Today, I'd like to share with you how I take plan out my therapy week and record data during sessions.

I'm not one that has elaborate lesson plans - what is important to me is to know when I am scheduled to see students, which classroom(s) I need to get them from, and what their IEP goals are.  As long as I know what goals I need to work on, I can easily select materials from my room to target these skills.  As I have had multiple requests to talk about how I stay organized for the week, I created these free editable data sheets to share my system with you!

Note:  I have tried keeping individual data sheets during each session, but I personally found it too hard to plan out my week, and I would end up with all of these sheets of paper all over because I would forget to put them back in my binder or student's folder.  I prefer being able to see my week at a glance, as well as have a reminder about who I am going to see next, and which room I need to get them from.  

It does take a bit of time to get these sheets set up in the beginning of the year - it usually takes about an hour or so to type in all of the students in the correct time slot, as well as type in all of their goals.  (As you can see, I use abbreviations for goals - I figure as long as I know what it means, that's enough!)  The great part is that for the rest of the year, all you have to do is make minor changes to change time slots or update goals as needed, and you're ready to go!

An example of what one of my daily sheets might look like.

I typically circle the goals I want to target that day, and may write a few notes about what activity I plan to use.  Then, I write down percentages, trials correct/incorrect, and/or any relevant notes.  I keep a few weeks' worth on my clipboard so I can quickly glance back at previous sessions, and store the rest in a master binder that I keep on my desk.

Also in my master binder are attendance sheets for each student, as well as their progress monitoring data sheets, and a couple of blank goal pages (I use the ones in my editable forms here) to transfer important notes and data from my weekly sheets.

You can grab this freebie in my TpT store here:

Tell me, would this work for you?

Please give a warm welcome to Meredith from The Peachie Speechie, who is presenting the latest installment in the "Stepping Outside Your SLP Comfort Zone" series!

I am used to being the only SLP in my building. I have my own little room and my own organization system and my own way of doing things. So when I agreed to supervise an intern last spring, I was definitely stepping outside of my comfort zone. In addition to taking on the responsibilities of supervising a student, I would have to get used to having someone with me all of the time. Someone that would be counting on me for an important learning experience. Would I be a good mentor? Would I be able to manage it all? It turns out that YES, I was able to manage it all and it was a fantastic experience. Now that it is over, I am happy to be writing this guest post for Natalie’s blog about it! 

I always say, when you don’t know where to start - make a binder! So, I started by making my intern a binder. I downloaded an SLP Student Teaching product from Carissa Ten Hoeve on Teachers Pay Teachers and put that along with a few basic information sheets about my county and my student schedule in a three-ring binder. When I met my intern, I gave her the binder and throughout the semester, she added things to it. By the end of the internship, she had a binder full of lesson plans, data sheets, norms charts and evaluation report examples to take with her. If you are considering taking an intern next year, I definitely recommend starting with a binder! 

One of the most important things I learned was not to be too rigid with the planning/schedule. I had originally planned on having my intern observe me for two weeks before taking on students by herself. I quickly realized that that was completely unnecessary! She naturally jumped in and started working with students on day one. By day three, she was independently leading sessions while I observed her. It is important to be flexible and move at a pace that works for your individual intern. 

Another thing I learned is to be open to new ideas. I found that supervising an intern was a great learning opportunity for both of us! My intern introduced me to techniques and ideas that I might not have tried on my own. It was wonderful to have another clinician to plan with and talk to. We often worked as a team, I was grateful for her fresh perspective on things. 

Now that the semester is over, I am left with such gratitude for the experience I had with my wonderful intern! I am so glad that I tried something new and stepped outside of my comfort zone. My intern ended up taking a job with my county, so I am happy that I can now call her a coworker and friend.

- Meredith Avren, M. Ed, CCC-SLP

As I see all the adorable pictures of therapy spaces come across my Facebook and Instagram feeds at this time of year, I'm reminded of how thankful I am to finally have a space of my own, but also how thankful I am for the lessons I learned as a traveling SLP!

Let me take a moment and back up.  My first job fresh out of grad school was a newly created position with a nearby special education co-op.  I was assigned to cover all of the private and parochial schools in the two counties covered by the co-op.  This turned out to be traveling between 10 schools per week, all but one of which were an hour from my home.  (One was only a half hour away, so I got a little extra sleep on those mornings!)  I spent three years in this position before finding a job closer to home.

In hindsight, it does seem a little crazy, but I made it work for me!  I really enjoyed the students and disorders I got to work with, and ended up staying in that position for three years.

