March 4, 2017

We are so lucky to live in an age of technology. At any given moment, we can pull up a YouTube video to use to demonstrate and break down a social scenario, or go to Teachers Pay Teachers and search for specific skill areas we want to target like prepositions or articulation sounds, or fire up our iPads and pull up a game we can use for engagement or even assessment.

But what if the power goes out? Just recently in my household we experienced a cable outage for a few hours, and it was almost comical watching my two teenaged daughters sitting on the couch, looking lost. My 16 year old said, “This must be what it was like in the pioneer days.”

We’ve become a society dependent on technology, which has made our lives easier, but also can give us a nervous breakdown when things aren’t conveniently at our fingertips. It also can make it so we overlook some really great low-tech or no-tech things that are right in front of us.

One of the best things about working in a school is that our practice as speech-language pathologists is automatically connected into a greater gestalt. We are teaching communication skills for one purpose and one purpose only: access to curriculum.

So when we use curriculum in therapy to teach skills, there are many benefits:

  • Natural Connections - Have you ever had a student that did really well in the speech room but couldn’t generalize the learned concept into classroom activities? This may be because they didn’t see the connection between the skill in an isolated context and how it could apply to other situations/materials. When using a student’s curriculum to target communication goals, the student doesn’t have to figure out how to bridge their learning from therapy to the classroom as skills were already learned and practiced in this context.

  • Common Vocabulary - How many SLPs are there at your school? Now how many teachers are there? Yep - we are at a disadvantage, not just in numbers but in the amount of time we have access to any given student on our caseload. If we are using curriculum based materials to teach speech/language concepts, we have a much better chance of getting the teacher and instructional assistants on board with carrying over those skills when we aren’t there.

  • Mixed Groups - Have you ever gotten stuck in a scheduling trap because you thought you just had to have all of your articulation students together, or all of your language students with similar goals in the same group? Using curriculum allows you to schedule groups by teacher and/or grade level, and pulling each student’s goals from the classroom material. For example, you can have your articulation students find vocabulary words with their sounds or practice reading with correct articulation; or, have your language students work on their goals through answering questions, doing story retells, explaining unit/story vocabulary, and so on. The result? Less impact on the classroom schedule, which makes it easier for teachers and students to remember when it’s time to come to speech.

  • Zero Cost - How many things do you get to use in therapy that are absolutely free? Curriculum based materials are EVERYWHERE! Whether you are pulling stories from the student’s English Language Arts curriculum or themes from the student’s science or social studies unit, you don’t have to create anything. Minimal prep means more time for you to spend on other fun duties, like Medicaid billing or report writing… :)

We want to be sure that whatever materials we use in therapy, we have functional outcomes for students that are meaningful for them as learners. SLPs are critical in facilitating the development of the language underpinnings a student needs for academic success. By selecting curriculum materials that are familiar and academically relevant, this will assist us with not only our direct progress in therapy with the student but also our ability to make meaningful suggestions to teachers on how the student can be supported in the classroom on a daily basis.