Podcast Transcript - Episode 31 | SLP Toolkit

SLP Toolkit Podcast, Episode 31, Transcript

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Lisa: (00:10) Hi Sarah.

Sarah: (00:39) Well, hi Lisa.

Lisa: (00:40) It’s very weird to not look at you when we do a podcast. This is actually, maybe even the first time this has ever happened.

Sarah: (00:46) I know we’re almost always together, but you know, this is just our new reality within the current environment.

Lisa: (00:52) Probably preferred for you right now, because I’m not wearing pants or a bra.

Sarah: (00:57) Good for you. Before we get into this episode. It, you know, this is our first episode of season three. Did you know that?

Lisa: (01:06) That’s crazy.

Sarah: (01:08) I know, how have we already done two seasons? I don’t know, but super excited, but like, let’s do a little catch up. What the heck has been happening in the last few months since we ended season two?

Lisa: (01:17) I don’t remember anything since I woke up this morning, that’s about the working memory retention and anything of, of past events is completely blocked out because we have been in full swing with, we had SLP summit.

Sarah: (01:33) Yes.

Lisa: (01:34) We have started back to school which means that for us, we get, lots of uptick in people being newly exposed to SLP Toolkit. So we get lots of questions and need for support there. So, I don’t know. I’m just working with that is all I know.

Sarah: (01:53) I know, I know it’s the beginning of the school year and I’m super excited to do this episode in particular to kick off season three because of the time of where we are. Don’t know when you’re all going to be listening to this, but it’s the end of August. School’s starting back and starting under crazy circumstances, kind of like how we ended things in the spring, but I think it’s just such a different way to go into a school year. Normally we’re stressed, you know, a couple months in. We’re going in stressed. And so I think this is going to be so awesome. Do you want to introduce who’s in the confessional with us today?

Lisa: (02:30) Yes. I actually love this person. I follow her on Instagram and we’ve known her for quite a while. And what I love about her is just her positivity and um, her theory and her knowledge of the population of students that she works with. So, without further ado, Emily Diaz, we’re super excited to have you on here. Particularly because what Sarah was talking about, this whole idea of going into this school year with so many unknowns and one of the big themes that I’ve seen pop up is this idea of having some sense of hesitation of doing any kind of virtual therapy with students with complex communication needs. So I’m excited to talk to you about that today. And if you could just maybe tell us a little bit more about yourself and welcome!

Emily: (03:20) Yeah, thanks guys for having me

Sarah: (03:23) Welcome!

Emily: (03:23) I’m so excited to talk about this. So a little bit about myself. I’m a speech language pathologist, obviously. I’m going into year six in a school based setting and I work with secondary complex communication needs population. So middle school, high school, 18 plus. I also have kind of a unique campus on my caseload. It’s a residential treatment center that kind of falls in the boundaries of my district. So those kids out there also usually middle school and high school aged. But yeah, I’ve been school-based for my entire career. And fun fact about me is that I knew absolutely nothing about complex communication needs in AAC before I started my job as a CF. So that’s where I started and here’s where I am now.

Lisa: (04:11) It’s so interesting. So even I feel like I’ve been an SLP for over 20 years and I’ve done some different settings, but the bulk of my career has been in schools and you do get introduced to a lot, you know, basically depending on where you’re assigned, and it’s always kind of a mindset to me. I loved getting assigned to different types of schools, whether that be age wise or the bulk of your caseload, like what types of communication needs you were seeing, because I always looked at it as a chance for growth. But I know people get nervous, I think particularly about working with kids with complex needs. So what did you think when you first landed in that setting? Where you’re like, oh, whoa, I don’t know if this is what I want to do or did you go into it with an open mind or what did you think?

Sarah: (04:57) Or fear? Because I would be going in scared out of my mind

Emily: (04:59) I think I like to think I went in with an open mind. So when I was in grad school, I had two practicum placements, one in a school setting with elementary aged students. And I loved my supervisor and I loved that setting, but I started to realize that maybe I didn’t want to work with young children. And I had kind of worked with young children in some capacity, you know, in daycares and things like that. So maybe I just like hit a point of being burnt out with young children, I don’t know. And then my second practicum placement was in an LTAC hospital. So we did a lot of trachs and vents and swallowing, which was obviously very new to me. And I fell in love with that, but I couldn’t give up that school schedule. I was like, what can I kind of do in between working with elementary arctic and language and adult? And then I started to think, okay, well maybe like a secondary setting. I work with some older students. They wouldn’t be like super young children. And then I got to meet with the SLP who is currently in a position that I was going to be interviewing for. And just hearing her talk about how much she loved it and the type of students that were on her caseload, I thought, yeah, maybe, maybe I could do that. So that’s kind of how I got stuck there with secondary. And then when I went into it, I had no idea that there was going to be so many complex communication needs and that AAC was going to be such a big part of what I did. And I think after about a year or two into that position, I realized like, holy crap, I got to learn more about this because they didn’t teach me any of this in grad school. And so I just kind of kept learning and growing from there, like you said, you get put in these different situations and you have new case loads and you just kind of learn as you go and everything’s figure-outable. So that’s what I did.

Sarah: (06:57) I love that mentality.

Lisa: (06:59) It’s interesting that you talked about your experience about loving that kind of medical side, but still wanting to work in schools because I saw that with when Sarah and I worked in a school district in Arizona that we got a lot of graduate students from Arizona State University. And we had a lot of people that would come and they’re like, Oh no, I want to be medical. I want to work with adults. And so we would place them in more of a high school setting because I don’t think that SLPs that are studying–or actually SLP students who are studying, you know, our field really think about that bridge of you are working with you know, adults. You know, essentially you’re working, they can be in the school system, even up to age 22, they can turn 21 during the school year and still be there when they’re 22. So you do get that experience. You’ve got that angle of people with more complex needs, because that is, you know, the gamut of the field that we work in and schools are. I think people do just think of schools as it’s just reading and writing and, you know, therapy and there you can really find whatever your passion is in a school setting.

Emily: (08:07) Yeah. I, a hundred percent agree with that. And when you think about the secondary age group, the types of students and the goals that I’m writing and the therapy that we’re doing is very different from elementary. And it shouldn’t look the same as elementary. We’ve got a problem if we’ve got a kid in middle school or high school working on the same things they were working on in second grade. And so the kids that wind up on my caseload are the ones that are, are a lot more impacted. They have other syndromes, they have related issues to speech impairment. I have hardly any like speech only students on my caseload. And so it does become not that it’s super medical or super clinical, but it’s definitely different types of students than you would carry on a younger elementary caseload.

Lisa: (08:52) So I have so many questions because you talked about when you first came to this setting, you understood you had a lot of learning to do. So what, how did you get started with that? Where did you find resources? How did you build your knowledge base in that? And then you just mentioned too, of this idea about how the goals do look so different for that population. So how did you start figuring that out? And what is your kind of, what do you look at? What is your lens when you are developing treatment plans and goals for the students that you work with?

Emily: (09:20) Those are good questions. So I think my CF year I just kind of did as good as I could. I listened to my supervisor and just kind of survived that year. And then that realization kind of came at the end of the year. Like I have to figure out more for next year, like what I did this year was good, I had a good CF year, but next year we’ve got to do more. We’ve got to do better. And so in Texas, we have these different educational service center regions scattered throughout the state. And so local to me is region 13 and it’s based out of Austin, Texas. And what they do is provide different supports for school-based professionals. And it’s not just for SLPs, there’s stuff for teachers, OTs, PTs, school sites, et cetera. But for SLPs, they have the SLP leadership network there, which I’ve attended a few meetings for that, which is more general the, you know, the broad scope of SLPs in the schools. And there’s also an assistive technology leadership network there. So when I learned that there was this assistive technology leadership network, I was like, ooh, I could probably learn a lot from other people in other districts who are already doing what I’m hoping to do with my caseload. And so I got permission from my district to start attending those meetings. And they happened every couple of months I’d say. And for the first like year or two that I attended these meetings there, like just completely silent taking all the notes that I could. And like in awe of how these other districts were handling assistive technology needs. And especially in like the low incidence population that I work with, AAC. And so I’ve been part of that network now for about four or five years. And I feel like that was like the pivotal moment of being able to learn what other people are doing, what I should be doing. And then of course the world of social media has exploded so much and there’s Facebook groups and then there’s like gurus hanging out on Instagram that you can hang out with and learn from. And so all of that kind of piled together and then with trial and error and a lot of grace and coffee, I got through it and learned more about what I should be doing.

Sarah: (11:31) I love what you just said when you started that by saying, you did okay this year, you did good, but you knew next year you had to do better. And I think that’s the problem a lot of us have is you know, we’re kind of type A most of us, perfectionists by trade. You know, the field in general kind of has us feeling like there’s this like high, high standard we have to meet and we have to be these experts. And so when you’re struggling, you’re like the insecurity I think we feel, we talk about imposter syndrome all the time. We feel those things. I think we focus so much on what we’re not doing well. And instead of that idea of like, I don’t know what, all right now I’m going to do the best I can with what I have. And then I’m just going to keep learning and growing and, you know, it’s okay to do that. Like, it’s okay to, I look back at some of the shit I did in those early days. And I’m so embarrassed, but I didn’t cause any major damage, I learned from it. I took what I had and I looked at all those areas and gaps I had and how can I fill them? And where can I get more info?

Lisa: (12:32) Our field is one of lifelong learning. And so that it does make me nervous being in the role of some of the roles I’ve had as an SLP. One of them being a lead SLP, I did encounter some CF’s that thought they knew it all, because they have their shiny new degree. And that always made me so nervous because I’m like, Ooh, no, you know, nothing right now. Like, I’m glad that you’re confident and going in like feeling prepared, but you know, you’re about to get slapped upside the head by basically students, not physically, but where they are going to challenge the depths of your knowledge. So it is one that, I mean, I do feel like we get, you know, in those early years and not even early years, later years, you will always have a student that walks in and teaches you what you don’t know. And so it’s how you handle that. Like, do you handle it with, oh my gosh, I’m just going to pretend I know which, you know, a little bit of fake it til you make it.

Sarah: (13:26) Fake it til you make it.

Lisa: (13:26) but it’s more of maybe fake your confidence in that moment, but then go figure it out, go find it. Like you said, Emily, there’s so many resources that I wish were available when I was a new SLP, because there was not that presence. There was no social media, there were no websites to go to. There was nobody to learn from unless you went to an actual course. And so you are very fortunate that you live in an area that provides a lot of training. I know in our area too, we’re in a metro area, we’re in the largest city in Arizona. So there are lots of training opportunities, but you know, there are SLPs that are out there where they’re like, I’m the only SLP within a 300 mile radius and I–

Emily: (14:07) Oh that’s so hard.

Lisa: (14:07) but you know, there are resources. So even if they’re not local, the other ones that you mentioned are great.

