talking about burnout, and I want to mention another important ASHA resource here. If you have a heavy workload or you’re fighting burnout, this tool is for you. Check out ASHA’s workload calculator. It’s designed to help you see just where your time goes. It tracks direct and indirect services and you can use that information to advocate for yourself. Check it out by going to asha dot org and searching calculator. And, we’ll put a link to the ASHA workload calculator in the blog post for this episode on the Leader Live Blog.
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Gray: And now, for a quick look at tech in the Speech-Language world, we’re joined by Sean Sweeney, an SLP, who runs the Speech Techie blog. From photo apps to fail videos on YouTube- Yes, you heard that right. Sean is going to talk with us about some visual tools you can use to amp up your treatment sessions
Sean, thanks for joining us.
Sweeney: Oh. Thanks for having me.
Gray: So, I understand you have a few apps to share today. Let’s run through them! Where should we begin?
Sweeney: Why don’t we start with Google Earth ’cuz people often don’t even really know that that’s necessarily a tool that makes any sense to use in speech and language therapy.
Gray: So you say Google Earth. I’m imagining it’s the app that you start- you can see the whole world, and you can type in your house or the Eiffel Tower and it zooms you in, and you can see a 3D image?
Sweeney: Yeah. Particularly for those of us working in schools, it can be a great way to make the curriculum more visual for students and bring them on a virtual field trip, so to speak. It gives you the 3-D images, as you said, and also, we can activate street view so you can basically walk down any street where Google street view imagery has been recorded.
Gray: What are some of your favorite places to walk around through Google Earth, and what are you teaching when you do that?
Sweeney: My students always want to go to their own houses, and that’s a perfect kind of ego centric way to start, by showing within a group where they live and having them describe what’s where, because then they’re using spatial concepts they’re telling stories about their own place, their own home. But I’ve often found that trying to talk to my 4th grade social studies teacher: ‘What landmarks are you covering this week?’ and he or she may say, ‘Oh. We’re covering the southwest,’ and you can bring them to different fantastic places all over the world. It just gives our kids a kind of experiential hook to hang the information on that they’re trying to access in class. We really can elicit language with it too.
Gray: Ok. So that’s Google Earth. Ok, so next, let’s talk about fail videos. For those that haven’t seen them before, what it a fail video?
Sweeney: Well, I’m someone with an extremely sophisticated sense of humor, so fails…
Sweeney: You know a fail is when someone experiences some kind of problem and someone has caught it on video. So, they often involve mild falling down experiences, getting splashed when you’re not supposed to get splashed, things like that, and so then again, we can kind of turn to the idea of language and story grammar because every story- not every story, but many stories start with a problem, an initiating event.
You always want to pause so that students will stop and tell the story. ‘Cuz I often find they might misinterpret aspects of what they have seen. Like, they’ll mislabel the setting, or they might mislabel the body language that they saw. So it’s good for both social and narrative language.
Gray: So you might say, ‘Ok, in this video, what was supposed to happen was this, but this is what actually happened’?
Sweeney: Yeah, and it can be fun to even set it up as like a barrier game, so you show one student the screen and then they describe it to the other one. And then, after he does that, they both can watch it again together. So that adds like a pragmatic piece to it too.
Gray: Finally, I know you have a couple more apps people can use to help with narrative concepts. These might help people tell their own stories. Is that correct?
Sweeney: Yeah. Absolutely. Pic Collage is a great one to check out and start with. It sounds a bit like you’re just putting pictures into a grid because that’s what a collage is, but this app is more than that. It allows you to search the web while you are creating the collage, so you can search for web images, which are also restricted so they’re going to be family friendly or school friendly in that case. And you know, people could think of using this for say, a student’s vocabulary list. If you look up a word like protest, you might see an image of a protest on the street but it might not give you the sense of you know, a child just sort of standing there crossing her arms and going ‘no!’ which is also a shade of meaning of protest. So, it’s a great opportunity for us with our language expertise to work with students on you know multiple meanings, shades of meaning, synonyms. You can find lots of pictures through Pic Collage.
Gray: Do you have another one as well?
Sweeney: Kind of similar but different is Book Creator. Book Creator lets you fold a lot of different images into like a book format. Clinicians could picture making a whole story sentence by sentence with clients working on particular sentence structures within it like causals. It’s a great place to make social stories, helping students see the aspects of a situation and what’s expected of them in a situation. I’ve even worked with some adult clinicians who have used book creator to make books for clients practicing different vocal exercises, and this works well because in book creator you can actually put video too. You can record a video that’s demonstrating a particular strategy for a client to be using.
Gray: Sean, great tools.
Sweeney: Thank you. Hope they’re helpful if people check out.
Gray: Sean Sweeney is the program coordinator at the Ely Center, a Speech Language Therapy center in Needham, Massachusetts. He runs the blog Speech-Techie-dot-com.
And! You can see him at ASHA Convention 2019 in Orlando. Registration is open now. You won’t want to miss that. Sign up at convention-dot-asha-dot-org.
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What will your job look like in 10 years? 5 years? Next week?
Work is changing and often we have to change with it. From automation to teleworking, the world of work is evolving.
Coming up on a future episode of ASHA Voices, we’ll take a look at some of the changes that are on the horizon for audiologists and speech language pathologists.
Join the conversation. What are you thinking about when it comes to the future of work?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Or leave us a voicemail message at 301-296-5804. You can find that number on our website too. We might include your comment in an upcoming episode.
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ASHA Voices is produced by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and comes from the team behind the ASHA Leader magazine.
Support for ASHA Voices comes from the ASHA Continuing Education Registry. Learn how to earn and track C-E-Us at asha-dot-org-slash-C-E
Additional support for ASHA Voices comes from the 2019 ASHA Convention. Registration is open now. Find out more at Convention dot ASHA dot org.
Production assistance comes from Pamela Lorence. I’m J.D. Gray, and this is ASHA Voices.
Next time on ASHA Voices: It’s our Convention preview episode… We’ll hear from presenters…
And we’ll find out what researchers are saying about a beatboxing performance… that took place during an MRI.
Next time on ASHA Voices.