When I fantasize about my perfect SLP day, so much about it comes down to how I and other SLPs save time.

I want enough time to plan therapy so I can have great sessions because the therapy is what I love most about this job.

I want to arrive at a perfect diagnosis and goals in just the right amount of time. 

I want to save time writing evaluations and doing paperwork.  I don’t hate this stuff but I don’t necessarily enjoy it 😊!  And, overall I want this to be a small percentage of my time. 

I want time to collaborate and call parents.

I want to be given time to go to conferences, learn online, and interact with other SLPs without feeling like I will be buried when I get back to work.

It doesn’t always feel like time is on our side to get this done.  Which, leads to this question:

Is being an SLP stressful?

This question was asked by an aspiring SLP who is considering joining the field.  How would you answer this question?  I don’t want to answer it!  A direct answer to the question misses all the reasons that the job is worth it. 

Is being an SLP stressful?  Yes, due to current paperwork requirements, caseload sizes, and funding issues, the amount of stress that SLPs experience is increasing.  But also no.  Every job has an inherent level of stress and when weighed against our mission and the families and colleagues we get to work with, it might balance out in our favor.   No X2:  There are SLPs that save time in very substantial ways and thereby spend a greater amount of time not:

  • Doing things they don’t like
  • Under the gun!
  • Up against a deadline
  • Reacting instead of planning and creating

And that is what this essay is about.  We gathered some time-saving tips for SLPs from some veterans in our field that have dramatically shifted the way they approach their job to reduce stress, do more of what they want, and yes, “save time.”

Are SLP Hacks Useful?

Before we begin, I want to make a clear distinction between a “hack” and a “strategy.” I want all of us to move away from the idea of “SLP Hacks” for our own health and survival.  The notion of hacks is now pervading everything that we do from diet hacks to exercise hacks.  From speech therapy hacks to speech language evaluation hacks.

What a hack says is:

“I am busy.  I want to pick up some quick tips from someone who has already figured this out.  Why re-invent the wheel?”

But what a hack also says is:

It is not an activity that I have built into my process so I am not sure it is sustainable.  I will be back here searching for more “hacks” in the future if this doesn’t stick. I don’t know if I have enough to go on so I don’t have full buy-in.

So, yes! Let’s organize better and apply productivity ideas that come from all walks of life.  These “hacks” (or really strategies) can make our therapy more fun and our materials last longer.

And, yes!  Let’s rely on people who have figured this out.  But let’s make sure we actually get time back, gain momentum, and effectively write, meet, qualify, serve, and dismiss.

Time Saving Strategies for SLPs

The following strategies are how 15- and 20-year veteran SLPs save time so we have divided them into the categories that matter most.

1. SLPs Save Time by Not Planning Therapy

One of my favorite books of all time is The Gift of Nothing where Mooch the cat desperately wants to find a gift for his friend – Earl the dog.  Ultimately, he gives him the best gift of all – nothing, because nothing is greater than their friendship.

I love this sentiment and carried it as a mantra when developing the Curriculum-Based Intervention books.  Here is the basic idea: Don’t choose your own therapy topics.  Use the grade-level topics and all the materials that the teachers have gathered in their online classrooms and in person.  You bring the goals.

  • The teachers have done the work for you already
  • Bonus: The teachers appreciate that you are vesting in their topics
  • The students have a way to practice what you are teaching
  • The parents get the homework and more easily see why what you are teaching is important.

Read this for more information: 5 Tips to Reduce Speech Therapy Planning Time

2. SLPs Save Time By Reducing The Evaluation Process

I think that many of us do evaluations the same way we learned how to do them in grad school.  We have probably gotten faster but the process is just a quicker version of the same laborious process.

  • We start a conversation to make the child comfortable.
  • We do the formal test first because it is the biggest part and we don’t want to run out of “time.”
  • We do some informal stuff.
  • We review the results and often in a separate session we try dynamic assessment to see if they can produce better results than they did initially.
  • Then, and I know this never happens to you, but something might come up that wasn’t in the referral packet and we have to circle back to do artic/voice/fluency/language/fill-in-the-blank.

Let’s re-envision our evaluations and save time by thinking of it as a big game of Plinko

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Dropping the puck is doing a language sample.  The testing types are the money at the bottom and the language sample tells you what to test. 

Start with a language sample. If your language sample takes longer than 15 minutes you need to stop and watch this:

How to do a Language Sample

In less than 15 minutes, here is what a language sample gives you:

  • Your articulation sample
  • Your fluency sample
  • Your language sample
  • Voice and pragmatic info
  • Story-telling abilities
  • Question-answering abilities

Boom! And for the love of all things great and good – type that puppy WHILE THE CHILD IS SPEAKING. You don’t have time to do it later.

The language sample tells us what to spend our time on for formal testing.

Here’s what I look like when the child nails it and it looks like I am heading towards a disqualification.

Slp GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 If we reorganize our evaluation process, we can chop off massive portions and get better results more quickly.

3. Don’t See Your Medicaid, Progress Notes, Data, and Reevals as Separate Events

SLPs Save Time by combining the referral, evaluation, data, and Medicaid processes

Veteran SLPs save time by viewing all of their administrative processes as a single event. Here’s what it looks like.

Use your therapy time to do a language sample with every student. 

  • This is your data baseline. Student produced 3/6 initial /r/ words/produced 4-6 word utterances
  • It is your eval data for a reeval or dismissal.
  • It is your progress note for that 6 or 9-week period
  • It counts as therapy for that day.
  • It let’s you know if she should be considered for dismissal

Do not send things made in therapy home weekly. Staple it to the progress note.

  • It is your progress note with an explanatory sentence
  • It is your attendance
  • It is your data (child followed directions/answered # WH questions)
  • It makes parents happy. Most parents credit your therapy activities to the teacher unless you explicitly point it out.

If you do Medicaid, do that first.  It is your attendance, progress note, and data.  Just cut and paste from Medicaid to the other needs.

What Time-Saving SLP Strategies Do You Use?

We polled our community and I want to share some of the sheer brilliance that came back:

Group sessions back to back and then keep all your breaks in one large block of time.

Don’t ever plan therapy for only one group.  Choose therapy materials (literacy-based intervention) that can apply to many disorders.

Create lists of tasks based on the amount of time it takes to do the task.  If you have only have 5 minutes, see what you can do in 5 minutes (example: call Jennifer).

Only check your email once per day or only at the beginning and the end of the day (email seems to be the biggest time waster).

Bank therapy time in the fall when it is slower so that you have it to use when the spring is crazy.

Don’t wait longer than one week to do your Medicaid; set aside an hour each week to catch up.  It will be fresher and take less time.

Get parent, teacher, health, and classroom observation information for the evaluation at the meeting where you sign consent.

Now it’s your turn

Don’t be shy.  Comment below with your best tried-and-true strategies so that we can all benefit together.

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