So, what did I learn?

1.  Stay organized!

  • This is VERY important when you have to travel to multiple sites!
  • Figure out what bag/bin/crate system works for your trunk.  As you can see, I had a combination of bags, crates, and even a laundry basket!  (These days, I would definitely look into some of the large Thirty One organizing totes.)  Organize your most used materials so you can find them quickly.  I used the laundry basket for binders and books, and the smaller crates for stimulus cards, toys, and games.  I then had two or three empty tote bags that I could fill for a particular school/week, and quickly trade materials in and out when I got to another site.
My cats were very helpful in testing new crates.
  • A rolling crate or small suitcase may work for you, but make sure to visit your sites before investing in one.  Over half of my buildings had stairs to get in to the building and/or to get to my assigned space.  The crate I had ended up being too heavy and unwieldy to utilize in these situations.
  • Make sure to set aside time every month or so to organize and clean out your car.  I was able to store some materials at my desk as well as at home, so I would change out materials as needed.
  • I had master binders, organized by day of the week.  I kept my Monday/Tuesday student info together, and then my Wednesday/Thursday/Friday student info together.  This is where I kept my data sheets and goal pages.  I just made sure I had the correct binder in my bag when I went into a school.
  • Find a calendar system that works for you.  It may be a paper or electronic calendar, but it is essential to keep track of which school you are supposed to be at when, as well as the various meetings you will need to attend in various locations.
  • Make sure each school has your contact information, as well as each teacher you work with.  You won't have much time to talk if you are only there for an hour or two each week, so it is important that they have your information.  Also, make sure to get the email address for each student's teacher, so you can quickly let them know anything important.

2.  Try to find a "home base."

  • I was assigned a desk at an office in an 11th school with access to a computer, phone, printer, and fax machine.  I did my best to set my schedule so I was able to be there over my lunch break almost every day.  This helped me have time to answer emails, do paperwork, and make phone calls.  Only one of my 10 schools had wifi, so this was definitely needed!

3.  Take time to figure out an effective schedule.

  • Figure out what days and times don't work for each building, and go from there.  For example, my three Catholic schools had mass on different days, so I avoided going to those buildings on that morning/afternoon.  One of my schools was only open four days per week, so I couldn't go there on Mondays.  At another school, the only available room for me was used on Tuesdays and Thursdays by a reading tutor, so I didn't go there then.  I had a few preschoolers that only attended morning or afternoon classes, so I knew I had to be there at that time. 
  • Get each site's calendar.  If you are in different buildings, chances are that there may be schedule differences on holidays, early dismissal days, late start days, and that sort of thing.  It's much better to know in advance!
  • Make sure to include time for testing!  You won't have time if you are scheduled back to back for therapy all week.  I left my Friday mornings open for this, and it made things a lot easier, since I never had to cancel regular therapy sessions to get in testing.
  • Give yourself enough time between schools.  It's going to take time to get to your next site, and you need to allow time for red lights, bad weather, trains, and that sort of thing.  Don't forget to give yourself 10-15 minutes once you get to get your materials set up, make copies, and have a bathroom break if needed!
  • Think about an effective route.  It doesn't make sense to drive to opposite ends of the town or county every day.  Try to group nearby schools on the same day if possible.

4.  You don't need a lot of materials to have effective therapy sessions!  

  • For the first couple of months, my only materials were ones I borrowed from someone else or purchased/made myself.  (The district did order materials and tests for me, but they didn't come in until late October.)  Even when my ordered materials came in, I still had to transport and carry all my materials every day.  
  • I purchased about 5 travel size games, and would use one all week for any sessions that needed it, then switch it out for the next week.  (For my younger students, I used it after a certain number of trials, and with my older students, it was used as a reward for the last couple minutes of therapy while I was writing my session notes.)  I found great travel-sized versions of Sorry, Connect Four, Trouble, and Hi Ho Cherry-O at Target, and also carried Uno and a regular deck of cards.
  • Get your hands on an iPad if at all possible!  Our district received them in my second year there, and it made a huge difference.  No more need to carry ten different sets of articulation cards everywhere!  An iPad will significantly lighten the load you have to carry into each building.
  • Sometimes, the weather wasn't cooperative, and I brought almost nothing into a building because I was afraid it would get drenched.  I quickly learned how to target whatever my goals were, using whatever materials happened to be in my purse or the space I was using.  (Side note:  The King James version of the Bible is great if you are working on the /th/ sound!)