Sarah: (14:16) Yes, and the learning from each other, I love that, that you talked about watching those other districts and SLPs and what they were doing.

Emily: (14:24) That was key, that was so key for me to see what other– I’m such a visual learner that I’m like, I can’t, I can’t understand it until I see it. And so being able to sit in a room full of people who are already doing it was really helpful to me and you’re right, I am so, so fortunate to be in an area where we have access to those types of networks and region 13, they bring a lot of speakers in for trainings also. So anytime like I’d watch their, I don’t even know what it’s called on their–on their website, where they list out all of the different workshops and stuff they have coming up. I would filter it to make sure it was like anything related to complex needs or assistive technology. So through them, I’ve been able to get lamp training, pod training, partner, input training with Jill Senner and Matt Baud, like all of the really cool trainings kind of came out of region 13, contracting that for us and us having the opportunity to sign up for that. And I’m really grateful for that.

Sarah: (15:23) Yeah.

Lisa: (15:24) So let’s get back a little bit to– we kind of touched upon you were– I loved that idea of you said that your goals and your treatment plan should not look the same in secondary as they do in elementary. So can you expand a little bit more on that for us?

Emily: (15:37) Yeah. So my big, well, the goal for myself when I’m writing goals is to keep it really functional. And so as you’re working through middle school and then into high school, I mean the ultimate goal is to get these kids able to either attend college or to get a job or to interact in their community. And that’s a lot of what we focus really hard on in our 18 plus program, but it should be like leading up to that through middle school and high school also. We don’t just want them to graduate 12th grade and all of a sudden now you’re in this community based intervention program. We want those things to be happening all of the time. So the way that I write my goals is nothing happens in isolation in a speech room. I’m very blessed to have an office space on one of my campuses, but I very rarely pull any students in there. Everything happens in the classroom or in the community. And that’s how I write my goals to support their communication in those types of environments.

Lisa: (16:31) So one of the big pushbacks that I think I have heard and have experienced at times, but the idea of working in a classroom and feeling like you’re an instructional assistant versus a specialist. How did you kind of navigate through those waters as a young therapist, and then now that you’ve had years of experience?

Emily: (16:54) Yeah, I have totally felt like that before, early on in working in the classrooms and realizing that, pulling these kids into my speech room once a week or twice a week, wasn’t going to make them have the progress that they should be having. And so I did start trying, like I heard of this like, oh, this push in thing, you go in the classroom and figure it out there. And so, yeah, very early on it did feel like you were just kind of this glorified paraprofessional or glorified IA. And by the way, those people do a badass job in the classroom.

Sarah: (17:24) Hell yeah.

Emily: (17:24) I’m not saying that that is not an important role. It’s just not my role. And so I think the training that was a game changer for me was I think it was called the SMoRRES training by Jill Senner and Matt Baud. That training was incredibly impactful because it focused on how to teach other people to provide partner– what they call partner, augmented input. Some people call it aided language stimulation. Some of us just summarize that as modeling. And then reading their research on an eight step instructional model for coaching classroom staff, very specific research. And it’s pretty much the foundation of everything that I do. So you haven’t heard that or read that one before I highly recommend that.

Sarah: (18:07) Did you say SMoRRES? Like you do around a campfire?

Emily: (18:13) Yes. I think there’s two R’s in it though, but that’s what their training- the training that they give, like as a workshop, is called a SMoRRES training and it’s an acronym for something. But it’s–

Sarah: (18:26) What is it? This is a quiz.

Emily: (18:26) Oh God

Lisa: (18:26) Just say it’s a graham cracker sandwich filled with chocolate and marshmallows.

Emily: (18:29) and they did, they passed out like actual s’mores to us during the workshop.

Sarah: (18:36) That’s adorable.

Lisa: (18:36) Sign me up, if I learn something that’s great too, but anything–

Emily: (18:42) Right? I’m just there for the s’mores.

Sarah: (18:42) You had me at s’mores. Yeah.

Emily: (18:42) I cannot remember what the acronym stands for.

Sarah: (18:47) No I’m teasing, I’m teasing. We’ll include it as a resource in this episode.

Emily: (18:50) Yes, it, yeah really good. I think they have a blog post about it on like the Practical AAC blog, where you can learn more about it. But the research article about the eight step instructional model is really what I use as the foundation of a lot of what I do in the classroom. And so they walk you through these steps of, so you’re not like pushing into the classroom and pushing the teacher out. It’s not like you’re taking over and the teacher gets like a snack break and it’s also not you come in and just sit there and like, you’re like, oh, cool, let me help you. So it walks through.

Sarah: (19:25) Or do what I used to do which is just sit in the classroom and observe. I was a good observer.

Emily: (19:34) I’m a really good observer.

Sarah: (19:34) I take notes.

Emily: (19:35) So it walks you through all of that. And that’s been really helpful to know, you know, like step one is to lead the lesson and then maybe step two, is that you’re, co-leading a lesson. And then the step three is that you’re co-leading the lesson with faded feedback or, you know, and it kind of weans you off that to where the last step is observation and coaching and just maintaining that in the classroom.

Lisa: (19:57) Well, here’s what I love about that is I do think there have been times I felt like an instructional assistant and I took that as a time to pause and ask myself why and ask myself what differences I could make. And I think the biggest challenge, whether you’re an SLP or an SLPA is that we are kind of trained to be the specialist which in–maybe training has changed too. But I mean, Sarah always says, I learned about speech pathology when the dinosaurs were still roaming the earth.

Sarah: (20:28) Truth.

Lisa: (20:28) it was more of a clinical lens. Meaning like I am the specialist, I’m with the student, my direct work from me you know, I share this like sprinkle this magic power of my awesomeness to get kids to grow in their communication skills, which sometimes that’s needed. But other times it is, I love how you talked about our specialty is actually training the individuals who are with the students day in and day out to be peppering in that modeling, that cueing, level of support. And that’s where you see the big gains, but it is–

Emily: (21:01) That’s really what it is for these students. It’s, it’s a coaching model and that’s really, I mean, I’m an SLP at the end of the day, but I feel more like a coach when I’m in the classroom, because it is, it’s less of this like specialist expert model and more of building capacity, because we know that communication happens all day long, not just in a speech room for 30 minutes.

Lisa: (21:22) Exactly.

Sarah: (21:24) Love. Love, love, love. Now, can we shift? Because this school year– actually and you can even start by talking about last spring when shit really popped off, but looks a little different than pushing into a classroom right now.

Emily: (21:36) It does.

Sarah: (21:39) So how did, how did, what happened in the spring? What did you guys end up doing? Did you just close and nobody received any support or how’d you guys do it?

Emily: (21:47) No, the show went on, it was a little bit messy, but the show went on, there were tears, but the show went on. We did a lot of zoom, and we had to write well, you know, students have IEPs in the school settings. And so for this strange time, we had to write something called an ICP and it was an individual continuity plan that documented like how were we continuing to meet their IEP minutes and services, but in a different way. And so some of it was like identical, like 30 minutes a week direct. And it was just like a 30 minute teletherapy session, but some of my students have minutes written either monthly or per semester and I label it as in class support because I’m in the classroom. And so what does that look like if you had to put it on paper? And so a lot of what I did, the teachers did like zoom lessons as best they could, obviously the school day was a little bit shorter and looked a little bit different, but I tried my best to continue to “push in” to their zoom classroom, I’m using air quotes there for zoom classrooms. And then the coaching model actually shifted away from coaching the teacher and the paraprofessionals and into coaching parents and siblings, because they’re the people who were supporting these students on zoom calls. My students can’t attend. They can’t sit at a computer and attend a zoom meeting successfully by themselves. They one hundred percent need somebody there facilitating on the other side of the screen. And if my parents have no coaching on aided language stimulation, what we normally do in the classroom, that’s a lot of what I had to do at first before we were having really good interactive zoom meetings, was give parents the support that they need to feel confident in working with their student on zoom with us.

Lisa: (23:43) So that’s, you know, it’s such, we look at therapy– again I think when people get scared of working with kids with complex needs or aren’t sure what to do, it’s still that same idea of that push and pull, the providing support pull. You know, maybe sometimes you need to focus more on this, then you can pull back and do more of this and it doesn’t mean like you can monitor and adjust and it can look different and it’s okay. And I think that’s what people don’t always feel confident in. They feel like, you know, this magic has to happen every single session. And sometimes you have to build up to that magic and that’s ok.

Emily: (24:16) Yeah, I totally agree with that. Like I said, it was messy and the motto that everyone in my district is going by right now is that we’re leading with compassion over compliance. And so we may not have met the IEP minutes exactly as they said, but we did our best in writing these ICPs. We continued to show up for the students and we all just did the best that we could.

Sarah: (24:39) Love that so much.

Lisa: (24:39) That’s all anybody can do. And you know, Sarah and I have had conversations too, because we actually even did a podcast recording with an attorney in the spring and we were just–

Emily: (24:50) I loved that episode.

Lisa: (24:52) It’s such an interesting lens and we loved having him on, but I know that there are going to– as a result of COVID and the impact it’s had on schools and districts, I know there are going to be families that are like, my kid is not getting the services in their IEP, but, you know, when I think about this shift from going from in-person, what is it? Like 30, 35 hours a week where they’re at school to now we’re shifting to this virtual model where they’re not getting that same level of instruction, then the IEP is meant to access curriculum. So when the curriculum shifts even all related services, there’s not a direct correlation that– think of, you know, if your IEP was written for an hour/month of support in a 35 hour a week, sort of in-person model, that’s not how it needs to look when it’s this virtual setting. It’s, we’ve got to kind of stop and pause and think about what are the expectations now? What are the primary communication needs arising from this? So there are going to be changes. And I don’t think that that is, you know, it’s not wrong. It’s not something that should be litigious. It’s just, we all need to kind of figure out what are these new needs and get it documented.

Emily: (26:02) Yeah. We just have to document it. And then I mean, you guys have probably heard the term synchronous and asynchronous and all of that that’s floating around right now. And so, like you said, if we have a student receiving an hour of support a month or an hour of support a week or whatever it might be, it just might, it might not all be synchronous. And as long as we have that discussion with parents ahead of time, like, hey, instead of going to school for 35 hours a week, right now they seem to be doing about five or six hours a week on zoom directly with their teacher. So speech therapy might not be correlated exactly to what’s in the IEP, but I’m still going to give you that support. I just think right now what’s most important this week is that we spend 30 minutes with parent coaching in the home before we dig into 30 minutes direct with your students.

Lisa: (26:49) And communication is so key. And I think you hit the nail on the head with the idea of you have this before, or you have this, you have to have this open channel of communication because what I think when it starts to get really where parents start to get really unhappy with districts is when it’s they have an expectation, it goes on, they feel like they’re not being heard. And then maybe explanations are thrown at them when it’s too far gone when they’re like, oh no, I haven’t even heard from anybody and now that I’m upset, I’m trying to, you know, I’m hearing the message gets crossed. Versus if you’re coming at them with, you know, your child is important, their needs are important. This is how we’re meeting their needs–

Sarah: (27:26) Proactive, not reactive.

