SLP Time Savers and Work in Special Ed

Episode 119 November 29, 2022 00:25:17
SLP Time Savers and Work in Special Ed
The Missing Link for SLPs
SLP Time Savers and Work in Special Ed

Nov 29 2022 | 00:25:17


Show Notes

Today’s guest, Amy Basso, works in a school based SLP role, with a difference. 

Listen to her talk about working in special education in a very small interdisciplinary school within the very much bigger population of NYC – a role which has an overlap with some aspects of medical SLP work. Amy also talks about how working in an NYC district with a strong union presence affects contracts and work scheduling.

Amy is a whiz on working smartly to manage SLP workloads and, in particular, using systems and technology to save time. You’ll learn some great tips on how you can do this too in this episode! 

Visit for this episode's show notes, a full audio transcript and more great resources at the intersection of grad school and a successful SLP career.
Not a substitute for a formal SLP education or medical advice for patients/caregivers.
Fresh SLP is in no way affiliated with or representing any university.

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Episode Transcript

The Missing Link for SLPs Podcast Full Transcript Mattie Murrey-Tegels 00:04 Welcome to this episode of the Missing Link for SLPs podcast. We are wading deep into our series of a Day in the Life of a School Based SLP, and this next guest works in a district with over one million students! Which, to me, absolutely blows my mind. You're going to be listening to Amy and Kate tonight. Kate is the host who is a school-based SLP. She and I are good friends, and she's hosting for me because I'm not a school-based SLP. She does a much better job than I do asking these questions and exploring these things for those of you who are interested in listening to a conversation between two school based SLPs. So, our other guests are – Katie's a guest, our host, and Amy is also our guest. Amy graduated from Plattsburgh State University with a Master's in Communication Disorders and Sciences in 2001. Early in her career she enjoyed exploring a few different settings, including working in a public school in Vermont, with one day a week in a one room schoolhouse, working full time in early intervention, and working in a large public middle school. In 2004, she got a job at a private school working with autistic children ages 18 months to sixth grade. It is here that she fell in love with early language skills and AAC. Finally, in 2007, Amy began working in the Bronx in New York City public schools, working with students with autism, intellectual disabilities, and or physical disabilities. For the last several years, she has had a part time caseload, with the other days dedicated to coaching and mentoring other SLPs. Currently, Amy is on sabbatical and is spending her time writing a literacy curriculum for non-speaking students, minimally verbal students, AAC users and students with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. So, I have already listened to this episode. I'm doing this intro. This is a little peek. Normally I do the intro before, and then we record the episode, but I just wanted to get the feel for Amy. This is a goosebump episode, you guys! Sit back, take a listen, and welcome to the conversation. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 02:13 Welcome back to another fabulous conversation where we're learning about a day in the life of school based SLPs. I am your host, Katie Widestrom-Landgraf, and we have Amy Basso here with us. Hello, Amy! Amy Basso 02:27 Hi there! Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 02:30 Thanks for being here. Amy, I have to tell you, this is so delightful, and I am learning so many things from our colleagues, and I just want to tell you we appreciate you so much for taking the time and sharing your insights, and let's jump right in. Are you ready? Amy Basso 02:47 I'm ready. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 02:49 Okay. So, let's learn a bit about you and your journey. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a school based SLP. Amy Basso 02:59 Well, this is my 21st year as an SLP, and I think about 20 of those years have been in the schools. In the beginning, after grad school, I did jump around a little bit with jobs. I did a school in Vermont, I did a couple of schools in Massachusetts, I did full time early intervention for a year, and then I did a private school for children with autism. And finally, the last 15 years I've been at my public school job in New York City. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 03:26 So, it sounds like you got a really great sampling under that umbrella of education. Amy Basso 03:33 Yeah. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 03:33 And so, you said you've spent the last 15 years at your school in New York City. My mind is imagining a really big school. Could you talk to us a little bit more about your specific setting – your school, the grades, or the student populations you work with? Amy Basso 03:49 So, while New York City is a giant School District with over a million students, we – I work specifically for District 75, which is specifically for children with special education needs, and my school is actually very small. So, we have – the students that I work with have severe and multiple disabilities, and there are 12 students in a classroom, and in my school we have just five classrooms. