Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Age Old Question: What to do with Missed Sessions?

While spending my Sunday afternoon browsing Facebook, I saw a question on Jenna Rayburn's (from Speech Room News) status from a speech-language pathologist:  How do we deal with missed sessions?

This question was a bit of a hot-button issue my first two years of working in the schools.  In my first year, we were strongly encouraged to make up every session that was missed, whether it was student absence or the speech-language pathologist's.  With a caseload of fifty (which is far less than I've seen other speech-language pathologists have) and no option of substitutes, missing a day of work due to PD or illness was like a death sentence.  It even got to the point that we were expected to makeup minutes that the children would be missing over holiday breaks.  That did not last long, however, as it was soon realized that this goal was completely unrealistic.  To make up sessions, I would have to group more students together and sessions became more about the quantity and less about the quality.  I'm all about keeping compliance with the child's IEP, it's written and designed by the team for a good reason, but when you're seeing a group of five to six kids for the sake of meeting minutes and not much else, quite frankly, it's a waste of the student's instructional time and my own.

On Jenna's Facebook post, a speech-language pathologist recommended going to the ASHA website and searching "missed services," so I did just that.  This article/notification popped up.

In a nut shell, it explains that the state or districts should not be creating policies on how missed sessions should be made up.  Instead, the IEP team should be the decision makers on how great an impact missed sessions would have on the student's FAPE and determine what the outcomes should be to ensure FAPE.

I am curious to try the 3:1 model to help with making up missed sessions in a productive and efficient manner, but have not yet figured out to make this work in my district or agency, although I believe it is something they are looking into.  For now, I reserve Wednesday afternoons for meetings (my district has monthly meetings on  Wednesday afternoons), as well as IEP meetings, work time, and make-up sessions.  This has worked well for me in the past.  I also write a statement on my student's IEPs (individualized for specific students) that addresses the issue of missed sessions.  For example, while describing their services, I may write:

"Minutes per month may vary due to limited student absences, limited speech-language pathologist's absences, school breaks, assemblies, testing, and weather cancellations."

If you want to get more specific, you may want to state the number of absences (e.g. sessions will be made up if the student has missed more than two sessions per month).  I always make a point to discuss this at the IEP meeting and all my parents and teachers have been very understanding.

As speech-language pathologists, we are in the service of helping people.  I personally love my job.  I love working with the kids.  I love collaborating with the teachers.  I love coaching and guiding parents.  I love watching my student's growth.  And you better believe I am one proud mama when a kid is able to graduate from speech services!  Paperwork and rules and compliance are just all part of the package that comes along with being a school-based speech-language pathologist.  Although issues like this can cause stress, we, as SLPs, need to remember that our job is to provide quality therapy and support our students the best we can.  Discuss the implications and outcomes of missed sessions with the IEP team.  When you're deciding the outcome as a team, with the child in mind, you will be less likely to be stressed about making up sessions when needed, and more focused on what is right for the child.

How do you view making up missed sessions?  How do you handle missed sessions?

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