5.  Only purchase materials that can be used for multiple students in multiple sessions.
  • Trust me, if you have to lug it around, you want it to be worth it!  Don't bother with materials that can only be used once or twice.  
  • I tended to buy materials that would be able to be used year round or for at least a couple of months.  I stored my seasonal materials (like these homework packets) in binders that I would change out when I cleaned out my car every month.
  • I didn't create these until after I left my traveling position, but my progress monitoring tools would have been very helpful to have stored as PDFs on my iPad!

6.  Invest in appropriate clothing.  

  • In the Midwest, we have some serious weather.  Rain, snow, wind - winters in particular can be pretty brutal.  Make sure you have a warm winter coat and rain coat.  (You won't have enough hands for an umbrella!)  At several of my schools, I had to park several minutes' walk away from the front door (since I didn't have keys to any buildings), and it got cold quickly.
  • On a similar note, make sure you have comfortable shoes to walk in!  Check out some of my suggestions here.  Don't forget snow boots for the winter if you live in a place where you get snow.  You can't count on parking lots and sidewalks being cleared before you get there.

7.  Leave a small box of materials at each site if possible.

  • I left a small school supply box (purchased during the back to school season for about $1 each) at each of my sites, clearly marked with my name.  (In three years, I never had one disappear, but since it wasn't expensive, I wasn't too concerned about it.)

  • This contained a small bottle of hand sanitizer, pencils, scissors, box of crayons, index cards, small tub of play-doh, scissors, highlighter, glue stick, mini stapler, mirror, and a little pouch of Kleenex.  
  • In a pinch, I knew I could do therapy with the items in the box alone.  Also, it meant I didn't have to carry all of those items in my bag every day.

8.  Be flexible!

  • Especially when traveling to multiple sites, your therapy plans are going to go out the window at a moment's notice.
  • You might drive across town to test Johnny, but maybe he's absent that day.  Turns out your other student Jenny is available, though - be ready to see a different student than the one you came to see.
  • You may get to a school, only to find out that there is an all day assembly or field trip going on that nobody remembered to tell you about.  It happens!  Have a plan on what you can do with your time.
  • You are going to have to use whatever space is available.  It may be an empty classroom, the teacher's lounge, the library, or a glorified broom closet.  Do your best to find a decent space, but know there may not be many options.

  • You may find the space you have been assigned to use is occupied on a certain day.  You may have to get creative to find another space to use, but you can't let it phase you too much.

Bonus tip:  Don't store crayons in your car.  They melt.

I may be in one district now, and only one or two buildings per week, but I definitely still use the lessons I learned as a traveling SLP!  I'm still a minimalist when it comes to therapy, and I know the value of organization.

Have you ever been an itinerant SLP?  What tips and tricks do you have to share?  Leave a comment and let us know!

I don’t know about you, but the first weeks of school are always particularly draining for me!  One of the ways I like to prepare is to make some freezer meals before school starts to give myself a little breathing room and lessen the stress when it comes to mealtimes.  Today, I am sharing a few of my favorite recipes with you!

This week, I decided to make an egg casserole for breakfasts.  It was loosely based on this recipe, although I added shredded bread (about 4 pieces) and frozen chopped spinach (thawed).  I cut it into individual pieces to freeze, and just pull one out at a time to heat up in the microwave.

I also made several batches of baked spaghetti.  I use roughly this recipe, although I leave out the cottage cheese.  I cook the meat and assemble the spaghetti, then freeze before baking.  I usually heat it up in the microwave.

I also tried a new recipe, Hawaiian Pork Chops.  I substituted pork chops for the chicken in this recipe.  I assembled this in freezer bags, then will thaw it the night before I want to have it, then let cook in the crockpot the following day.

Another one of my favorite recipes to freeze is sweet and sour meatballs.  I make this recipe with ground turkey, then freeze after everything has been cooked.

Tell me, what are some of your favorite freezer meals?  Fellow bloggers, feel free to link up with some of yours below!  Readers, leave a comment!

PS:  Find more of my favorite recipes by following me on Pinterest!
Please give a warm welcome to Lisette from Speech Sprouts, who is presenting the latest installment in the "Stepping Outside Your SLP Comfort Zone" series!

Hi there, my name is Lisette, and you can usually find me at Speech Sprouts. I’m stopping by Natalie Snyders' amazing blog to share a bit about my experience wandering WAY out of my comfort zone. Thank you Natalie for the invite to visit!