Lisa: (27:28) And I don’t know why that’s such a struggle and not even just in this, you know, in these times of COVID and virtual learning, but in general, it can be such a struggle for some IEP teams and parents to get through.

Emily: (27:43) I see that as kind of a positive to the current, like learning situation that we have. I didn’t have a lot of contact with parents before this, you know, I’d call if I had a question or if I needed them to sign something and then I’d chat with them once a year at the IEP meeting. But now I feel like I’m in this almost weekly conversation with parents and some of my complex communicators are making more progress than they made in the classroom so now I have parent buy in. And like the whole team is here now. The parent is such a big part of the team. And so now that I get–

Sarah: (28:16) I have the chills.

Emily: (28:18) Awesome.

Sarah: (28:19) I love that. And like I love to focus on the positive, Lisa and I talk about mindset, probably every episode of this podcast. So you’re welcome. Here, I just said it again. But it is, it’s the mindset going into it and you’re right. What a cool freaking opportunity that you–we’ve never got to have before. That kind of connection with the family.

Emily: (28:42) Never, not in the schools. Yeah.

Sarah: (28:42) Right, right.

Emily: (28:44) Yeah. In the clinic, that’s something that happens really often. You know your kids, I’ve worked in a clinic setting before. You bring your kid and you say hi to the therapist, we take them back for their session and then we come out and talk about the session. We don’t do that in the schools. You have no idea where your kids are during the day if they, especially, if they can’t tell you about it.

Sarah: (29:03) Right.

Lisa: (29:04) Exactly.

Sarah: (29:06) And so are most of your parents, most of your parents are logging on with you? And, you know, I’m, I know we’ve got working parents and, you know, I have a nephew I’m trying to support who has special needs because his parents aren’t available to do it. And I can’t, I’m not always logging in, I missed OT this week with him. And so, you know, it’s hard. And so I know we have to be so compassionate to these families that are trying their best to help support their kids. But overall, you’re having a positive experience with getting most of your students seen?

Emily: (29:37) In the spring, at least for my complex communicators in like the self contained setting, most of the parents were able to participate in that. Now, I don’t know if that will be the same now in the fall. And I don’t know the situation with other employers, like they’ve made their employees come back to work now, or if the parents are choosing to stay home. I do work in a low SES community, so that plays a big part into a lot of parents do have to go to work in order to support bringing food home and having a place to live for their families. And so it might look a little bit different in the fall. My entire caseload definitely did not participate a hundred percent to the degree that I would have hoped they would have in the fall. But those who did show up, I mean, like I brought my all for them to make sure that that was still a way that they could continue to grow in their communication and to help coach parents finally, because I had always wanted to have like parent coaching seminars, you know, like after hours at the school, maybe like once a semester and we’ve done maybe like one or two. We call them parent engagement sessions. But like now I got to do it weekly almost with these parents. So I’m hoping, I’m hoping that now when they come back in a couple of weeks that we’ll have a good turnout, but I totally understand that every family situation is different and we just have to meet families where they’re at with that.

Lisa: (30:56) Well, and question, because you live in Texas, we live in Arizona, high levels of bilingual or monolingual Spanish in both of our areas. So how is that working out?

Emily: (31:08) I personally don’t have any– well, that’s a lie. I will have one bilingual student on my caseload this year. She’s a bilingual English and Vietnamese, and actually Phuong who you had on the podcast the last episode, she did the evaluation for this student and I was just blown away reading her evaluation. I was like this is the best report I’ve ever read!

Lisa: (31:32) Did you ask her to sign you an autographed copy of said evaluation?

Sarah: (31:34) Right.

Emily: (31:34) Well I have her signature on it

Sarah: (31:34) There you go, that counts. Frame it. You need to frame that

Emily: (31:45) I was like this is an incredible report! I’m star struck. I was so excited, but we do, we have a lot of bilingual SLPs in the district covering mostly our elementary campuses. And we have one SLP who is a bilingual evaluator. All she does is bilingual evaluations in the district. So that’s really helpful. But yeah, I haven’t had to navigate that too much at the secondary level.

Lisa: (32:13) Well, in Arizona, I know instruction is done in English, but then you have families that are monolingual of, you know, primarily Spanish in our area, and other languages as well. So I’m just– that would be something I think, tricky to navigate too if they were there

Sarah: (32:28) Yeah, with the parent coaching model. Yeah.

Emily: (32:33) We have a system– oh gosh, I haven’t used it since the spring, so I can’t even remember the name of it. It’s a messaging system that our district is subscribed to. School status, I think is what it’s called. And you can like text parents without it being like from your phone number, like from this database system. And there’s like a really nifty translate button. So if you had to translate it into another language you could, and it would probably be off just a little bit like Google translate. But for the most part I’ve used it a couple of times and it’s been pretty accurate.

Lisa: (33:02) Well, and that’s one of the benefits I think of now too. It’s not just, we talked about the benefits for SLPs of everyone being so connected with social media and everything, but now parents too, like almost everybody has access to a phone that can text. So that’s a great way. And it’s actually a preferred way for a lot of people, that you know, people have moved away from– Sarah– wanting–

Sarah: (33:25) Yeah. I don’t use my phone to talk. Do not call me.

Emily: (33:32) You can talk on a phone? What?

Lisa: (33:32) So that’s what I always think. Like, you know, I would have much preferred– even now I have one daughter that’s still in K-12, she’s in high school. And I’m like, please do not call me about anything, unless if it’s something that I can read. So that’s super cool just to be checking that even when we shift back into sort of quote unquote typical school where we’re going back live in regular hours, I think that, you know, this idea of coming away with this relationship with the parents and nurturing, that is huge.

Emily: (34:03) Yes, agreed.

Sarah: (34:03) So I know you haven’t started back yet, but it’s interesting too. Arizona started back early August, first week of August and leading up to it. I mean, I think the day before everybody was still like, yeah, we don’t know. We don’t know. Nobody knows what’s happening. Now you guys are starting a little later, but are you still having that same where like, do you know what’s happening in two weeks? Or?

Emily: (34:28) No, I have no idea what I’m doing.

Sarah: (34:31) Okay.

Emily: (34:31) No I’m just kidding. I know a little bit, I know a little bit. We, the teachers and SLPs and all of the staff we’ve had three, well, by the time students start we’ll have had three weeks of professional development, workdays, meetings with different departments and campuses. Like we’re trying really hard as a district to figure this out.

Lisa: (34:51) In person or virtual?

Emily: (34:51) Say that again?

Sarah: (34:51) Well, I think–

Lisa: (34:53) in person or virtual meetings? Like, is this all being done–are you required to go back to a campus? Or you’re doing this virtually?

Emily: (34:59) We have the option. I’ve personally been working from home but even if you’re on campus, everything’s happening virtually, like you’re just in a classroom on your computer virtually.

Sarah: (35:10) Now that’s super impressive though, because I feel like our teachers who are, you know, we did go back online most of our schools, and I think they had one day to figure that out.

Emily: (35:23) Oh my gosh (unintelligible).

Sarah: (35:23) I could be wrong.

Lisa: (35:23) Sarah, one day.

Sarah: (35:25) I really think they did.

Emily: (35:26) That’s hard. Yeah. We still don’t know everything, but every day we know a little bit more. And so I feel like by the time students start we’ll know enough, like enough to be dangerous, but we’ll still be figuring it out as we go. And we’re all remote. The entire district is remote for at least four weeks. And then depending on what, like the COVID count is trending in like the county at that time, the superintendent can extend that another four weeks. So we won’t know that until it happens. And that would bring us to the beginning of November, which would be really interesting because then by the time we come back in person, it would be almost like holiday season and all the and traveling.

Lisa: (36:06) Not just holidays but then you’re getting into flu season and then I keep thinking everyone’s going to be so paranoid that if anyone ever gets like the regular flu that comes annually, that, you know, everyone’s going to think that they have COVID.

Emily: (36:23) I know it’s just like this extra layer to everything that’s already happening.

Sarah: (36:27) I know. I panic every time I cough. But I just always wanna tell people it’s because I don’t swallow well. I’m just always choking on my own spit.

Emily: (36:42) Just got a touch of dysphagia over here.

Sarah: (36:42) Seriously. That’s so good. Now what–now I know because of the population you work in, I am hopeful that your caseload is not like a typical, like what we have when you’re working with just mostly artic and language students, but what size is your caseload?

Emily: (36:53) I hang out around 50 to 55 students across five campuses. Yeah.

Sarah: (37:00) Holy crap.

Emily: (37:01) Yeah–

Sarah: (37:03) Because you know I love that work load model in students that have more significant needs that you balance that out in your caseload, but you know, that’s in a ideal world and not the real world. So ok that’s a huge amount of students. Now, how are you going to schedule this online and try to meet their needs?

Emily: (37:19) Good question. I don’t know. I really don’t know.

Sarah: (37:23) Yeah I figured.

Emily: (37:23) I’m banking on–well, not banking because I really do hope that everybody shows up. But knowing what my numbers look like in the spring for how many people actually showed up– anticipating maybe is a better word that there will be some of the caseload that doesn’t show up for remote learning. But then it just like, thinking of scheduling is just so hard right now because we’ve got four to eight weeks of remote. So I’ll get a schedule set up for that eventually, but then we’ll come back in person, but families still have the option to stay remote. So then I have to figure out what the schedule is across four to five campuses in person plus who’s remote. Yeah. And I haven’t gotten there yet.

Sarah: (38:05) So are you drinking a lot?

Lisa: (38:08) Yeah, that’s the first thing I was thinking (unintelligible)

Emily: (38:11) Yeah. I rotate between espresso, red bull and wine which is probably not the healthiest situation, but I’m alive, I’m ok.

Lisa: (38:14) I think you and I would be able to hang out and just really get along Emily ‘cause those are my three drinks.

Sarah: (38:29) Yeah, those are Lisa’s three favorite drinks too.

Emily: (38:31) Yes.

Sarah: (38:31) I noticed that neither of you said water.

Emily: (38:33) I am– I’m drinking water right now.

Sarah: (38:38) Oh okay. Okay, okay.

Lisa: (38:39) You gotta flush that stuff out somehow.

Emily: (38:40) Yeah, yeah. It’s like it’s in between. Yesterday I drank almost 80 ounces of water. I’m doing good.

Sarah: (38:46) Ok, alright, good. Stay hydrated. You’re going to need it.

Emily: (38:50) Yeah, oh yeah.

Sarah: (38:50) Oh my gosh. It’s gonna be so challenging because I imagine with the fact that parents have to be so involved, will you still try to group students or are they going to be seen more one-on-one?

