I recently spoke to an SLP in the Peel District School Board about her thoughts on service delivery in the school board.
The SLP mentioned that over 50% of her referrals are students who can’t read, and thus she spends quite a bit of time targeting goals related to the “Big 5” of reading. The SLP mentioned that she has found the following reading programs useful (prices may vary; the prices included were estimates from the SLP):
Explode the Code (https://www.explodethecode.com/):
This program offers workbooks which provide phonics instruction (i.e., vowel rules, spelling rules, etc.). It can also be accessed through an online subscription instead of purchasing the physical workbooks for children. The SLP mentioned that she sometimes suggests the program to parents who want to give their child more practice with reading (i.e., As an alternative to expensive tutoring or Kumon sessions, since the online subscription option is $65 USD), or it is used in small groups in the classrooms.
Empower Reading (http://www.sickkids.ca/empower/):
This program focuses on decoding strategies. The SLP doesn’t directly deliver this intervention (she mentioned that teachers are typically trained in the program and it is quite costly to complete the training…about $5000) but supports teachers who are implementing it with students who have reading disabilities.
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons:
This book is about $20 from Chapters and provides a step-by-step phonics-based reading program. The SLP mentioned that it is a quick option for parents to use at home (i.e., Parent only needs to spend 20 minutes doing a lesson with the child).
Apps & the Use of Technology
What’s “app” with all these iPads in schools nowadays? Technology now seems to play a significant role in most classrooms across schools, particularly the use of iPads and educational apps. For this reason, I wanted to get the SLP’s thoughts on the use of apps with clients. She mentioned that iPads are very popular and abundant in the PDSB. She stated that there are no apps she swears by to target a specific speech or language concern, especially for phonological awareness, and instead tends to look for apps which can be used as a “game” or tool to support language development. For example, Toca Boca and My Playhome are apps where children can interact with certain settings (i.e., hair salon, kitchen, etc.), but the apps themselves don’t produce any speech, which allows the SLP and child to use their own language while interacting with the settings (i.e., To support practice with wh- questions or prepositions while interacting with the kitchen: “Where should we put the pot? On the stove?”).
Service Delivery Delivery Challenges
In terms of challenges when delivering intervention, the SLP stated that the main challenge is that many staff and administrators in the school board don’t really understand what therapy and the SLP’s role entails. The role of the school board SLP may be further confused because a child’s CCAC SLP may be playing a different role in the school (i.e., targeting articulation and less involved in the classroom). The SLP stated that it’s important that the teacher understands why she is there (to help the child succeed in the classroom…not just to help with articulation issues, which is what some teachers may think!) and that SLPs establish a partnership with the teacher. These partnerships can also create more opportunities for Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions, since the teacher can appreciate the role an SLP can play in the classroom setting. Speaking to this school board SLP helped me better understand what types of resources and constraints can shape an SLP’s practice.
Reflecting on Intervention in the School Board
As an SLP, I think the school board would be an exciting work environment because you can integrate so many creative resources and programs into practice. In the case of school boards with larger SLP teams, you can also consult with knowledgeable colleagues from diverse professional backgrounds to strengthen your own evidence-based practice. I also enjoy the opportunity to work with parents and an inter-disciplinary team of professionals, including teachers, psychologists, and social workers, since my school board placement at the Thames Valley District School Board made me realize how each of these team members brings unique findings and insight regarding how to best help the child succeed. I’m glad I received some valuable insights from an SLP actually working in the school board setting this term!