Fresh Out of Grad School

After graduating from grad school and getting my CCC’s, I headed straight for a school-based therapy position. My children were young, and it seemed the perfect fit. I loved my school, and enjoyed the learning about each child's needs. In public school we see such a wide variety of children, I am always headed back to the books to learn more about a specific disorder and how speech, language and development are affected.

Outside your SLP Comfort Zone? a guest post by Speech Sprouts

Ready for a New Challenge?

I wasn’t at all bored, but I truly love learning new things. After about three years, I was contacted by a home health agency looking for some part-time speech therapy help. The company saw only adults at that time. I had done a hospital-based externship, but had not worked in healthcare full-time. Did I have the skills? Unsure, but intrigued by the opportunity to broaden my skill set, I went to interview and was hired.

I was nervous, and agreed to see only patients with aphasia and dysarthria at first. I dove back into my books and did my research. I found a mentor- a fellow SLP who had recently left a healthcare setting. Breathe, I thought, you’ve got this! It’s language and articulation. Just all grown up.

Off I went to my first home visit after school. A sweet elderly lady who had a stroke, resulting in word-finding issues. We worked on naming, categories, and conversational repair strategies. I loved it! Eventually I branched out to treat apraxia, voice, swallowing, and cognitive linguistic deficits. My patients were generally grateful for the help, the company and attention. I saw littles by day, and elders at night!

Take a Left at the Big Tree?

There were a few surprises. Trying to find my way in rural Texas- I followed the directions to one lady’s home that said “drive through the gate at the end of the road.” Well, the gate opened into a cow pasture. There was no road at all, not even a path. I ventured through, turned as instructed, and spotted the white mobile home way in the distance. I dodged a couple grazing cows, a few prickly pear cactuses and arrived to find a widowed lady who lived all alone out there, with only a neighbor to take her shopping once a week.

 It was raining hard the next time I visited, and I was pretty sure the cows and I would sink deep into the mud, but somehow I made it. I often stayed a bit after each session, helping her get her laundry and dishes done, making sure she could fix a meal. It was pretty hard for her after her stroke.

Outside my SLP Comfort Zone- Watch out for Cows! Guest post by Speech Sprouts
You're here to see who?

Have You Got it Covered?

I have found patients and families eager to have me work with them, and others who had really no interest. One gentlemen’s wife told me I could find him in his bedroom, go on in, and she left to go shopping. Perhaps she thought I was a sitter? Her husband was unable to walk unassisted after his stroke, and had hemiplegia. Well, he was awake, but not exactly ready for a session. He was completely naked and covered only by a sheet. You could say that was outside my comfort zone for sure! We didn’t do much therapy that day.

Five years ago, I switched from home health to doing after-school therapy services at our small local hospital. A new learning curve with inpatients, but I was pretty confident in my outpatient therapy at this point. I still love learning new things and expanding my skills to meet the needs of each patient.

So are you considering a new challenge? Go for it. Do your homework, find a mentor, get some additional professional training, you can do it! Just watch out for cows. 

- Lisette

Top 8 Tips for SLPs on How to Prepare for a New School Year

Today, I'd like to show you how I prepare for the beginning of every school year.

Now, I am usually a firm believer in leaving work AT work, and making sure to set reasonable boundaries and limits for yourself.  However, I have found if I do some things on this list before the school year officially starts, or put in a few extra hours the first week of school, I can save myself a lot of stress and aggravation later on in the school year.

So what do I do?

1)  Figure out and update my caseload list.  (Start a computerized list.)

Now, for me, this is fairly easy, since I am going into my fourth year in my current position.  At the end of the year, I update my list, marking which students I know are moving, which ones might be moving, and updating the students' grade levels.  At the beginning of the year, I check with our school secretaries to see which students are still in attendance, and to see if we received any new speech-language students that transferred in to our district.  (We still get records into the second month of school, so I make a mental note to check in with the office every week or so with the secretaries.)  I also find out which students have which teachers.

If you are new to your position, or if it is one with a lot of student turnover, this may be a more challenging task, and it may be something that you have to keep working on as you get information.  Get whatever system you like set up at the beginning of the year, and add students as needed.

I use a table in Excel for this.  I prefer to sort my students by annual review date, so I can quickly see at a glance what meetings I will need to schedule soon.

2)  Make a master student binder.  (Need copies of attendance forms, IEP goals, binder dividers, etc.)