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 04:16 Wow! Okay. Amy Basso 04:17 Yeah. But because of the many needs of the students, like there's three full time SLPs, and we have three full time nurses, PTs, OTs, the whole gamut. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 04:28 That's really interesting. It makes me feel curious about some spillover or overlap between the medical side of what we do and the educational side of what we do. Could you speak a bit more about that? Amy Basso 04:44 Yeah. I think that my job as a school-based SLP is a bit unique. Most school-based SLPs I feel like are generalists, and I’m definitely more of a specialist in the fact that most of my children that I work with use AAC, and then also the medical aspect, like you talked about. So, I would say about 30 percent of them are eating only like a pureed diet. So, we're trying to work, perhaps, to move from puree to like soft chewables, and things like that. So, there's definitely a bit of a crossover. I do some things that most school SLPs might not do. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 05:21 So, there is an aspect of swallowing therapy to what you're doing with your job, even though it's within that school setting? Amy Basso 05:27 Yes. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 05:29 Okay. Amy Basso 05:29 Yeah, we definitely do do feeding therapy at my school. And depending upon the student, we may have a feeding goal in the IEP. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 05:37 Okay, so could you walk us through your typical day? Like when your day starts, and how you kind of structure the flow of your day? Amy Basso 05:45 Sure. So, my school, the hours are from 8:00 to 3:00. I like to arrive as early as possible, just because I hate just crashing into my day. So, I like to at least get there by like 7:30. And we do anywhere between eight to nine therapy sessions a day. And because I do work for New York City, we have a very big union, and we have – there's not much leeway in the schedule. They pretty much tell you what you need to do. So, eight to nine sessions a day, and then we have a prep period, and we have a period also for administrative work as well. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 06:24 So, specifically within the contract, are there, I guess, carve outs for what is unique for speech language pathologists when you talk about the strong union and how they kind of set parameters for what you can and can't do? Is it specifically carved out? Is there a language for speech language pathologists? Or do you all kind of fall under a more general educator contract in New York? Amy Basso 06:48 We fall under the teacher's contract, which in our particular union is actually a better thing in terms of the pay compared to our physical therapists and our nurses and our OTs. They are on a different contract and their pay is actually a little different. So, yeah, the language is not specific to a speech pathologist. And like, for example, we don't have a lot of control over – like, for example, almost, I would say, 95 percent plus of my caseload uses AAC, but we don't have any ability to add in time, like for upkeep or programming or troubleshooting. There's no like indirect services allowed. It's all direct services, and then you have the prep time and the administrative time, and that's it. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 07:33 So, that's really interesting to me, and that brings me to a question around workload. And I know there's kind of lots of things that fall under that heading of workload, but how do you personally manage workload and how has that changed or stayed the same over time? Amy Basso 07:49 So, for me, I feel like it definitely has changed. I know that we go through different seasons of life. And for me personally, I have a six year old. So, when I had him, it has been more of a struggle for me to manage work and life and balance all of that. So, I have definitely streamlined sort of how I save time with work. Because I really do not want to be taking a lot home, if anything at all. So, yeah, I've definitely come up with some specific systems that I use. I created like a data sheet where when I fill out the data form, it automatically generates my SOAP note. So, that has been life changing because now I don't have to like formulate what I'm going to say exactly. I can tweak it, but I'm pretty much cutting and pasting, and that's a big part of my day, is putting in the daily notes. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 08:40 That sounds like an incredible time saver. So, could you talk a bit more about some of the efficiencies that you've either created, or discovered learning from others, that have helped you manage that workload? I'm super intrigued about some of the things you've built into your day to make that a bit more automatic. Amy Basso 09:01 Yeah. One of the biggest things I do is in the beginning of the year I always – I know every school is a little bit different. Some schools will say, like, hey, we want you to start actually picking up kids for therapy like on the third day, or some schools might give you a week, whatever that may be. But I think it's really important to take advantage of that time and set yourself up for success. And for me, personally, I kind of skim the IEPs, and the paperwork, and the files, and I really just get those goals out, and figure out – even if it's a tentative form, I figure out how I'm going to take data for that goal. And I get myself all set up so that once I'm ready, I can baseline my goals and then I'm ready to take the data so that every time I don't have to say, “Oh, what's his goal again?” Or when you have a high caseload or something, sometimes, we forget it in the moment, or you have a large group. Just have everything in one spot and you're easily able to take the data. And the other thing – my big thing with data forms is you need to be able to monitor progress quickly and easily. I want to know how the student is doing at a glance. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 10:09 Mm. Amy Basso 10:09 I don't want to have to thumb through that after work, or at progress report time. I just want that to be something that's very quick. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 10:17 That’s amazing, Amy. I think that is one of those kind of golden nuggets, that if you're new to the school side of things, or you've been doing this for a while, I think that's really helpful, and I think it does become important to manage the workload because we know there's more tasks than there are minutes in our day allocated to do those things. Amy Basso 10:40 Yes, 100 percent. So true. I always say the to-do list will never be completed. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 10:46 Yeah. Amy Basso 10:46 It’s always just a running list. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 10:47 So, how do you manage the always running list? I think that's than an interesting [crosstalk] Amy Basso 10:52 Just prioritizing and keeping in mind those little systems that I talked about, with like the data forms. Another thing that I say, and some people always look at me like I'm crazy when I say this, but especially for children, when you're working with like very early language skills, a lot of stuff needs to be prepped. There's a lot of prep work, like adapted books, or communication books, or things that need laminating and cutting and velcroing. And I always say, do it during the session. Like, it's totally fine. You can. The kids love it. You're introducing the vocabulary. You can incorporate it. They want to help. You can incorporate core words. It's not as if you're doing anything wrong, you're still working on language. And I would write that right in my note. We created an adapted book that we're going to be using in therapy together, and these are – this is the vocabulary that we worked on. And it's just kind of thinking outside the box in order to save yourself that time, because our job, there’s just so much to it, so many pieces. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 11:54 So many pieces. Yes. So, let's talk a little bit more about your job. What is one of your favorite parts of your job? Amy Basso 12:03 I mean, I love seeing the progress, of course. I do work very frequently with AAC users, as I've said. So, it's always like super rewarding when I see a student begin to communicate independently. I had a student – actually over the pandemic I had gotten him a communication device, LAMP Words for Life, and he already had it at the time of the pandemic. But at the time, he was just sort of using – kind of more exploring, then we went remote, and I actually stayed remote for a whole year. So, I started working with him. He just made so much progress. He was putting sentences together. He started – I didn't even know he could do this, I hadn't even targeted it at all, but he loved Dora the Explorer. And he went into his keypad, and he typed in Dora, because that was on the device. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 12:52 Wow! Amy Basso 12:53 And I was like – I was like floored because I didn't even know that he could spell. But again, that's something– it was almost like a lesson for me and the teacher, because a lot of times we kind of make these assumptions that – based on a student's language ability that maybe they can't do a certain thing, and here he is showing us like, wow, look what I know. And that was [crosstalk]. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 13:13 That's definitely one of those goosebump moments as you're telling that story. And I appreciate when you say that that student is teaching you and teaching the teacher. It helps remind us about some assumptions we really can't make about that really dynamic system that is communication and language skills. Amy Basso 13:35 Yep, 100 percent. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 13:13 Very cool. Of course, I'm going to ask you about challenges with your job as well. What would be a challenge? Amy Basso 13:44 I mean, it's hard. I work with students of varying abilities. So, while seeing progress is awesome, sometimes when we don't see progress, I think it's challenging for all of us SLPs, and sometimes there's an easy fix. Maybe you kind of talk it out with somebody, and you get another idea, and you try something else. But other times, you can feel really stuck. It's challenging, but it's also – it's normal, it’s a normal part of being an SLP. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 14:15 Absolutely, yes. So, one of the topics that has come up is dealing with interdisciplinary teams, collaboration. Could you talk a little bit about your experiences with collaboration in your particular setting? Amy Basso 14:31 We collaborate a lot. One of the things we've tried to do, on and off depending upon the school year, is doing more push-in sessions in the classroom. I think the thing that has been most successful was when we picked the same lesson and kind of went in together. And in this particular case, myself and the two other SLPs that I work with, we all went into one classroom together, and we went in during the morning meeting. And so, it was a very language rich session or lesson. So, we were able to sort of model for the teacher, and provide some communication support, because most of the kids are AAC users. So, it was certainly a nice opportunity and push-in lessons can be difficult. That's one thing I hear from a lot of SLPs. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 15:21 I do think you can have variable experiences with push-in and with collaboration. I think sometimes it can take a bit of time to cultivate that buy-in with some colleagues. And then other times, you can have teachers who are really excited about the opportunity for collaboration. Amy Basso 15:41 Yeah, I think that's totally true. And I always tell new SLPs that I talk to, like, if you're going to pick someone, certainly try to pick someone who is very open to that. And I know sometimes too, there's – you're not allowed to pull kids out during certain times. So, sometimes you end up pushing in just because you can't pull them out. So, it certainly can be a challenge for sure. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 16:03 Do you have any demands on your time outside of your work day? When – and we kind of nibbled around the edges when we talked about workload. Do you have a spillover, I guess, is another way to think about this question. Amy Basso 16:18 Honestly, I really try not to these days. Every once in a while, if there's some sort of deadline that’s sort of crept up on me, yes. But I would say it's more because I didn't – I kind of procrastinated, and left it to the last minute. Like, let's say progress reports are due on Friday, and all of a sudden on Thursday, I'm like, “Oh, man progress reports are due”, sometimes I might have to take some work home. But I think too it's like at this point in my career in terms of – I like new activities and things. So, I will sometimes lesson plan, but I have things saved from years past. Like in the beginning, my earlier years, yes, I was certainly always like looking for a new activity or printing something out. But now, when you organize your materials, well, you can then just like bring that in. And sometimes if you have a day where you don’t have time to plan, you can just pull an activity and you have something kind of ready to go. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 17:09 So, let's talk a little bit more about materials. I think you have a TPT store. Is that correct? Amy Basso 17:16 I do. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 17:18 Can you talk with us about your Teachers Pay Teacher's store? Some things that are on that, what inspired you to have a TPT store? Amy Basso 17:24 Yeah, sure. Well, the name of it is Speech Language League, which is the same as my Instagram, and that's my name elsewhere. I have always loved to create things. I've always been very creative. And what happened was I actually put a data form up – in order to be a seller, you have to have – your first item has to be free. So, I think back to like 2013, I put one of my dataforms as my free item. And then I just never went back on there and tried to – I never posted a for sale item. And I started thinking about it, like years later, like three or four years later, and I went on there. And I didn't know anything about TPT, but I looked at the data – you can click on like how many people downloaded your stuff. And like something crazy, like over 5000 people had downloaded it. And I’m – Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 18:15 Whoa! Wow! Amy Basso 18:16 And I was like that's so crazy! And I just thought to myself, I'm like if that was like a $1, I could have made $5,000. I just said, that’s so interesting. So, I started to get into that. And it's – I think it's kind of filled a void for me because as a high school student, I was like into the theater and drama and singing, sort of like the artistic side. And as an adult, you kind of fall away from those things. You don't do those things anymore. So, I think, for me, it's like filled this artistic need, and I really enjoy it. In terms of what my store has, I started out creating pretty much for my – the types of students that I work with. So, I did a lot of basic concept core word activities. And in the beginning, my big thing was I did a lot of boom cards with voice output. So, I would record the word. So, as the student touched each word, it would create a sentence or something, and that's really how I got started. And then since then, I've expanded and I've done all sorts of different things that have come into my mind. I did worksheets for mixed groups that are very popular now. But, yeah, I have a lot of early language skills activities. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 19:3 That's wonderful. Could you repeat for us again the name of your store, and you have an Instagram as well? Amy Basso 19:43 Yes. It’s Speech Language League. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 19:46 Okay, great. So, I have to ask, what is your big “why”? What keeps you coming back year after year, day after day? Amy Basso 19:56 I mean, I just love being an SLP. I mean, I think it's – there's so many facets to it. I mean, it allows me to be creative. I love thinking outside the box, and I love seeing that progress. It really boils down to my students. All of the different settings I've worked in, they've been – all been different. But I've always – the students have just been the highlight of it. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 20:22 So, if you're thinking about our listeners, if you had one piece of advice for people looking at working in the schools, or something that you would most want them to know, what would you tell them? Amy Basso 20:36 This may sound a little funny, but I think my biggest piece of advice would be when we're – because I supervise a lot of grad school SLPs, and also do a lot of CFs and things, and I know that in the grad schools we learn a lot about coaching and modeling and training. And I think that reality is when you get into the schools, and you're this new SLP, 24 years old or whatever, and you go to go into a classroom with a teacher that's been teaching for 20 years, or a paraprofessional that's been working there for however many years, and truthfully, people, they really don't want to listen to you. Unless – kind of like they say in business – unless they like, know and trust you. And so, I always tell people, “Listen, it doesn't mean you can't do your job. Go in there, do your job. Model all of the skills that you've learned. Do everything. Whatever's in your heart, whatever your clinical judgment is, do it. But take a little step back from telling other people what to do until you develop those relationships. And once you do, they're going to listen to you, because they like you, they know you, they trust you, they believe in you as an SLP”. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 21:51 I think that's amazing advice, and I think that's helpful no matter where you're at in your career. It is definitely worth the time and the investment to build that rapport in that relationship, and that is something that can pay dividends for years to come. So, taking that time early on isn't time wasted. Amy Basso 22:13 Right. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 22:14 I think you're absolutely right, Amy, Amy Basso 22:16 Just like they say with our students, like you can't really get them to meet their goals until you've developed a relationship with them, and you understand what they like and what their interests are. And it's the same thing with the people that you work for – Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 22:29 Yes. Amy Basso 22:30 - and work with. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 22:31 Absolutely. So, Amy, when I'm thinking about our conversation, is there something that you wished we’d talked about that I just maybe forgot? Or something that like we meant to talk about and you were thinking to yourself before this conversation began, I hope we get to? Amy Basso 22:50 Yeah, one other thing. I mean, just in terms of the time saving strategies that I use. I feel like one of the most important skills for probably any SLP, but definitely for a school SLP, is just being able to target pretty much all of your goals with one activity, and being able to think outside the box with that activity. Just because it's one activity, it doesn't mean you can't use it in a different way. So, you might have a set of 20 flashcards, and maybe some kids will be happy to sit down and describe or label with that kind of activity, and other kids are not going to. So, maybe for those kids, maybe you can throw them on the floor and have them jump on them, or tape them to the wall and do a scavenger hunt. And just really thinking of different ways that you can use the same activity, because it will cut back on your planning, for sure. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 23:41 Oh,I think that's great advice. And I do think that once you get in the mindset of having that adaptability and flexibility with your existing materials, almost everything becomes fodder for language intervention and communication skill intervention, and that is when it becomes really special too. You're not creating this single task with an isolated focus anymore. Amy Basso 24:06 Right. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 24:18 [crosstalk] seeing those opportunities everywhere. Yes. Oh, fabulous advice. Amy, thank you so much for spending this time with us. Amy Basso 24:16 Thank you so much for having me. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 24:18 I loved spending a day in the life of your life as a school based SLP! Amy Basso 24:24 Thanks so much. Mattie Murrey-Tegels 24:27 So, did you get goosebumps like I did? I loved that conversation. It almost makes me want to be a school based SLP! I am learning so, so much from these episodes. If you are as well, please find us at, Apple Podcasts, everywhere we are. Please, drop us a link. Tell us how you're doing. Share, follow all of those things that we would appreciate you doing to show that you're out there, and that you're listening to us and you've got this, because we so are doing this for us, but we're also doing it for you. I have a favorite part of this podcast. I would love to hear what your favorite part of the podcast is. So, I hope to hear from you soon! Like, follow, do everything, share, and this is the Missing Link for SLPs podcast. Thanks for listening!

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