Emily: (39:04) You know, like in the spring and like I do normally I try to push into whatever the teacher is doing and I have really, really good working relationships with all of the teachers on the campuses that I serve. So I’m hopeful that given the bell schedule that we’ve been given for a few of the campuses that I can make it work collaborating with the teacher during their lesson times. And then I think what the teachers are doing are at the end of the day, having kind of like office hours or for our mainstream students, tutorials and things like that. So just being available to parents in the afternoon. Also, if they feel like, hey, I wish I had a little more time with you, like, thanks for coming to the class this morning, but can we meet with just you? Or like I had some questions about what you were doing during the class. So it’ll be a little bit of both I think.

Lisa: (39:52) That’s a huge point that you just brought up, that you currently have relationships with your team. So what advice would you give, think about when you first started in the schools, when you were going to do inclusive, sorts of–an inclusive therapy model in the classroom, how did you build those relationships to even be able to do that? And what advice would you give maybe to somebody who is starting a new school and is having to work with teams? Like what are some great tips?

Emily: (40:21) I talk a lot about building rapport, not only with your students, but with the teams that you work with as well. I actually did a presentation for AAC in the Cloud a couple months ago about how to get staff buy in specifically for AAC in the classroom. And a big component of that is having a good relationship with the people that you work with. I don’t know what the secret formula is but I think that a big part of it was stepping away from that expert or specialist model and just immersing myself in the classroom and truly being part of the team. Cause I think teachers sometimes like when we, if we come in and do push in where it’s really pushing the teacher out, or if we just pull students out of the classroom, we don’t know what’s going on in the classroom all of the other times of the day. And so spending a lot of time in the classroom, sometimes I just go sit in the classroom to do documentation. Like I’m not doing therapy, I’m not even really observing. I’m just there like as a person. So like I’m here if you need me, even if you need to run to the bathroom, I’m here to watch your class and just, you know, be part of the team and know that there’s stuff that happens other parts of the day outside of therapy. And I think teachers just need to know that other people see that. And we don’t think they’re crazy that like this isn’t possible for me to do don’t you know what Johnny did yesterday? Kind of thing

Sarah: (41:38) Right, I love that.

Emily: (41:40) So just being part of that team I think has been–

Sarah: (41:42) And they don’t know what you’re doing if you’re not in the classroom.

Emily: (41:44) Exactly. Yes, that is a big part too.

Sarah: (41:44) So it’s like you know we can’t get mad at them for not understanding our role or respecting our expertise when they’ve never seen you.

Emily: (41:58) Yeah, they’re like what do you do in that speech room?

Lisa: (41:58) I think it’s so fascinating. I have had encounters with SLPs before that were like, I told the teacher to do this and they didn’t. I go, oh, how would you feel if you have zero relationship with somebody and they came into your speech room and tried to tell you what to do (unintelligible) for the student. And so I feel like people lose perspective of this idea of relationship building. So I’m so glad you brought that up because I am not going to listen to you or have any buy-in for what you have to say if you come in and just start telling me what I’m supposed to do.

Emily: (42:28) Yes. And I think the fact that I don’t have an office space on every campus that I serve has actually been helpful. I know that, I mean, a lot of people in our field talk about that we work out of closets a lot and I have had my fair share of closets. I have an office space on one of the campuses that I serve, and it’s kind of like my central hub. But when I go to these other campuses, like there’s no place other than the classroom for me to be. And so even if I’m designated, like my time block at that campus for myself is three hours, but I’ve only got an hour and a half of like therapy minutes to meet, like I’m in the classroom for those three hours and I’m coaching or I’m just doing documentation. I’m eating lunch with the teachers. All of that kind of good stuff has been really important.

Sarah: (43:13) So good. I love that. Can we talk about AAC a little bit? What does that look like over a computer screen?

Lisa: (43:23) And do the devices go home? I mean, I know they’re supposed to but did you have any instances where devices were left at school and you guys had to figure out how to get them into the hands of the parents?

Emily: (43:34) Yeah. We had a lot of devices that weren’t being sent home already, like before COVID. And I don’t really have a good excuse why that was. And so this has been kind of an eye opener for that too, that we’ve got to get these devices in the home sooner than we were before, but yeah, we had to scramble to collect all of these devices and like the campuses were only like letting certain people on campus at certain times for like 10 minutes at a time. So like we’d literally run in and throw these devices in bags and run out and be like, okay, whose device do you have and where does it need to go? And we did a lot of like curbside delivery devices just so that they would have them at home. And then I was terrified. I’m like, Oh my God, these parents have never seen their child’s device before. They’ve heard me talk about it. They know their kid’s making progress with it, but they’ve never had to like look at the screen before. Oh my God, I’m going to totally overwhelm these people. And so that’s when my mindset had to shift to parent coaching versus teacher coaching. And so yeah, the kids got their– I made sure all of them had their devices at home or their core boards if it was low tech. And then I am very fortunate to have an iPad assigned to me that has like a whole slew of apps on it. I got a grant approved a few years ago so that I could trial and become more proficient with a variety of apps. And so I have that here with me at home and I had to figure out how do I get what’s on my iPad screen to be on the computer screen, and then share it while we’re in zoom. And with the help of some people on Instagram, we figured out that there are, there’s a few ways to do it, but for me I use, an app called AirServer and it’s– you download the app on your iPad and then you download the software on your computer and you can essentially screen share your iPad screen onto your desktop. And then you can split screen also. So I could have like LAMP words for life on half of my computer screen and a YouTube video on the other half of my screen. And then in zoom share the entire screen and my students would see both the activity or if it was Boom cards on the other half of the screen and then the device over there. So they could still see what I was modeling. Parents could kind of, I could walk them through, like if we were doing a shared reading lesson, modeling something and they’re like, wait a second, where was that word? We all pause. And I say, okay, look at the screen, and I do like the little annotation circle over. Okay, first you’re going to click this. Then you’ll click this. And they’re like, oh cool. I found it. And so that’s a lot of what it looks like for us.

Lisa: (46:13) I love this though. I love this I mean–

Sarah: (46:17) I do too.

Lisa: (46:17) I know it’s challenging and you’re probably in a different kind of learning curve than you’ve ever been before. But the opportunity to make this full circle for that student where they are getting the same sort of support at home as they are at school and everybody’s getting trained in the same way. It’s just that, that is the true magic.

Emily: (46:37) Yeah. I’m really excited for when we do finally go–if we ever do go back to normal or, you know, back in school in some capacity, continuing to support the parents and the families, as well as the teachers. I’m just so excited to see what kind of progress my students can make when both teams like the parent team at home, the teacher classroom team at school come together. Like there’s no way that my kids can’t make more progress that way. There’s no way.

Lisa: (47:05) It’s awesome.

Sarah: (47:07) It really is. That’s the one thing I’m very hopeful for is that if I’ve learned anything this year, like yes, 2020 sucks, I mean, like I hate it, but at the same time, we’re going to learn so much because we’ve had this experience that we would’ve never, ever learned had we not gone through it. Like that’s just life, right? And so I’m hopeful that this– we take this opportunity and as an education system, as a whole, I hope we look at incorporating technology more. I hope we look at more online supports and we’re prepared to do that in the future because it’s just the way things are going. I mean, if I had an office space right now with people working, I mean, we do, but I mean, if I had people coming in here every day, I’d be like, why? We don’t–if this has taught us anything, it’s, we don’t need to be physically present all the time at the office.

Emily: (47:57) Like these things that we’re realizing like you don’t even need to be here. I can’t think of how many ARDs we call them ARDs in Texas, by the way– they’re IEP meetings everywhere else. But in Texas, we call them ARDs. How many times we’ve had to cancel or reschedule an ARD because a parent couldn’t make it? And for the community that I serve with the low socioeconomic status, sometimes they’re at work and they can’t get time off work. Sometimes they don’t have a vehicle because somebody dropped them off at work. But if they could just zoom into the ARD meeting now, like why is that not going to be an option? There’s no excuse now to not have those meetings.

Sarah: (48:32) That’s exactly right. Yeah. Yeah. So there is, there is some things that we’re, I think we’re going to take away from this experience. And I think if anything, too, if it just gets us, gives us this time. I know I’ve never had this much time in my life to think and pause and breathe. And so, but you know, I’ve had all this time to do these things I haven’t normally done. And so I hope this gives us that opportunity to like reflect on our strengths and what we’re good at and the fact that we’re awesome problem solvers and that we are compassionate and that matters more than compliance. You know? I think those are the things that, that we’ve got to just take away from this. And like you said, have grace, be patient, be kind to each other. I hate, I hate seeing negative things coming from parents about teachers and likewise, I don’t want to hear negative things from teachers about parents. Yeah. So freaking good. Oh my gosh. Did we? I know we had, like, there’s so many things we want to–one how awesome to talk about secondary because we just don’t get a lot of representation for those secondary SLPs out there. And we’re going to try to do better with Summit and getting that represented more. But then also this idea of servicing students with complex needs during teletherapy, I’m so glad we were able to talk about that. Anything else you guys?

Lisa: (49:53) I don’t think so.

Emily: (49:54) No, that was awesome. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity because you’re right. We don’t talk enough about the secondary population. And then especially with teletherapy and distance learning, this mod to severe population, complex communication needs. All of these trainings that are out there are really great, but sometimes we kind of feel like, okay, so how does that work for us? So I hope that this has been helpful to who ever’s listening to realize that it is possible. It’s figure outable and yeah, we’re gonna lead with compassion over compliance for that.

Lisa: (50:25) Emily, (unintelligible) I follow you on Instagram. What is your Instagram handle? And can you tell us about your website too, for people who want to learn more about you?

Emily: (50:34) Yeah. I try to keep the same name everywhere. So on Instagram, @emilydiazslp. Got a Facebook page, Emily Diaz SLP, and my website is also emilydiazslp.com. Most of what I talked about–

Lisa: (50:48) Wait what was that? I didn’t hear it the first three times.

Emily: (50:49) Let me just say it one more time. You shouda got it. Yeah. Write it down. Yeah. I try to keep it simple. I don’t want to be like different names on different platforms and all of that, but yeah, my big focus is on AAC and coaching, like the coaching model for parents and in the classroom and just empowering people to know that it’s never too late to get a kid started with AAC. A lot of the students that I work with in secondary, sometimes it’s their first time being introduced to AAC and it can still be impactful. I have some virtual trainings available on YouTube also. My AAC in the Cloud presentation is also available on YouTube. And I just, I try to share resources that help us, especially during this time. And you know, I’m figuring things out too, as we go, but I’m hopeful that some of my resources can be helpful to other SLPs that service similar caseloads to me.

Lisa: (51:49) Absolutely.

Sarah: (51:52) So good. This has been such a pleasure, Emily, thank you so much for finding time to chat with us. We really appreciate it.

Emily: (51:57) Yeah. Thank you guys.