This is where I keep my student's goal sheets (which I print out from our computerized IEP system), their attendance forms, progress monitoring data sheets, and anything else relevant.  I use a 3" binder, and use tabbed dividers to separate my students by grade.  (If you are still figuring out who will be on your caseload, print extras of the blank forms for more students, and fill them in as you go.)

(You can find my attendance form freebie here!)

I know other SLPs use different systems for this, but this is what works for me!  I keep this binder on my desk, and try to set aside time every week to update my binder.  (Some years are more successful than others with keeping up with this...)

3)  Scheduling

Ugh.  Scheduling!  This is my least favorite part of back to school.  What I do is send an email to each teacher, listing the students I see from their class, how much time I need, and possible groupings of students, and then ask each teacher to give me at least 3 possible time slots for these students.  It takes some time to get responses back, figure out the specials schedule (which always seems to change at least 3-4 times), and consult with all of my special ed teachers.  I try to send the requests to teachers out early, so I have at least a week to start figuring it out.

For me, I have found a combination of post-it notes and my big white board to be the most helpful when scheduling.  I assign each grade level a different color post-it note, and write students and potential time slots on each one.  I move them around until I have a schedule that at least sort of works, then email the teachers to double check - which usually results in at least 3-4 more adjustments.

Don't forget to schedule some time for testing (if that is part of your job)!  I try to save a two hour block sometime in my schedule (often Friday mornings) to have enough time to complete evaluations.

When it's finished, I make each classroom teacher a schedule for their students, using the forms from my Handy Editable Forms for SLPs.  (There are also some great forms to inform teachers of goals, accommodations, and modifications in this packet, too!)

for scheduling, accommodations, attendance forms for school speech-language pathologists

Note:  If you have more than one site to schedule, take time to figure out what days/times work for your most restrictive site, and work backwards from there.  For example, when I have students at our junior high (none this year, so far), I can only see them during study hall.  Last year, Fridays worked out best to be gone during this time (which is around the lunch period), so I scheduled those students first, then blocked out that time on my schedule for my grade school teachers.

When I travelled between ten parochial schools in a week, I had to figure out what times wouldn't work at each school.  For example, each of my three Catholic schools had Mass at a different time each week, so I avoided going there during that morning or afternoon.  Another one of my schools was on a four day per week schedule, so I couldn't go there on Mondays.  At another school, there was a tutor that came on Tuesdays/Thursdays and used the only space available, so I had to be there on different days if I wanted a room to use.

4)  Make copies of Teacher/Parent Explanation Handouts.

I make copies of these for my students' teachers and parents, to help explain why I do what I do, and why speech-language therapy is so important!  I make one small packet for each student's parents to be sent home at the beginning of the year, along with a note about what days/times I will be seeing their student, and a bigger packet for each teacher, with notes on which students have which disorders.

5)  Make copies of screening forms and schedule times to screen (if needed).

Since I'm the only SLP employed by my district, I take care of all student speech-language screenings.  I screen any students that teachers or parents request.

6) Make student folders and reward charts.

This is something I tend to do as a break in between other tasks, since it doesn't involve a lot of brain power!  I usually buy a green folder for each one of my students as their homework folder.  I take the time to write their names on it, and put a sticker with my contact information on the inside.  Also, I have laminated reward charts in my room, so I wipe off all of last year's students and write the names of this year's students.

7)  Set up weekly data sheet.

Once I have my schedule fairly well set up, I go ahead and enter the students into their time slot with their goals into my (free!) editable weekly data sheet.  I print a new copy for each week, and this is how I stay organized!  I have space to briefly write what the therapy target is for each session and how each student did.  I store previous weeks' data sheets in my master student binder.

Free weekly data sheets for SLPs

8)  Make copies of progress monitoring sheets, homework, and goal display pages.

When I know what students I have, I go ahead and make copies of appropriate progress monitoring sheets to keep in my master binder.

I also make copies of homework pages for my most common goals for the next month, and sort them into drawers in my rolling drawer cabinet seen to the right of my table here:


If you are new in a placement or school, I would definitely add the following items to your to-do list:

1)  Find out where everything is!  Check out your space to use, find the copier, figure out where the teacher's lounge is, where files are stored, what tests you have to use, that sort of thing.  (Sometimes buildings will even have a map - make a copy and write down which teachers are in which room.)  It will definitely help if you can find your way around on the first day!

2)  Go out of your way to meet the secretary, janitors, and other staff members.  They know how the school works, and can help with many of your questions.

Would you add anything to my list?
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