Post-Pandemic OR Apocalyptic School Year- You Decide!
Updated: Aug 4, 2021
The fall of 2021 brings a myriad of new situations never before encountered in modern therapy. Being prepared for the year ahead will allow you to own what happens. Let's look at the possibilities of the upcoming year for all speech pathologists.
1. Numbers of students- Will you have a glut of new referrals due to the pandemic? Did teletherapy keep your student's skills stagnant?
With students receiving education in a hybrid or entirely virtual education, referrals may have been slow. This school year, there may be a great deal of assessing the academic levels of each student to determine how much review and relearning will be necessary.
How can you prepare?
In the lower grades, vocabulary skills will be essential to help in reading and other academic skills. Can you download the grade-level vocabulary and have some resources ready?
In the middle grades, children tend to have issues with morphological prefixes and suffixes and clausal relationships, which can cause misunderstanding and keep children from performing well on standardized tests.
Students tend to have difficulties understanding the parts-wholes of their academic classes in the middle school years, particularly in those complex subjects like science, math, and social studies. When you ask a student in middle school what they are learning in a particular topic, they tell you what they learned that day instead of the general topic of learning. An example might be that if they were learning about land formations, they might say that they are learning about islands. Typically, these kids don’t put the information under the direct category.
2. Staff and Students, alike, may have behavior that may be unexpected and perhaps undesirable.
For a lot of reasons, children act out. They need to know that you care. Just like it was challenging to determine if the child was frustrated or engaged in the telepractice sessions, they need to know that you are in the session for them.
It will be more important than ever to have honest sessions. Honest doesn’t mean unkind, but it does mean that you must be direct with your clients.
Undesirable behaviors are usually related to three possible goals: control, attention, and escape. See my upcoming emails and Blog for ideas to help deal with unwanted behaviors.
3. Plans will change…and often.
We are often the most flexible in the room. This year will be no exception. You can expect your year to have difficulties with the following:
With the advent of hybrid type learning, you will need to be flexible regarding snow days. Potentially, there won’t be snow days for teaching staff. You will need to see students in various settings or will need to make up the sessions missed. Suppose you have multiple children in a group. In that case, you will need confidentiality statements or need to see these children individually on camera or in a different group later.
Planning for extra make-up sessions in the first two weeks of the new school year and letting your staff know the plans creates organization. Your colleagues will be impressed and likely to be more forgiving if you need to be absent and need to miss their student.
IEP time constraints
Every IEP has a delegated amount of time spent on therapy goals. This year may cause you to rethink those time constraints. With an abundance of children, will you need to adjust the time allotment for each? Therapy goals may be met through the use of burst therapy. Make the adjustments earlier in the year rather than later.
Consultations with the classroom teacher
Your knowledge may be needed to problem solve classroom problems. What do you anticipate will be the problems of the classrooms? Scheduling? Group dynamics? The need to co-treat with other professionals?
Paperwork for more services
You may be writing more reports, providing more RTI, and testing more. Can you do some flexible scheduling? Change the model of service delivery? Make sure that you note it on the IEPs- and early in the year.
Prepare and you will achieve the best!
Your positive energy will be contagious.
Bring your best to school, even if it isn’t the best you hope to show the world. If you appear to have it all together, you will be considered a vital team member.
You have the best materials.
Your materials may become invaluable to other teachers. Can you make a resource page specific to grade-level teachers for sharing at a moment’s notice?
Your organizational skills can help everyone communicate more effectively.
Make dates for meetings, then backdate the planning for the meetings. Get as much new and relevant information ahead of time to avoid spending time collecting it at the meeting.
4. Anxiety in therapy. Is it you? Is it them?
There will be anxiety when the skill levels are not where they are needed to be. Remember this: If you are frustrated, your client doesn’t have the necessary skill set to complete a task. That means that you need to simplify the activity or change it altogether.
Anxiety is a lack of predictability of the future. Early in the year, it will be vital to use schedules of some kind. Remember those behavior problems, and if the child has control of the session (you will give the choices, and the child decides on the order), the session will be smooth.
Reduce your anxiety by beginning each day with a “plan.” You will feel accomplished if you complete the most pressing tasks for the day.
5. Blame Game
There is little to be accomplished blaming anyone for the loss of some skills. Blame won’t change the circumstances, and it won’t make you feel valuable. If your staff likes the blame game, offer the notion that you can only control what happens right now.
Instead, try to look at the skill levels of those around you. Determine the skill they need. Also, remember that everyone will have a lot to think about at the beginning of the school year. They are in the same boat. They may need to hear an idea several times- maybe 50 times- to process and accept the idea.
If your ideas don’t come to the surface, do what you can and forget about the inconvenience.
Remember that everyone is coming back to the world with a different set of experiences. You won’t know everything that has happened to another person.
5. Be Kind
Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. You can do this. You can be the leader of the culture shift in your community. It may not be easy, but it will be worthwhile.
Being Kind feels good, and it’s contagious. When you are kind, despite your feelings, kindness will come back to you.
6. Here and Now- make your kids feel welcome and wanted- make notes to remind yourself until it is a habit.
Warmly welcome those children back that you haven’t seen except through a computer screen. Make light-hearted jokes to introduce laughing.
Tell them how excited you are to have them on board.
You get to control your emotions and decide how your day/sessions/week/meetings, etc., go. You can own the day, month, or year. Remember to take setbacks as minor incidences. Plan for them; then you will be ready!