You read all about how I used the the push-in model for speech therapy services, but feel like there are too many barriers in your way?
I was lucky enough to work in a school with built-in infrastructure to make it all happen. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it happen at your school too!
I’ve heard some SLPs make excuses that honestly, I don’t think are good excuses!
If you find yourself saying any of these, I’m here to tell you that you CAN make it work:
Here’s the thing – you’re able to turn a board game into a therapy activity, right?
Then really, it shouldn’t be too hard to turn a classroom assignment into a therapy activity!
Seriously, once you dig in, it’s way easier to make classroom work into a therapy activity that it is to make a game into an activity. Classroom activities are academic and relevant to our students. We are providing a skilled service that I haven’t seen paraprofessionals doing – and I work with some of the most brilliant paraprofessionals on earth!
(Plus, I’m actually in the classroom so I can see what the paraprofessionals are doing, so I know I’m not just providing the same service).
So think of that classroom activity like you would think of a game. Use it to target your goals. Don’t worry, you’re not tutoring!
There is an initial time investment to set up schedules and advocate to get your students clustered into fewer classrooms.
But once that is done, pushing in is a huge time saver. My classrooms are grouped, my kids are clustered, and I can see more kids at the same time. Plus, I save a ton of time not preparing additional activities, cutting, laminating, etc. because I mostly just work with the materials the teacher is already using.
And, most of that work should happen in the spring, well before August. Other than a few transfers, I would always know my speech schedule in the spring for the following school year. Imagine how much more smoothly the beginning of your school year could be if you didn’t have to worry about your schedule!
It’s a super individual decision to provide push-in therapy, but I don’t have a kid on my caseload that I don’t provide some gen ed support for. The vast majority of my kids get gen ed support. Honestly, my kids are so much less overwhelmed.
Have you ever had a day at work when you sit down to write an IEP and someone rushes into your room to interrupt you? Then you have that conversation and get back to work. But it takes a minute to remember where you were. Then you work for a few minutes and suddenly realize you have to rush off to grab some students for therapy. When you sit back down at your computer later, it takes you a few minutes to remember what you were doing – oh right! The IEP! Then you have to look over what you already wrote and figure out where you were…
Disruptions are hard! It’s probably even harder for our kids with special needs to have to constantly shift gears when they get pulled out of the classroom. Then when they return, they have to figure out what they missed and what’s going on now. It’s a lot to ask a typically developing child, let alone one with language (or executive functioning!) difficulties.
My whole school sees me as a tool and my students have done a lot better. They aren’t falling more and more behind. And they’ve had lots of practice being in a gen ed classroom and have the support they need to success.
So if you hear yourself echoing one of those excuses, I honestly think you can give it a try and pushing in can work for you!
But, there are legitimately tricky situations you might find yourself in. Most of these have to do with school culture. If your school culture isn’t set up to allow for pushing in, they might not capture your vision. Here are a few of the difficult situations you could find yourself, with some helpful suggestions to help:
Don’t let your teachers see you as just an extra set of hands. As an SLP, you probably need your flexibility, as schedule changes happen way too often. Advocate to not count as part of the support schedule so you aren’t being relied on to provide supervision when you need to be getting to your next session or class.
This could be a concern if your school is really not set up for this. At my school, everyone is used to everyone being in the room (and this was in a middle school, where it doesn’t take much to feel different!). You’ll have to figure this one out based on your individual students and your school culture.
Once, one of my students thanked me for not saying hi to him in the hall. But, he wasn’t bothered that I pushed-in to help him in class. You can help normalize pushing-in.
I was lucky in that my teachers really supported me. Usually my students would get clustered into classrooms where teachers were more comfortable working with special needs anyway, so we were all working on the same team.
If you do feel like the teachers are not jumping on board, work on finding and developing a relationship with just one teacher and start pushing-in to that class when the time is right. Honestly, other teachers might be jealous when they find out what a valuable resource you really are!
I’ve pushed into math and social studies as well as the more logical reading and language arts classes and find things to work on in each (vocabulary, even tier 2 vocabulary, comprehension, social skills, etc.!).
But, just like your pull-out sessions might occasionally flop, sometimes your push-in lessons might be a flop as well. It’s ok, it happens! But honestly, I’ve had fewer push-sessions that have flopped than pull-out sessions!
If you have 1-2 speech therapy students in just about every classroom, pushing-in is not really going to work for you.
My school is an inclusive school, so there are lots of structures already set up to make pushing-in happen. In the spring, all of the support services gather for an all-day meeting to try to cluster kids together with similar needs.
I even try to get my kids who get twice a week therapy all in the same class, so I’m not wasting any time anywhere!
This top-down approach, with the support of the administration is 100% what made push-in speech therapy so effective at my school. It’s incredibly important that when new kids transfer in, they get assigned to those classrooms already receiving push-in speech therapy time. In most classrooms that I push into, there are 5-7 kids that I work with in that classroom.
The #1 real hurdle I have seen to starting push-in therapy comes from you, the SLP. And I’m not saying that to be mean.
Real talk: starting push-in speech therapy is overwhelming. It’s uncomfortable, it’s out of your comfort zone.
It can be intimidating walking into a full middle school classroom.
I still get nervous pushing into new classes or new teachers or if there is a sub.
To me, that’s the #1 hardest thing!
But if you can find just teeny bit of bandwidth to stretch yourself, I think you might find out that push-in therapy can be really rewarding!
Ah, that’s the dream isn’t it?!
When we pull kids out, we recommend and suggest things to teachers, parents, and other staff. But do we really know what’s even going on in that classroom?
Do we know what’s doable and realistic in that classroom environment?
We don’t know unless we’re in the classroom regularly. Now that I’m in the classroom, I realized that some of those suggestions I use to make just don’t work. Being in the classroom helps us see how kids are actually doing in that classroom environment.
Now when I make suggestions, I know which ones to make that will really make a difference for that student in that classroom, as well as which ones that teachers can actually make happen!
When you are in the classroom, you learn what’s most critical and relevant to the student in real time.
Sometimes I would find that the goals I would write weren’t in the most critical area for that student to participate in the classroom. Since I’ve been doing more push-in, the goals I write are extremely functional and extremely relevant to the gen ed classroom.
Many of my students, being middle schoolers, have compounded speech and language issues. So they need to work on SO many skills. They are behind in most areas academically. So I can find out what is really impacting them and work on that. Maybe every score is low and every teacher says they are struggling, but when I’m in the classroom, I can see what is relevant.
Plus, my students have more buy-in because they believe that what I’m doing is actually helpful!
I really don’t prep! I probably prep about 10% of what I used to do because I use real classroom materials. I save so much time and money on not buying a bunch of therapy materials, making copies, and cutting everything out.
So, I can focus on other things!
I spend my planning time with teachers and use materials from the classroom on-the-fly. I’ll just grab whatever book or reading material is being used in class and my therapy is basically planned for me.
That 10% of prep time might involve preparing my instructional strategies, visuals, etc. that I bring with me to support the classroom materials. But I don’t have to plan the specific activity.
Most of my students have a hard time using skills they can use in isolation in a general context. When I’m in a classroom, I get to see the actual carryover in real time!
It really matters if they can use their skills in places other than the therapy room.