Episode 31 Title: I knew nothing about complex communication needs and AAC before working in that setting Date of Episode: September 1, 2020 Speakers: Emily Diaz, Lisa Kathman, Sarah Bevier

Lisa: (00:10) Hi Sarah.

Sarah: (00:39) Well, hi Lisa.

Lisa: (00:40) It’s very weird to not look at you when we do a podcast. This is actually, maybe even the first time this has ever happened.

Sarah: (00:46) I know we’re almost always together, but you know, this is just our new reality within the current environment.

Lisa: (00:52) Probably preferred for you right now, because I’m not wearing pants or a bra.

Sarah: (00:57) Good for you. Before we get into this episode. It, you know, this is our first episode of season three. Did you know that?

Lisa: (01:06) That’s crazy.

Sarah: (01:08) I know, how have we already done two seasons? I don’t know, but super excited, but like, let’s do a little catch up. What the heck has been happening in the last few months since we ended season two?

Lisa: (01:17) I don’t remember anything since I woke up this morning, that’s about the working memory retention and anything of, of past events is completely blocked out because we have been in full swing with, we had SLP summit.

Sarah: (01:33) Yes.

Lisa: (01:34) We have started back to school which means that for us, we get, lots of uptick in people being newly exposed to SLP Toolkit. So we get lots of questions and need for support there. So, I don’t know. I’m just working with that is all I know.

Sarah: (01:53) I know, I know it’s the beginning of the school year and I’m super excited to do this episode in particular to kick off season three because of the time of where we are. Don’t know when you’re all going to be listening to this, but it’s the end of August. School’s starting back and starting under crazy circumstances, kind of like how we ended things in the spring, but I think it’s just such a different way to go into a school year. Normally we’re stressed, you know, a couple months in. We’re going in stressed. And so I think this is going to be so awesome. Do you want to introduce who’s in the confessional with us today?

Lisa: (02:30) Yes. I actually love this person. I follow her on Instagram and we’ve known her for quite a while. And what I love about her is just her positivity and um, her theory and her knowledge of the population of students that she works with. So, without further ado, Emily Diaz, we’re super excited to have you on here. Particularly because what Sarah was talking about, this whole idea of going into this school year with so many unknowns and one of the big themes that I’ve seen pop up is this idea of having some sense of hesitation of doing any kind of virtual therapy with students with complex communication needs. So I’m excited to talk to you about that today. And if you could just maybe tell us a little bit more about yourself and welcome!

Emily: (03:20) Yeah, thanks guys for having me

Sarah: (03:23) Welcome!

Emily: (03:23) I’m so excited to talk about this. So a little bit about myself. I’m a speech language pathologist, obviously. I’m going into year six in a school based setting and I work with secondary complex communication needs population. So middle school, high school, 18 plus. I also have kind of a unique campus on my caseload. It’s a residential treatment center that kind of falls in the boundaries of my district. So those kids out there also usually middle school and high school aged. But yeah, I’ve been school-based for my entire career. And fun fact about me is that I knew absolutely nothing about complex communication needs in AAC before I started my job as a CF. So that’s where I started and here’s where I am now.

Lisa: (04:11) It’s so interesting. So even I feel like I’ve been an SLP for over 20 years and I’ve done some different settings, but the bulk of my career has been in schools and you do get introduced to a lot, you know, basically depending on where you’re assigned, and it’s always kind of a mindset to me. I loved getting assigned to different types of schools, whether that be age wise or the bulk of your caseload, like what types of communication needs you were seeing, because I always looked at it as a chance for growth. But I know people get nervous, I think particularly about working with kids with complex needs. So what did you think when you first landed in that setting? Where you’re like, oh, whoa, I don’t know if this is what I want to do or did you go into it with an open mind or what did you think?

Sarah: (04:57) Or fear? Because I would be going in scared out of my mind

Emily: (04:59) I think I like to think I went in with an open mind. So when I was in grad school, I had two practicum placements, one in a school setting with elementary aged students. And I loved my supervisor and I loved that setting, but I started to realize that maybe I didn’t want to work with young children. And I had kind of worked with young children in some capacity, you know, in daycares and things like that. So maybe I just like hit a point of being burnt out with young children, I don’t know. And then my second practicum placement was in an LTAC hospital. So we did a lot of trachs and vents and swallowing, which was obviously very new to me. And I fell in love with that, but I couldn’t give up that school schedule. I was like, what can I kind of do in between working with elementary arctic and language and adult? And then I started to think, okay, well maybe like a secondary setting. I work with some older students. They wouldn’t be like super young children. And then I got to meet with the SLP who is currently in a position that I was going to be interviewing for. And just hearing her talk about how much she loved it and the type of students that were on her caseload, I thought, yeah, maybe, maybe I could do that. So that’s kind of how I got stuck there with secondary. And then when I went into it, I had no idea that there was going to be so many complex communication needs and that AAC was going to be such a big part of what I did. And I think after about a year or two into that position, I realized like, holy crap, I got to learn more about this because they didn’t teach me any of this in grad school. And so I just kind of kept learning and growing from there, like you said, you get put in these different situations and you have new case loads and you just kind of learn as you go and everything’s figure-outable. So that’s what I did.

Sarah: (06:57) I love that mentality.

Lisa: (06:59) It’s interesting that you talked about your experience about loving that kind of medical side, but still wanting to work in schools because I saw that with when Sarah and I worked in a school district in Arizona that we got a lot of graduate students from Arizona State University. And we had a lot of people that would come and they’re like, Oh no, I want to be medical. I want to work with adults. And so we would place them in more of a high school setting because I don’t think that SLPs that are studying–or actually SLP students who are studying, you know, our field really think about that bridge of you are working with you know, adults. You know, essentially you’re working, they can be in the school system, even up to age 22, they can turn 21 during the school year and still be there when they’re 22. So you do get that experience. You’ve got that angle of people with more complex needs, because that is, you know, the gamut of the field that we work in and schools are. I think people do just think of schools as it’s just reading and writing and, you know, therapy and there you can really find whatever your passion is in a school setting.

Emily: (08:07) Yeah. I, a hundred percent agree with that. And when you think about the secondary age group, the types of students and the goals that I’m writing and the therapy that we’re doing is very different from elementary. And it shouldn’t look the same as elementary. We’ve got a problem if we’ve got a kid in middle school or high school working on the same things they were working on in second grade. And so the kids that wind up on my caseload are the ones that are, are a lot more impacted. They have other syndromes, they have related issues to speech impairment. I have hardly any like speech only students on my caseload. And so it does become not that it’s super medical or super clinical, but it’s definitely different types of students than you would carry on a younger elementary caseload.

Lisa: (08:52) So I have so many questions because you talked about when you first came to this setting, you understood you had a lot of learning to do. So what, how did you get started with that? Where did you find resources? How did you build your knowledge base in that? And then you just mentioned too, of this idea about how the goals do look so different for that population. So how did you start figuring that out? And what is your kind of, what do you look at? What is your lens when you are developing treatment plans and goals for the students that you work with?

Emily: (09:20) Those are good questions. So I think my CF year I just kind of did as good as I could. I listened to my supervisor and just kind of survived that year. And then that realization kind of came at the end of the year. Like I have to figure out more for next year, like what I did this year was good, I had a good CF year, but next year we’ve got to do more. We’ve got to do better. And so in Texas, we have these different educational service center regions scattered throughout the state. And so local to me is region 13 and it’s based out of Austin, Texas. And what they do is provide different supports for school-based professionals. And it’s not just for SLPs, there’s stuff for teachers, OTs, PTs, school sites, et cetera. But for SLPs, they have the SLP leadership network there, which I’ve attended a few meetings for that, which is more general the, you know, the broad scope of SLPs in the schools. And there’s also an assistive technology leadership network there. So when I learned that there was this assistive technology leadership network, I was like, ooh, I could probably learn a lot from other people in other districts who are already doing what I’m hoping to do with my caseload. And so I got permission from my district to start attending those meetings. And they happened every couple of months I’d say. And for the first like year or two that I attended these meetings there, like just completely silent taking all the notes that I could. And like in awe of how these other districts were handling assistive technology needs. And especially in like the low incidence population that I work with, AAC. And so I’ve been part of that network now for about four or five years. And I feel like that was like the pivotal moment of being able to learn what other people are doing, what I should be doing. And then of course the world of social media has exploded so much and there’s Facebook groups and then there’s like gurus hanging out on Instagram that you can hang out with and learn from. And so all of that kind of piled together and then with trial and error and a lot of grace and coffee, I got through it and learned more about what I should be doing.

Sarah: (11:31) I love what you just said when you started that by saying, you did okay this year, you did good, but you knew next year you had to do better. And I think that’s the problem a lot of us have is you know, we’re kind of type A most of us, perfectionists by trade. You know, the field in general kind of has us feeling like there’s this like high, high standard we have to meet and we have to be these experts. And so when you’re struggling, you’re like the insecurity I think we feel, we talk about imposter syndrome all the time. We feel those things. I think we focus so much on what we’re not doing well. And instead of that idea of like, I don’t know what, all right now I’m going to do the best I can with what I have. And then I’m just going to keep learning and growing and, you know, it’s okay to do that. Like, it’s okay to, I look back at some of the shit I did in those early days. And I’m so embarrassed, but I didn’t cause any major damage, I learned from it. I took what I had and I looked at all those areas and gaps I had and how can I fill them? And where can I get more info?

Lisa: (12:32) Our field is one of lifelong learning. And so that it does make me nervous being in the role of some of the roles I’ve had as an SLP. One of them being a lead SLP, I did encounter some CF’s that thought they knew it all, because they have their shiny new degree. And that always made me so nervous because I’m like, Ooh, no, you know, nothing right now. Like, I’m glad that you’re confident and going in like feeling prepared, but you know, you’re about to get slapped upside the head by basically students, not physically, but where they are going to challenge the depths of your knowledge. So it is one that, I mean, I do feel like we get, you know, in those early years and not even early years, later years, you will always have a student that walks in and teaches you what you don’t know. And so it’s how you handle that. Like, do you handle it with, oh my gosh, I’m just going to pretend I know which, you know, a little bit of fake it til you make it.

Sarah: (13:26) Fake it til you make it.

Lisa: (13:26) but it’s more of maybe fake your confidence in that moment, but then go figure it out, go find it. Like you said, Emily, there’s so many resources that I wish were available when I was a new SLP, because there was not that presence. There was no social media, there were no websites to go to. There was nobody to learn from unless you went to an actual course. And so you are very fortunate that you live in an area that provides a lot of training. I know in our area too, we’re in a metro area, we’re in the largest city in Arizona. So there are lots of training opportunities, but you know, there are SLPs that are out there where they’re like, I’m the only SLP within a 300 mile radius and I–

Emily: (14:07) Oh that’s so hard.

Lisa: (14:07) but you know, there are resources. So even if they’re not local, the other ones that you mentioned are great.

