I know you’re asking this question. With everything that’s out there, from SLPNow to TPT materials to all beautiful blogs out there, why add one more? What more can I say that hasn’t been said, done, written already?
Well first, let me tell you my story. I’ve been a speech language pathologist for just three years, but already I’ve noticed some differences in what ideas or lessons I need and what is out there. Most of what’s out there is for speech therapy in elementary school…. I’ve been with middle and high schools along with the standard elementary kiddos. Most amazing lessons seem to be modeled on the idea that the prior therapist or SPED team caught the student on-time…. mid-elementary at the latest and then hit the ground running. Yet I have seen many situations where the student who didn’t get diagnosed or properly serviced until much later. A regular education kid with an /r/ error in 6th grade? Been there. A student who is reading at the kindergarten or first grade level because they never learned phonological manipulation tasks or got any intensive literacy instruction? Have the t-shirt.
And then of course, there’s the settings I’m in. Have you ever looked at a lesson idea from another SLP blog and thought “this is way too hard for my students?” Not because it’s regular grade level material….. but because the reading level, complexity, vocabulary is too challenging even for the specific age and disability you are targeting. You look at your new TPT idea or that blog post with the awesome, free language activity and think “this is too much right now.” I have that feeling all the time. Working in a low-income school comes with unique challenges: we may have students who lack significant life experiences and the vocabulary associated with it. We have students with almost no literacy exposure at home and who report they do not and cannot go to libraries. We may work in locations with high caseloads and a prior history of heavy turnover… meaning our student haven’t always received the intensive, high quality therapy we might expect them to have had prior to meeting us. We have *our own* high caseloads, and yet what can we do? Give them adolescent special education materials that are too arduous and overload attention and working memory? Or put out the kid material that we know will embarrass and shame them even though it’s at their cognitive level?
And what if neither lesson is truly functional?
All these observations are what motivated me to start this blog. Unlike some other special education professionals, I do not automatically assume that a student who is older has plateau’d. For one reason, learning is lifelong and someone can learn a new skill even when they are elderly. For another, many of our students have not had the consistent and timely qualification for services that they needed to be out by upper elementary, middle or high school. Although this blog reserves the right to talk about clients of all ages (I’ve worked in early intervention, elementary, middle school, high school, and now K-12 teletherapy….. so I’m interested in all ages and stages!), I want to focus on putting on easy, functional lessons and materials for older students. I want to find that sweet spot between babyish material that does little to help our students break down complex sentence structures or vocabulary in their class readings and adolescent-focused lesson plans that overwhelm and exhaust our struggling students. I want to focus on lesson plans that use comprehensible, straightforward language…. after all, how many of us had to learn the term “subordinate clause” to understand and produce a subordinate clause? I want to cut away terminology that too heavily tasks our students’ working memory, often already a weak point and that research affirms cannot be strengthened with any “train your brain” type scams, and give our clients the strategies they need to be successful in the classroom *now*. Or if not right this second, very soon thereafter.
Does that sound like a lot of achieve? Good! I went into this field for the intellectual challenge. I hope that as I reflect more and post ideas, you’ll find what’s out here useful to your own therapy rooms.
See you soon!
Sasha B. The SLP.