September 11, 2018

Did you catch the ASHA Schools Virtual Town Hall? We would love to know your thoughts/takeaways - share in the comments! If you haven’t had a chance to watch it, the discussions were about the problems facing school-based SLPs including caseloads, paperwork and service delivery. Here’s the deal - this is nothing new. These are the challenges you are facing every single day. We were hopeful that there would be more practical solutions shared, but it was more of a first step - acknowledging the problem. One thing that was abundantly clear is that paperwork is not going away. Not only is it required for funding but in this litigious society, it is more important now than ever before to document document document. We have to be making data-driven decisions as we all know good intentions and smart guesses don’t hold up in court!

We were thrilled to hear several panelists suggest using technology as a solution! This is exactly why we created SLP Toolkit. We wanted to find a way to streamline processes and collect comprehensive data so we could feel confident in our treatment plans and progress monitoring. There is a better way to design truly individualized treatment plans with less headache and stress. Let us show you how:

1. Goal Selection Determining goals for an IEP/treatment plan is hard. I know I often felt like I was just throwing darts to a dartboard. I was so focused on the current goals that I didn’t have sufficient data for what to work on next and I didn’t have a systematic way to gather the data I needed to determine communication strengths and needs.

Enter in Present Level Assessments (PLAs)! 🎉 We developed a library of informal assessments that allow you to gather comprehensive profiles of your students’ communication strengths and needs. The language assessments are based on grade level bands and assess the communication underpinnings required to access the curriculum. There are also specific tests in the areas of articulation, pragmatics, functional communication, voice, and fluency. The information you are able to collect by administering a PLA will guide your decisions for goal selection.

2. Writing Measurable Goals After you have determined the areas of need the next step is to write specific and measurable goals. There is nothing worse than inheriting goals that are confusing or difficult to measure. What often happens is the therapist knows exactly what they want to target but struggles with how to write the goal in a way that is clear and can be measured consistently by anyone who reads it. Many of us have access to goal banks but the goals that are included aren’t always written measurably or they don’t include the specific skill you want to target.

We developed a goal bank with drop downs to help you select a single objective, identify the level of support, the criterion and the method of measurement. Having a formula like this will help you to develop a S.M.A.R.T goal. The bonus is once you develop the goals in SLP Toolkit you can easily paste them into your IEP software, print out a data sheet, or better yet, start taking data on them in the app!

3. Progress Monitoring Progress reports are extremely time-consuming. Most SLPs that we speak with say it takes an average of 2 days to complete all of their progress reports. Analyzing and averaging data on 60+ students takes a long time, and what do you do when you realize you don’t have sufficient data on a goal to confidently report progress? Another issue you may find is that your data is all over the place. What may have happened is that your level of support or stimulus items may not have been consistent.

To combat the burden of progress reports we developed progress monitoring tools in the form of criterion-referenced tests and rubrics. These tools are used once a goal has been determined to collect baseline data and then again at the time(s) of progress reports. You still need to collect session data to guide treatment but for the purposes of reporting on progress reports, you would administer the test and then report the score. This is not only more efficient but also more consistent. A week or two before a grading period ends I start assessing the students and before they have even left the session I have transferred the data into their progress reports. No more working on progress reports during my hard earned breaks.

4. Data Collection Not only are we required to take session data for the purposes of billing Medicaid and because the state/district says we have to, we know it’s best practice. We can’t make treatment decisions without it. I will admit I did not always have respect for data. I went through the motions and I recorded my pluses and minuses but I didn’t do much with it and I certainly wasn’t comfortable sharing it with anyone. Chicken scratch on post-it notes isn’t very good supporting evidence. Once I started to realize how much easier it was to plan sessions and felt the confidence good data gave me I started to have a change in mindset. The problem was I still didn’t have a great system for collecting data. I would start out with fresh data sheets, organized in binders, and then a few weeks into the school year I was grabbing anything I could find to write on and keeping track of it all was a real challenge.

Data collection sheets are great if you find one that gives you everything you need - plenty of space to write, and formatted in a way that makes sense to you. The problem with paper data sheets is they are tough to keep organized, are easy to lose and the boxes aren’t very big so you are limited with what you can record.

When we developed the data collection feature in SLP Toolkit we wanted to make sure that it was easy to switch between students, included a way to record frequency data and had plenty of space for lesson planning and notes. Even though I was proud of what we had built I questioned the ease of use as I was working with squirrely preschoolers. Once I gave it a try I never looked back. The comprehensiveness of the data that I was collecting, the ability to print graphs and the fact that it was located in one place made it impossible to go back to my old ways. I loved not having to count up all of those pluses and minuses and average out the data over time. Also, parents and administers love the graphs. Having a visual representation of the data made it clear to everyone how the student was doing.

5. Medicaid Billing One of the things we worried about most when developing the data collection feature in the app was creating something redundant. We know that SLPs have separate systems they use to record billing. The last thing we wanted to do was to have someone take data in SLP Toolkit and then have to go and reenter it somewhere else. Our solution is a ‘Copy for Billing’ button. With one click you are able to extract all of the data taken during a session and paste it into your billing software. Billing that used to take me 2 hours now takes 5 minutes.

6. Scheduling Scheduling is a nightmare. Trying to schedule 60+ students with a multitude of barriers makes it very challenging. We developed a scheduler in SLP Toolkit that takes away the brain strain. I just published a post all about it, if you would like to check that out here.

Here’s the deal. We can’t eliminate paperwork or shrink caseload sizes, but we are confident that the features we have built in SLP Toolkit will help to eliminate the headache parts of your job so you can focus on what matters most - the students!