Sarah: (14:16) Yes, and the learning from each other, I love that, that you talked about watching those other districts and SLPs and what they were doing.

Emily: (14:24) That was key, that was so key for me to see what other– I’m such a visual learner that I’m like, I can’t, I can’t understand it until I see it. And so being able to sit in a room full of people who are already doing it was really helpful to me and you’re right, I am so, so fortunate to be in an area where we have access to those types of networks and region 13, they bring a lot of speakers in for trainings also. So anytime like I’d watch their, I don’t even know what it’s called on their–on their website, where they list out all of the different workshops and stuff they have coming up. I would filter it to make sure it was like anything related to complex needs or assistive technology. So through them, I’ve been able to get lamp training, pod training, partner, input training with Jill Senner and Matt Baud, like all of the really cool trainings kind of came out of region 13, contracting that for us and us having the opportunity to sign up for that. And I’m really grateful for that.

Sarah: (15:23) Yeah.

Lisa: (15:24) So let’s get back a little bit to– we kind of touched upon you were– I loved that idea of you said that your goals and your treatment plan should not look the same in secondary as they do in elementary. So can you expand a little bit more on that for us?

Emily: (15:37) Yeah. So my big, well, the goal for myself when I’m writing goals is to keep it really functional. And so as you’re working through middle school and then into high school, I mean the ultimate goal is to get these kids able to either attend college or to get a job or to interact in their community. And that’s a lot of what we focus really hard on in our 18 plus program, but it should be like leading up to that through middle school and high school also. We don’t just want them to graduate 12th grade and all of a sudden now you’re in this community based intervention program. We want those things to be happening all of the time. So the way that I write my goals is nothing happens in isolation in a speech room. I’m very blessed to have an office space on one of my campuses, but I very rarely pull any students in there. Everything happens in the classroom or in the community. And that’s how I write my goals to support their communication in those types of environments.

Lisa: (16:31) So one of the big pushbacks that I think I have heard and have experienced at times, but the idea of working in a classroom and feeling like you’re an instructional assistant versus a specialist. How did you kind of navigate through those waters as a young therapist, and then now that you’ve had years of experience?

Emily: (16:54) Yeah, I have totally felt like that before, early on in working in the classrooms and realizing that, pulling these kids into my speech room once a week or twice a week, wasn’t going to make them have the progress that they should be having. And so I did start trying, like I heard of this like, oh, this push in thing, you go in the classroom and figure it out there. And so, yeah, very early on it did feel like you were just kind of this glorified paraprofessional or glorified IA. And by the way, those people do a badass job in the classroom.

Sarah: (17:24) Hell yeah.

Emily: (17:24) I’m not saying that that is not an important role. It’s just not my role. And so I think the training that was a game changer for me was I think it was called the SMoRRES training by Jill Senner and Matt Baud. That training was incredibly impactful because it focused on how to teach other people to provide partner– what they call partner, augmented input. Some people call it aided language stimulation. Some of us just summarize that as modeling. And then reading their research on an eight step instructional model for coaching classroom staff, very specific research. And it’s pretty much the foundation of everything that I do. So you haven’t heard that or read that one before I highly recommend that.

Sarah: (18:07) Did you say SMoRRES? Like you do around a campfire?

Emily: (18:13) Yes. I think there’s two R’s in it though, but that’s what their training- the training that they give, like as a workshop, is called a SMoRRES training and it’s an acronym for something. But it’s–

Sarah: (18:26) What is it? This is a quiz.

Emily: (18:26) Oh God

Lisa: (18:26) Just say it’s a graham cracker sandwich filled with chocolate and marshmallows.

Emily: (18:29) and they did, they passed out like actual s’mores to us during the workshop.

Sarah: (18:36) That’s adorable.

Lisa: (18:36) Sign me up, if I learn something that’s great too, but anything–

Emily: (18:42) Right? I’m just there for the s’mores.

Sarah: (18:42) You had me at s’mores. Yeah.

Emily: (18:42) I cannot remember what the acronym stands for.

Sarah: (18:47) No I’m teasing, I’m teasing. We’ll include it as a resource in this episode.

Emily: (18:50) Yes, it, yeah really good. I think they have a blog post about it on like the Practical AAC blog, where you can learn more about it. But the research article about the eight step instructional model is really what I use as the foundation of a lot of what I do in the classroom. And so they walk you through these steps of, so you’re not like pushing into the classroom and pushing the teacher out. It’s not like you’re taking over and the teacher gets like a snack break and it’s also not you come in and just sit there and like, you’re like, oh, cool, let me help you. So it walks through.

Sarah: (19:25) Or do what I used to do which is just sit in the classroom and observe. I was a good observer.

Emily: (19:34) I’m a really good observer.

Sarah: (19:34) I take notes.

Emily: (19:35) So it walks you through all of that. And that’s been really helpful to know, you know, like step one is to lead the lesson and then maybe step two, is that you’re, co-leading a lesson. And then the step three is that you’re co-leading the lesson with faded feedback or, you know, and it kind of weans you off that to where the last step is observation and coaching and just maintaining that in the classroom.

Lisa: (19:57) Well, here’s what I love about that is I do think there have been times I felt like an instructional assistant and I took that as a time to pause and ask myself why and ask myself what differences I could make. And I think the biggest challenge, whether you’re an SLP or an SLPA is that we are kind of trained to be the specialist which in–maybe training has changed too. But I mean, Sarah always says, I learned about speech pathology when the dinosaurs were still roaming the earth.

Sarah: (20:28) Truth.

Lisa: (20:28) it was more of a clinical lens. Meaning like I am the specialist, I’m with the student, my direct work from me you know, I share this like sprinkle this magic power of my awesomeness to get kids to grow in their communication skills, which sometimes that’s needed. But other times it is, I love how you talked about our specialty is actually training the individuals who are with the students day in and day out to be peppering in that modeling, that cueing, level of support. And that’s where you see the big gains, but it is–

Emily: (21:01) That’s really what it is for these students. It’s, it’s a coaching model and that’s really, I mean, I’m an SLP at the end of the day, but I feel more like a coach when I’m in the classroom, because it is, it’s less of this like specialist expert model and more of building capacity, because we know that communication happens all day long, not just in a speech room for 30 minutes.

Lisa: (21:22) Exactly.

Sarah: (21:24) Love. Love, love, love. Now, can we shift? Because this school year– actually and you can even start by talking about last spring when shit really popped off, but looks a little different than pushing into a classroom right now.

Emily: (21:36) It does.

Sarah: (21:39) So how did, how did, what happened in the spring? What did you guys end up doing? Did you just close and nobody received any support or how’d you guys do it?

Emily: (21:47) No, the show went on, it was a little bit messy, but the show went on, there were tears, but the show went on. We did a lot of zoom, and we had to write well, you know, students have IEPs in the school settings. And so for this strange time, we had to write something called an ICP and it was an individual continuity plan that documented like how were we continuing to meet their IEP minutes and services, but in a different way. And so some of it was like identical, like 30 minutes a week direct. And it was just like a 30 minute teletherapy session, but some of my students have minutes written either monthly or per semester and I label it as in class support because I’m in the classroom. And so what does that look like if you had to put it on paper? And so a lot of what I did, the teachers did like zoom lessons as best they could, obviously the school day was a little bit shorter and looked a little bit different, but I tried my best to continue to “push in” to their zoom classroom, I’m using air quotes there for zoom classrooms. And then the coaching model actually shifted away from coaching the teacher and the paraprofessionals and into coaching parents and siblings, because they’re the people who were supporting these students on zoom calls. My students can’t attend. They can’t sit at a computer and attend a zoom meeting successfully by themselves. They one hundred percent need somebody there facilitating on the other side of the screen. And if my parents have no coaching on aided language stimulation, what we normally do in the classroom, that’s a lot of what I had to do at first before we were having really good interactive zoom meetings, was give parents the support that they need to feel confident in working with their student on zoom with us.

Lisa: (23:43) So that’s, you know, it’s such, we look at therapy– again I think when people get scared of working with kids with complex needs or aren’t sure what to do, it’s still that same idea of that push and pull, the providing support pull. You know, maybe sometimes you need to focus more on this, then you can pull back and do more of this and it doesn’t mean like you can monitor and adjust and it can look different and it’s okay. And I think that’s what people don’t always feel confident in. They feel like, you know, this magic has to happen every single session. And sometimes you have to build up to that magic and that’s ok.

Emily: (24:16) Yeah, I totally agree with that. Like I said, it was messy and the motto that everyone in my district is going by right now is that we’re leading with compassion over compliance. And so we may not have met the IEP minutes exactly as they said, but we did our best in writing these ICPs. We continued to show up for the students and we all just did the best that we could.

Sarah: (24:39) Love that so much.

Lisa: (24:39) That’s all anybody can do. And you know, Sarah and I have had conversations too, because we actually even did a podcast recording with an attorney in the spring and we were just–

Emily: (24:50) I loved that episode.

Lisa: (24:52) It’s such an interesting lens and we loved having him on, but I know that there are going to– as a result of COVID and the impact it’s had on schools and districts, I know there are going to be families that are like, my kid is not getting the services in their IEP, but, you know, when I think about this shift from going from in-person, what is it? Like 30, 35 hours a week where they’re at school to now we’re shifting to this virtual model where they’re not getting that same level of instruction, then the IEP is meant to access curriculum. So when the curriculum shifts even all related services, there’s not a direct correlation that– think of, you know, if your IEP was written for an hour/month of support in a 35 hour a week, sort of in-person model, that’s not how it needs to look when it’s this virtual setting. It’s, we’ve got to kind of stop and pause and think about what are the expectations now? What are the primary communication needs arising from this? So there are going to be changes. And I don’t think that that is, you know, it’s not wrong. It’s not something that should be litigious. It’s just, we all need to kind of figure out what are these new needs and get it documented.

Emily: (26:02) Yeah. We just have to document it. And then I mean, you guys have probably heard the term synchronous and asynchronous and all of that that’s floating around right now. And so, like you said, if we have a student receiving an hour of support a month or an hour of support a week or whatever it might be, it just might, it might not all be synchronous. And as long as we have that discussion with parents ahead of time, like, hey, instead of going to school for 35 hours a week, right now they seem to be doing about five or six hours a week on zoom directly with their teacher. So speech therapy might not be correlated exactly to what’s in the IEP, but I’m still going to give you that support. I just think right now what’s most important this week is that we spend 30 minutes with parent coaching in the home before we dig into 30 minutes direct with your students.

Lisa: (26:49) And communication is so key. And I think you hit the nail on the head with the idea of you have this before, or you have this, you have to have this open channel of communication because what I think when it starts to get really where parents start to get really unhappy with districts is when it’s they have an expectation, it goes on, they feel like they’re not being heard. And then maybe explanations are thrown at them when it’s too far gone when they’re like, oh no, I haven’t even heard from anybody and now that I’m upset, I’m trying to, you know, I’m hearing the message gets crossed. Versus if you’re coming at them with, you know, your child is important, their needs are important. This is how we’re meeting their needs–

Sarah: (27:26) Proactive, not reactive.

