For SLPs

Being a Case-Managing SLP: The Pros and Cons

Hello! My name is Meghan, a public school case-managing SLP. I currently do not treat any students at my position. I wanted to share the background of my career, some challenges I have faced, and the many positives about my unique position.

Background: I have worked in many environments as a SLP. I began my CFY in a self-contained school in Florida for students with multiple disabilities. I was the only SLP for 80 students, all with speech as a related service. I finished my CFY during my second placement in a general education school in Florida. After I finished the year, I moved to southern Ohio and struggled to find school-based positions. I ended up taking a SLP position in a rural SNF with an hour commute each way. After the 13 weeks, I practiced tele-therapy full-time for the remainder of the school year. This past fall, I continued as a part-time tele-therapist and had my first experience as an itinerant SLP for a rural district, traveling between 3 schools. In February, my fiancé was offered a promotion, which relocated us to Texas. With it being mid-school year, I was lucky to find an opening for a case-managing SLP and snatched it up.

Responsibilities: As a case-managing SLP, I am responsible for the ARDs (IEPs), REEDs (re-evaluations), and FIEs (full and individual evaluations). I also am involved in the RTI process for any speech/language referrals. Our district treats RTI with an observational, hands-off approach to trial accommodations and strategies implemented by the general education teacher only. Before I begin listing my unique challenges, let me first say that I love my job. I consider myself energized by spending time alone, and even though I love being around kids, it’s draining. It’s much easier for me to luxuriously spend hours, even days, perfecting and editing reports. After spending 30-45 minutes with a student, I love ensuring I’m as detailed and thorough as I can be by tailoring my student conversations or materials to what goals I need the student to demonstrate.

Challenges: Being a case-managing SLP, I don’t have the benefit of developing personal student relationships. I don’t know the students, and I don’t have the rewarding benefit of watching them grow and progress through their goals. I don’t do crafts or games or activities to creatively address articulation, fluency, and language. I spend 85% of my days in front of a computer, alone. Most days I love it, and I am a fan of listening to podcasts at work, but it gets monotonous and boring when I have 10 reports to write and am stuck at the computer for a 3-4 day stretch.

I also have to rely on many people for my information. I rely on my SEMS clerks to contact parents, schedule ARDs, send home progress notes and gather teacher input for meetings. This is a blessing, but also a lesson in time management. My SEMS clerks require my paperwork much sooner than when I was a practicing SLP, when I also had a hundred other responsibilities.

My LSSPs (Licensed Specialist in School Psychology) and Educational Diagnosticians require me to collaborate on meetings where speech and language may be of concern, whether or not the student is diagnosed as Speech and Language Impaired. This may mean rattling off my spiel about the difference between a Specific Learning Disability and a Language Impairment, or it may mean explaining developmental milestones for a student.

My SLPA requires me to gather and print updated goals and objectives, service times, and any student updates. I’m the go-between when a new student enters the school. I tell him about new students, his supervising SLP does initial contact to gather baseline information, and then my SLPA begins therapy.

I also have the unique situation where I don’t have an office or dedicated space at any of my 3 campuses. Some days I’m in the library, science lab, or speech therapy room, if my SLPA isn’t at the campus. I can also be in the conference room, if there isn’t an ARD meeting. In addition to my thick planner, I have to carry assessment kits, district procedure guides, campus schedules, and my trusty Hegde’s PocketGuide to Assessment in Speech-Language Pathology. Have I mentioned there are times I carry them to 3 different rooms on the same campus a day? Do you know how heavy the CASL-2 is to carry up two flights of stairs only to find the student is absent? Not fun, let me tell you! Also, progress reports are truly difficult when I’m not the one doing the therapy. I have to consult with my SLPA and his supervisor to schedule time every quarter to ask about how therapy is going. It often feels like too many cooks in the kitchen, and not a lot of cooking happening.

Benefits: Regardless of the challenges, I also want to highlight all the positives. In addition to my introverted preference of being alone, I also really enjoy writing lengthy, detailed evaluations. Too often I think SLPs are met with the challenge of providing therapy and then having to complete quality, thorough evaluations, which is simply impossible to finish within the school day. Having an SLP-A who provides therapy allows me to spend three hours on a tricky evaluation that lasts one day, rather than spreading the evaluation over several school days because of scheduling. Because of this, I also have the ability to gather lots of functional data and information from parents, teachers, and other staff members about a student’s present level of functioning. This is especially helpful with my ACE, Alternative Curriculum Environment, students who may perform very differently from day-to-day and not be cooperative when I am available to observe them. (ACE classrooms service our students on the spectrum as well as our students with Intellectual Disabilities) I also have found that I’m writing much more functional goals. I should mention that my campuses are located in an inner city, and this greatly affects the carryover being done in the students’ homes. Rather than challenge the students to master three or more speech and language goals per IEP year, I try to keep goals and objectives functional and relevant to the student’s daily communication needs and what skills will make the student most successful now.

Comparison: Having so many SLP experiences to reflect upon has allowed me to compare my current position to other school-based SLP positions I’ve held, for better and for worse. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t miss being a therapist. I enjoy the low incidence students and behavioral problem students the most. I find I can connect with them as we develop a rapport that is a deeper bond because of trust and mutual respect. However, I strongly enjoy not zapping my energy every day. I love having the ability to go home and be mentally awake enough to enjoy my evenings. I find that my current position allows my reports and paperwork to reach a level of thoroughness that I have never been able to do before. Not having other responsibilities frees up my time to be detailed and complete multiple observations with the students. I find that the balance of seeing students for brief periods of time creates the flexibility to choose ideal times to complete observations. It also presents better levels of functioning for the students, especially for the ones who take medications, or may take naps and are groggy after lunchtime. I also find that continuing to do tele-therapy at nights has helped me keep my therapist skills sharp with my high schoolers. It makes me miss working with the littles just a bit less.

I don’t think there is a “perfect” work setting. But for right now, I really enjoy the one I’m in. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments! My email is meghanmjacobs@gmail.com, and I have a blog about my tele-therapy experiences: cyberspeechie.weebly.com!


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