I recently added a couple new students to my caseload. Mid-year is a time when the referrals you received after the first semester, then turned into evaluations, and have now had their eligibility meetings. Or new students are turning up: either they transferred in, or have been identified through speech RTI groups, or you got a student who was evaluated by a different SLP at a different building. Now it’s time to see them, but it’s been awhile since the evaluation. What now?
1. Mini-Evaluation All Over Again
When the parent signs consent for a speech-language evaluation, you have 60 school days in which to test. When you see a new student after several weeks, you might need a refresher about the student’s deficits. Young students may change over just a few weeks and there could have been improvement in their skills. You’re taking stock of the student’s abilities by doing quick informal evaluations in your head — at least I am! You’ll start taking some baseline data, but other times it’s just observations as you put all the pieces together.
2. Build Rapport
Studies show that the most important reason students succeed in school is their relationship with their teacher. The relationship between a student and the speech pathologist is also important to success. Building rapport starts during the first session by being caring, friendly, but also laying down your expectations and a potential reward system (if you have one like a sticker chart or speech folder system, etc). Even if it’s a student that you didn’t feel prepared for or you are nervous about, make sure you’re happy and engaging. You want the student to be excited about attending speech because if he or she doesn’t want to be there, it will be harder to achieve their speech goals.
3. Interest Inventory and Group Dynamics
It’s important to take stock of the student’s interests and how he or she relates to group members. The first session is the time to figure out what motivates the student. Take note of any games the student might enjoy playing, or if there’s certain materials that you may need to stock up on based upon deficits noted during the first session. Also it’s a time to figure out if they’re in the right group based upon how their personality meshes with another group member or maybe the student will need individual therapy due to severity. Group interactions can determine the quality of the session and if it’s possible to switch student to a different group, knowing that there’s a problem right in the first session, that’s a good idea.
Bringing a new student aboard your caseload can be sometimes stressful and tough to manage, but I hope that now you have an outline of how to structure your first session. You have any other suggestions for me feel free to go ahead and email me. Thanks!