Lisa: (27:28) And I don’t know why that’s such a struggle and not even just in this, you know, in these times of COVID and virtual learning, but in general, it can be such a struggle for some IEP teams and parents to get through.

Emily: (27:43) I see that as kind of a positive to the current, like learning situation that we have. I didn’t have a lot of contact with parents before this, you know, I’d call if I had a question or if I needed them to sign something and then I’d chat with them once a year at the IEP meeting. But now I feel like I’m in this almost weekly conversation with parents and some of my complex communicators are making more progress than they made in the classroom so now I have parent buy in. And like the whole team is here now. The parent is such a big part of the team. And so now that I get–

Sarah: (28:16) I have the chills.

Emily: (28:18) Awesome.

Sarah: (28:19) I love that. And like I love to focus on the positive, Lisa and I talk about mindset, probably every episode of this podcast. So you’re welcome. Here, I just said it again. But it is, it’s the mindset going into it and you’re right. What a cool freaking opportunity that you–we’ve never got to have before. That kind of connection with the family.

Emily: (28:42) Never, not in the schools. Yeah.

Sarah: (28:42) Right, right.

Emily: (28:44) Yeah. In the clinic, that’s something that happens really often. You know your kids, I’ve worked in a clinic setting before. You bring your kid and you say hi to the therapist, we take them back for their session and then we come out and talk about the session. We don’t do that in the schools. You have no idea where your kids are during the day if they, especially, if they can’t tell you about it.

Sarah: (29:03) Right.

Lisa: (29:04) Exactly.

Sarah: (29:06) And so are most of your parents, most of your parents are logging on with you? And, you know, I’m, I know we’ve got working parents and, you know, I have a nephew I’m trying to support who has special needs because his parents aren’t available to do it. And I can’t, I’m not always logging in, I missed OT this week with him. And so, you know, it’s hard. And so I know we have to be so compassionate to these families that are trying their best to help support their kids. But overall, you’re having a positive experience with getting most of your students seen?

Emily: (29:37) In the spring, at least for my complex communicators in like the self contained setting, most of the parents were able to participate in that. Now, I don’t know if that will be the same now in the fall. And I don’t know the situation with other employers, like they’ve made their employees come back to work now, or if the parents are choosing to stay home. I do work in a low SES community, so that plays a big part into a lot of parents do have to go to work in order to support bringing food home and having a place to live for their families. And so it might look a little bit different in the fall. My entire caseload definitely did not participate a hundred percent to the degree that I would have hoped they would have in the fall. But those who did show up, I mean, like I brought my all for them to make sure that that was still a way that they could continue to grow in their communication and to help coach parents finally, because I had always wanted to have like parent coaching seminars, you know, like after hours at the school, maybe like once a semester and we’ve done maybe like one or two. We call them parent engagement sessions. But like now I got to do it weekly almost with these parents. So I’m hoping, I’m hoping that now when they come back in a couple of weeks that we’ll have a good turnout, but I totally understand that every family situation is different and we just have to meet families where they’re at with that.

Lisa: (30:56) Well, and question, because you live in Texas, we live in Arizona, high levels of bilingual or monolingual Spanish in both of our areas. So how is that working out?

Emily: (31:08) I personally don’t have any– well, that’s a lie. I will have one bilingual student on my caseload this year. She’s a bilingual English and Vietnamese, and actually Phuong who you had on the podcast the last episode, she did the evaluation for this student and I was just blown away reading her evaluation. I was like this is the best report I’ve ever read!

Lisa: (31:32) Did you ask her to sign you an autographed copy of said evaluation?

Sarah: (31:34) Right.

Emily: (31:34) Well I have her signature on it

Sarah: (31:34) There you go, that counts. Frame it. You need to frame that

Emily: (31:45) I was like this is an incredible report! I’m star struck. I was so excited, but we do, we have a lot of bilingual SLPs in the district covering mostly our elementary campuses. And we have one SLP who is a bilingual evaluator. All she does is bilingual evaluations in the district. So that’s really helpful. But yeah, I haven’t had to navigate that too much at the secondary level.

Lisa: (32:13) Well, in Arizona, I know instruction is done in English, but then you have families that are monolingual of, you know, primarily Spanish in our area, and other languages as well. So I’m just– that would be something I think, tricky to navigate too if they were there

Sarah: (32:28) Yeah, with the parent coaching model. Yeah.

Emily: (32:33) We have a system– oh gosh, I haven’t used it since the spring, so I can’t even remember the name of it. It’s a messaging system that our district is subscribed to. School status, I think is what it’s called. And you can like text parents without it being like from your phone number, like from this database system. And there’s like a really nifty translate button. So if you had to translate it into another language you could, and it would probably be off just a little bit like Google translate. But for the most part I’ve used it a couple of times and it’s been pretty accurate.

Lisa: (33:02) Well, and that’s one of the benefits I think of now too. It’s not just, we talked about the benefits for SLPs of everyone being so connected with social media and everything, but now parents too, like almost everybody has access to a phone that can text. So that’s a great way. And it’s actually a preferred way for a lot of people, that you know, people have moved away from– Sarah– wanting–

Sarah: (33:25) Yeah. I don’t use my phone to talk. Do not call me.

Emily: (33:32) You can talk on a phone? What?

Lisa: (33:32) So that’s what I always think. Like, you know, I would have much preferred– even now I have one daughter that’s still in K-12, she’s in high school. And I’m like, please do not call me about anything, unless if it’s something that I can read. So that’s super cool just to be checking that even when we shift back into sort of quote unquote typical school where we’re going back live in regular hours, I think that, you know, this idea of coming away with this relationship with the parents and nurturing, that is huge.

Emily: (34:03) Yes, agreed.

Sarah: (34:03) So I know you haven’t started back yet, but it’s interesting too. Arizona started back early August, first week of August and leading up to it. I mean, I think the day before everybody was still like, yeah, we don’t know. We don’t know. Nobody knows what’s happening. Now you guys are starting a little later, but are you still having that same where like, do you know what’s happening in two weeks? Or?

Emily: (34:28) No, I have no idea what I’m doing.

Sarah: (34:31) Okay.

Emily: (34:31) No I’m just kidding. I know a little bit, I know a little bit. We, the teachers and SLPs and all of the staff we’ve had three, well, by the time students start we’ll have had three weeks of professional development, workdays, meetings with different departments and campuses. Like we’re trying really hard as a district to figure this out.

Lisa: (34:51) In person or virtual?

Emily: (34:51) Say that again?

Sarah: (34:51) Well, I think–

Lisa: (34:53) in person or virtual meetings? Like, is this all being done–are you required to go back to a campus? Or you’re doing this virtually?

Emily: (34:59) We have the option. I’ve personally been working from home but even if you’re on campus, everything’s happening virtually, like you’re just in a classroom on your computer virtually.

Sarah: (35:10) Now that’s super impressive though, because I feel like our teachers who are, you know, we did go back online most of our schools, and I think they had one day to figure that out.

Emily: (35:23) Oh my gosh (unintelligible).

Sarah: (35:23) I could be wrong.

Lisa: (35:23) Sarah, one day.

Sarah: (35:25) I really think they did.

Emily: (35:26) That’s hard. Yeah. We still don’t know everything, but every day we know a little bit more. And so I feel like by the time students start we’ll know enough, like enough to be dangerous, but we’ll still be figuring it out as we go. And we’re all remote. The entire district is remote for at least four weeks. And then depending on what, like the COVID count is trending in like the county at that time, the superintendent can extend that another four weeks. So we won’t know that until it happens. And that would bring us to the beginning of November, which would be really interesting because then by the time we come back in person, it would be almost like holiday season and all the and traveling.

Lisa: (36:06) Not just holidays but then you’re getting into flu season and then I keep thinking everyone’s going to be so paranoid that if anyone ever gets like the regular flu that comes annually, that, you know, everyone’s going to think that they have COVID.

Emily: (36:23) I know it’s just like this extra layer to everything that’s already happening.

Sarah: (36:27) I know. I panic every time I cough. But I just always wanna tell people it’s because I don’t swallow well. I’m just always choking on my own spit.

Emily: (36:42) Just got a touch of dysphagia over here.

Sarah: (36:42) Seriously. That’s so good. Now what–now I know because of the population you work in, I am hopeful that your caseload is not like a typical, like what we have when you’re working with just mostly artic and language students, but what size is your caseload?

Emily: (36:53) I hang out around 50 to 55 students across five campuses. Yeah.

Sarah: (37:00) Holy crap.

Emily: (37:01) Yeah–

Sarah: (37:03) Because you know I love that work load model in students that have more significant needs that you balance that out in your caseload, but you know, that’s in a ideal world and not the real world. So ok that’s a huge amount of students. Now, how are you going to schedule this online and try to meet their needs?

Emily: (37:19) Good question. I don’t know. I really don’t know.

Sarah: (37:23) Yeah I figured.

Emily: (37:23) I’m banking on–well, not banking because I really do hope that everybody shows up. But knowing what my numbers look like in the spring for how many people actually showed up– anticipating maybe is a better word that there will be some of the caseload that doesn’t show up for remote learning. But then it just like, thinking of scheduling is just so hard right now because we’ve got four to eight weeks of remote. So I’ll get a schedule set up for that eventually, but then we’ll come back in person, but families still have the option to stay remote. So then I have to figure out what the schedule is across four to five campuses in person plus who’s remote. Yeah. And I haven’t gotten there yet.

Sarah: (38:05) So are you drinking a lot?

Lisa: (38:08) Yeah, that’s the first thing I was thinking (unintelligible)

Emily: (38:11) Yeah. I rotate between espresso, red bull and wine which is probably not the healthiest situation, but I’m alive, I’m ok.

Lisa: (38:14) I think you and I would be able to hang out and just really get along Emily ‘cause those are my three drinks.

Sarah: (38:29) Yeah, those are Lisa’s three favorite drinks too.

Emily: (38:31) Yes.

Sarah: (38:31) I noticed that neither of you said water.

Emily: (38:33) I am– I’m drinking water right now.

Sarah: (38:38) Oh okay. Okay, okay.

Lisa: (38:39) You gotta flush that stuff out somehow.

Emily: (38:40) Yeah, yeah. It’s like it’s in between. Yesterday I drank almost 80 ounces of water. I’m doing good.

Sarah: (38:46) Ok, alright, good. Stay hydrated. You’re going to need it.

Emily: (38:50) Yeah, oh yeah.

Sarah: (38:50) Oh my gosh. It’s gonna be so challenging because I imagine with the fact that parents have to be so involved, will you still try to group students or are they going to be seen more one-on-one?

