Scheduling done right...the first time!

Okay, so in my experience, creating a speech schedule that sticks the first time is nearly impossible.  Every school and SLP has a different approach, but often times for the SLP it's a waiting game.  Wait for the lunch, special/encore (music and physical education at my school), intervention specialists', reading specialists', and of course those classroom teacher schedules and then try to touch base with the OT and ESL teacher to note days in which they will service the building.  Likely you already feel overwhelmed and school is now weeks in and you, the SLP, have hap-hazardly grabbed your students trying to meet minutes, gather baseline, and begin a structured therapy routine.  Your schedule still is NOT done.  This is completely normal and for impulsive, anxious people like me, feels out of the norm.     Believe me when I say, I don't have all the answers, these are just a few tips in which I try yearly when creating my speech language therapy schedule.

{Should you be wondering, this year I am scheduling for about 70 elementary students, mainly students on IEPs, but also a handful receiving speech interventions through RtI.}

1.  Be patient.  Tell yourself it will all work out.
2.  Be flexible.  I do tend to like order.  It makes my heart perfectly happy if each group is seen twice weekly on coordinating days at the same time.  Is this possible?  Sometimes.  Be ready to deviate.
3.  I start by printing out IEP at a Glance forms for each student (these are created by our software program, but basically a sheet that identifies the service and goals).  Then, I write down/highlight the number of minutes that each student receives whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly.  I find the student on the class lists and write their teacher and grade on the form.  Next, I sort the forms by grade and teacher.
4.  When making my tentative groups, I try as much as possible to group students by classroom.  I am a people pleaser and I need teachers on my side.  If you get on the committee that create class lists, you may be able to cluster your students a bit.  Should I have more than a small group of students in a class, which if clustered that sometimes happens, then I try to sort them by goal area.  This makes for much more effective group therapy!  If I have only 1 or 2 students from a class, then I go across the grade level to choose another 1 or 2 students to compliment this group.
5.  I DO NOT allow teachers to choose their time.  Yes, I do want them on my side, but everyone will want the same time and then I will lose a lot of credit when I keep telling them it won't work.  I talk with a select few.  Those with a large number of my students in their class and often the 4th and 5th grade teachers because they may be switching classes across grade level and that throws another schedule into the mix.  I also try to see if anyone might be willing to accept a push-in model.  Next, I tentatively, in pencil, plug in groups around all those schedules I talked about earlier.  I do keep to the nice neat schedule of twice weekly at the same time and coordinating days, until it won't happen.  I will do groups of different durations (15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc.) and I will have some students only come once weekly or more than twice, if needed.
6.  I do allow time for testing within my schedule and I often don't budge on this time.  I will switch it, but I won't reduce it, as that will just cause cancellation of therapy later.  I will give myself a non-traditional time for lunch or split it up.  Although not ideal, I am here for the kids and I if you remember #2, I need to be flexible!
7.  I try to be a positive influence and I am not above giving gifts (chocolate usually works), thank you e-mails, thank-you notes or personal thank-yous.  That being said, I ask for teachers to follow rule #1, and I assure them that I will try out my attempt, communicate with them about my ideas, and do the best I can to adjust if it doesn't meet student needs.
8.  Then I stick to my schedule AND give everyone a copy.  Transparency!

So, have I achieved scheduling right...the first time?  I am here to say, at my new school, with only a few tweaks when I gave my schedule a trial run this past week, I have just printed it off and am ready to send to everyone!  I even have a lunch daily!  I'm feeling good, but not naive enough to forget #2 and this saying, "change is inevitable!"

If you need any schedule templates, make sure to download my FREEBIE which you can find in a Google Docs file in this post.  You can adjust this Excel spreadsheet to meet your needs, both daily and weekly schedule templates are included.  Below is my weekly schedule before I added any actual students.  The colors indicate how my mind was thinking to group students.  Purple and orange days were the twice weekly starting points.  Yellow was to remember to schedule a lunch.  Blue was once weekly or push-in services (I'm happy to report I've added even more push-in.), and green was testing and some meeting time.

Should you still be working out a schedule.  I wish you LOTS of luck, patience, and flexibility!  I'd love to hear your success stories!

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