Emily: (39:04) You know, like in the spring and like I do normally I try to push into whatever the teacher is doing and I have really, really good working relationships with all of the teachers on the campuses that I serve. So I’m hopeful that given the bell schedule that we’ve been given for a few of the campuses that I can make it work collaborating with the teacher during their lesson times. And then I think what the teachers are doing are at the end of the day, having kind of like office hours or for our mainstream students, tutorials and things like that. So just being available to parents in the afternoon. Also, if they feel like, hey, I wish I had a little more time with you, like, thanks for coming to the class this morning, but can we meet with just you? Or like I had some questions about what you were doing during the class. So it’ll be a little bit of both I think.

Lisa: (39:52) That’s a huge point that you just brought up, that you currently have relationships with your team. So what advice would you give, think about when you first started in the schools, when you were going to do inclusive, sorts of–an inclusive therapy model in the classroom, how did you build those relationships to even be able to do that? And what advice would you give maybe to somebody who is starting a new school and is having to work with teams? Like what are some great tips?

Emily: (40:21) I talk a lot about building rapport, not only with your students, but with the teams that you work with as well. I actually did a presentation for AAC in the Cloud a couple months ago about how to get staff buy in specifically for AAC in the classroom. And a big component of that is having a good relationship with the people that you work with. I don’t know what the secret formula is but I think that a big part of it was stepping away from that expert or specialist model and just immersing myself in the classroom and truly being part of the team. Cause I think teachers sometimes like when we, if we come in and do push in where it’s really pushing the teacher out, or if we just pull students out of the classroom, we don’t know what’s going on in the classroom all of the other times of the day. And so spending a lot of time in the classroom, sometimes I just go sit in the classroom to do documentation. Like I’m not doing therapy, I’m not even really observing. I’m just there like as a person. So like I’m here if you need me, even if you need to run to the bathroom, I’m here to watch your class and just, you know, be part of the team and know that there’s stuff that happens other parts of the day outside of therapy. And I think teachers just need to know that other people see that. And we don’t think they’re crazy that like this isn’t possible for me to do don’t you know what Johnny did yesterday? Kind of thing

Sarah: (41:38) Right, I love that.

Emily: (41:40) So just being part of that team I think has been–

Sarah: (41:42) And they don’t know what you’re doing if you’re not in the classroom.

Emily: (41:44) Exactly. Yes, that is a big part too.

Sarah: (41:44) So it’s like you know we can’t get mad at them for not understanding our role or respecting our expertise when they’ve never seen you.

Emily: (41:58) Yeah, they’re like what do you do in that speech room?

Lisa: (41:58) I think it’s so fascinating. I have had encounters with SLPs before that were like, I told the teacher to do this and they didn’t. I go, oh, how would you feel if you have zero relationship with somebody and they came into your speech room and tried to tell you what to do (unintelligible) for the student. And so I feel like people lose perspective of this idea of relationship building. So I’m so glad you brought that up because I am not going to listen to you or have any buy-in for what you have to say if you come in and just start telling me what I’m supposed to do.

Emily: (42:28) Yes. And I think the fact that I don’t have an office space on every campus that I serve has actually been helpful. I know that, I mean, a lot of people in our field talk about that we work out of closets a lot and I have had my fair share of closets. I have an office space on one of the campuses that I serve, and it’s kind of like my central hub. But when I go to these other campuses, like there’s no place other than the classroom for me to be. And so even if I’m designated, like my time block at that campus for myself is three hours, but I’ve only got an hour and a half of like therapy minutes to meet, like I’m in the classroom for those three hours and I’m coaching or I’m just doing documentation. I’m eating lunch with the teachers. All of that kind of good stuff has been really important.

Sarah: (43:13) So good. I love that. Can we talk about AAC a little bit? What does that look like over a computer screen?

Lisa: (43:23) And do the devices go home? I mean, I know they’re supposed to but did you have any instances where devices were left at school and you guys had to figure out how to get them into the hands of the parents?

Emily: (43:34) Yeah. We had a lot of devices that weren’t being sent home already, like before COVID. And I don’t really have a good excuse why that was. And so this has been kind of an eye opener for that too, that we’ve got to get these devices in the home sooner than we were before, but yeah, we had to scramble to collect all of these devices and like the campuses were only like letting certain people on campus at certain times for like 10 minutes at a time. So like we’d literally run in and throw these devices in bags and run out and be like, okay, whose device do you have and where does it need to go? And we did a lot of like curbside delivery devices just so that they would have them at home. And then I was terrified. I’m like, Oh my God, these parents have never seen their child’s device before. They’ve heard me talk about it. They know their kid’s making progress with it, but they’ve never had to like look at the screen before. Oh my God, I’m going to totally overwhelm these people. And so that’s when my mindset had to shift to parent coaching versus teacher coaching. And so yeah, the kids got their– I made sure all of them had their devices at home or their core boards if it was low tech. And then I am very fortunate to have an iPad assigned to me that has like a whole slew of apps on it. I got a grant approved a few years ago so that I could trial and become more proficient with a variety of apps. And so I have that here with me at home and I had to figure out how do I get what’s on my iPad screen to be on the computer screen, and then share it while we’re in zoom. And with the help of some people on Instagram, we figured out that there are, there’s a few ways to do it, but for me I use, an app called AirServer and it’s– you download the app on your iPad and then you download the software on your computer and you can essentially screen share your iPad screen onto your desktop. And then you can split screen also. So I could have like LAMP words for life on half of my computer screen and a YouTube video on the other half of my screen. And then in zoom share the entire screen and my students would see both the activity or if it was Boom cards on the other half of the screen and then the device over there. So they could still see what I was modeling. Parents could kind of, I could walk them through, like if we were doing a shared reading lesson, modeling something and they’re like, wait a second, where was that word? We all pause. And I say, okay, look at the screen, and I do like the little annotation circle over. Okay, first you’re going to click this. Then you’ll click this. And they’re like, oh cool. I found it. And so that’s a lot of what it looks like for us.

Lisa: (46:13) I love this though. I love this I mean–

Sarah: (46:17) I do too.

Lisa: (46:17) I know it’s challenging and you’re probably in a different kind of learning curve than you’ve ever been before. But the opportunity to make this full circle for that student where they are getting the same sort of support at home as they are at school and everybody’s getting trained in the same way. It’s just that, that is the true magic.

Emily: (46:37) Yeah. I’m really excited for when we do finally go–if we ever do go back to normal or, you know, back in school in some capacity, continuing to support the parents and the families, as well as the teachers. I’m just so excited to see what kind of progress my students can make when both teams like the parent team at home, the teacher classroom team at school come together. Like there’s no way that my kids can’t make more progress that way. There’s no way.

Lisa: (47:05) It’s awesome.

Sarah: (47:07) It really is. That’s the one thing I’m very hopeful for is that if I’ve learned anything this year, like yes, 2020 sucks, I mean, like I hate it, but at the same time, we’re going to learn so much because we’ve had this experience that we would’ve never, ever learned had we not gone through it. Like that’s just life, right? And so I’m hopeful that this– we take this opportunity and as an education system, as a whole, I hope we look at incorporating technology more. I hope we look at more online supports and we’re prepared to do that in the future because it’s just the way things are going. I mean, if I had an office space right now with people working, I mean, we do, but I mean, if I had people coming in here every day, I’d be like, why? We don’t–if this has taught us anything, it’s, we don’t need to be physically present all the time at the office.

Emily: (47:57) Like these things that we’re realizing like you don’t even need to be here. I can’t think of how many ARDs we call them ARDs in Texas, by the way– they’re IEP meetings everywhere else. But in Texas, we call them ARDs. How many times we’ve had to cancel or reschedule an ARD because a parent couldn’t make it? And for the community that I serve with the low socioeconomic status, sometimes they’re at work and they can’t get time off work. Sometimes they don’t have a vehicle because somebody dropped them off at work. But if they could just zoom into the ARD meeting now, like why is that not going to be an option? There’s no excuse now to not have those meetings.

Sarah: (48:32) That’s exactly right. Yeah. Yeah. So there is, there is some things that we’re, I think we’re going to take away from this experience. And I think if anything, too, if it just gets us, gives us this time. I know I’ve never had this much time in my life to think and pause and breathe. And so, but you know, I’ve had all this time to do these things I haven’t normally done. And so I hope this gives us that opportunity to like reflect on our strengths and what we’re good at and the fact that we’re awesome problem solvers and that we are compassionate and that matters more than compliance. You know? I think those are the things that, that we’ve got to just take away from this. And like you said, have grace, be patient, be kind to each other. I hate, I hate seeing negative things coming from parents about teachers and likewise, I don’t want to hear negative things from teachers about parents. Yeah. So freaking good. Oh my gosh. Did we? I know we had, like, there’s so many things we want to–one how awesome to talk about secondary because we just don’t get a lot of representation for those secondary SLPs out there. And we’re going to try to do better with Summit and getting that represented more. But then also this idea of servicing students with complex needs during teletherapy, I’m so glad we were able to talk about that. Anything else you guys?

Lisa: (49:53) I don’t think so.

Emily: (49:54) No, that was awesome. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity because you’re right. We don’t talk enough about the secondary population. And then especially with teletherapy and distance learning, this mod to severe population, complex communication needs. All of these trainings that are out there are really great, but sometimes we kind of feel like, okay, so how does that work for us? So I hope that this has been helpful to who ever’s listening to realize that it is possible. It’s figure outable and yeah, we’re gonna lead with compassion over compliance for that.

Lisa: (50:25) Emily, (unintelligible) I follow you on Instagram. What is your Instagram handle? And can you tell us about your website too, for people who want to learn more about you?

Emily: (50:34) Yeah. I try to keep the same name everywhere. So on Instagram, @emilydiazslp. Got a Facebook page, Emily Diaz SLP, and my website is also emilydiazslp.com. Most of what I talked about–

Lisa: (50:48) Wait what was that? I didn’t hear it the first three times.

Emily: (50:49) Let me just say it one more time. You shouda got it. Yeah. Write it down. Yeah. I try to keep it simple. I don’t want to be like different names on different platforms and all of that, but yeah, my big focus is on AAC and coaching, like the coaching model for parents and in the classroom and just empowering people to know that it’s never too late to get a kid started with AAC. A lot of the students that I work with in secondary, sometimes it’s their first time being introduced to AAC and it can still be impactful. I have some virtual trainings available on YouTube also. My AAC in the Cloud presentation is also available on YouTube. And I just, I try to share resources that help us, especially during this time. And you know, I’m figuring things out too, as we go, but I’m hopeful that some of my resources can be helpful to other SLPs that service similar caseloads to me.

Lisa: (51:49) Absolutely.

Sarah: (51:52) So good. This has been such a pleasure, Emily, thank you so much for finding time to chat with us. We really appreciate it.

Emily: (51:57) Yeah. Thank you guys.

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