Stressed Out?? Here are some things to try

Changes in budgets, staffing, legislation, caseloads, leadership . . . all of these things can lead to stress.  While work stress is not uncommon for SLPs in the schools, in times of significant change, stress can become even greater.  Take a moment to look at the list below, and hopefully you will find some things that you can do to decrease the stress in your professional life. 

Be open to change, innovation and new opportunities

  • Change your environment.  If you are constantly around negative people, try to find a way to “get away.”  Consider teaming with a therapist on another campus to share the load.
  • Keep yourself motivated. Seeking out new experiences can be one way to maintain professional interest and prevent stagnation. Try a different service delivery model, a new therapy approach, or creative new materials.
  • Seek out personal learning experiences. Professional and personal growth requires that we keep learning.

Be positive about yourself and your profession

  • Allow a ‘moment of glory’ to accept and acknowledge positive feedback.
  • Look for the ‘silver lining.’ Sometimes, that can help you see other positives in an otherwise bad situation.
  • Become directly involved. In many cases, working directly to deal with the issues that cause problems can be both therapeutic and productive.
  • Remember the children you serve. Remember why you have chosen to be a speech language pathologist. Focus on the personal, professional, and philosophical reasons that give meaning to your working hours.

Organize your time and activities

  • Set realistic and flexible professional goals and objectives. Don’t set expectations that will be impossible to meet.
  • Plan out your calendar for all of your “indirect” job requirements as well as your therapy.  Put things like ARD paperwork, SHARS, and assessment report writing on your calendar for the next day before you leave each day.  Establish priorities to deal with needs in the order of importance.
  • Leave your work at school. Bringing work home after school can cause problems in that it often interferes with personal and family life. One way to break that cycle is to avoid bringing work home.
  • Pace yourself. Approaches to help avoid wasting time and prevent procrastination include setting realistic time lines, getting high priority work done early in the day and including time for yourself in each day. Do not try to do everything at once.
  • Organize your workspace. Improved workspace organization can save time and increase professional productivity.

 Allow time for physical activity

  • Get up and get moving. Physical activity is the only research-based strategy for alleviating stress and anxiety.  Create time to walk around or get away from your desk, particularly if you’re spending a lot of time working on paperwork or reports.
  • Incorporate movement into therapy.  This is true for children, too, and they have fewer and fewer opportunities for movement during the day.

Talk with your peers

  • Create time to talk to and commiserate with your colleagues on the campus or other speech-language pathologists in the district.  Chances are, they are dealing with the same stressors that you are.
  • You don’t have to find solutions, but just having the opportunity to talk to another person in your same situation can reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Don’t forget to laugh.  Laughter can reduce stress levels, so take some time to laugh with your colleagues.

Ask for help

  • If you feel completely overwhelmed, let your supervisor know.   Ask for support with assessments or ARD notices – specifically those things that someone could do on a contract basis.
  • Ask your colleagues for help.  Maybe another therapist in the district has some available time to help you will assessments, or to see that group of “make up therapy” for you.  You can always reciprocate in the future.

Adapted from: Shaw, S. F., Bensky, J.M. and Dixon, B. (1981). Stress and Burnout-A Primer for Special Education and Special Services Personnel A CEC/ERIC Publication, The Council for Exceptional Children, Reston, VA. (ERIC Digest No.E467)

Communication Series: Open-Ended Questions

Disagreements can arise in any situation–at home or work. The key to problem solving is listening. And, the key to listening is effective questioning. All types of questions can be helpful when used purposefully. Open-ended questions are most effective at drawing out people’s ideas and concerns when beginning to problem solve. Watch our actors try to communicate in this short video above.

This video is the first in a series on using effective communication skills.

Funded by the FIEP (Facilitating IEPs) Project at ESC Region XIII.


Contact Linda McDaniel at 512-919-5225 or at

2011-2012 Special Education Assessment Options

The upcoming 2011-2012 school year will be a BIG transition year when it comes to statewide assessment options for students receiving special education services.  There will be different assessment options to choose from depending upon the subject area and grade level of the student.

For example, as noted in a previous post, STAAR-Alternate will be the only assessment administered for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities beginning with the 2011-2012 school year. While TAKS, TAKS-Acc and TAKS-M will still be administered to students in grade 10 and 11, TAKS-Alt will NOT be available for 10th and 11th grade students meeting the criteria for the most significant cognitive disabilities.

Students with disabilities, in grades 3-8, will have the following statewide assessment options:  STAAR, STAAR Modified, and STAAR Alternate.

High school students with disabilities, first enrolled in the ninth grade, in 2011-2012, will now take one of the following End-of-Course assessments:  STAAR, STAAR Modfied, and STAAR Alternate.  The End-of-Course (EOC) assessment they need to take is dictated by the course(s) they are enrolled in.  If a ninth grade student with a disability is enrolled in Algebra I, they will have to take the STAAR EOC (STAAR, STAAR Modified, or STAAR Alternate) assessment for that course.  Algebra II, chemistry, and physics are the only courses that will NOT have a STAAR Modified option.

High school students with disabilities, NOT enrolled in the ninth grade, in 2011-2012, will have the following statewide assessment options:  TAKS, TAKS-Acc, TAKS-M, and STAAR Alternate.

High school students repeating the ninth grade in 2011-2012, will still be taking TAKS as their assessment graduation requirement.

The attached document here, is a newly distributed “To the Administrator Addressed” letter from TEA.  Page four has a simple and clear table illustrating all of the assessment options available at each grade level.  You can also access a web-based version of the letter here.

The links below will provide you with further detailed information on the transition to STAAR.
ESC Region XIII’s STAAR Resources
Student Assessment Calendars
STAAR Modified Implementation Plan

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us or leave a comment below.

Literacy-Based Intervention- Where do I start?

I get a lot of questions from SLPs who want to provide intervention that is relevant to the classroom, but don’t know where to start.  My best first place to start is with structured shared storybook reading.  Language and literacy are absolutely linked, and addressing the development of children’s literacy skills will lead to language development gains, and vice versa.  As Karen Erickson from the Center for Literacy and Disabilities says, “Language is the key” to literacy learning.

So what is structured shared reading?  This is way more than just reading a book aloud to your students.  While you use storybooks as the content of your lesson, you follow a specific ‘before,” “during” and “after” reading structure.

Before reading, you need to set the purpose for reading.  This is really important!  Choose one purpose for reading the book with your students.  Save all of the other purposes for future readings (yes, you will read the book again).   We rarely read a book to students more than once, yet students need multiple opportunities to hear a text before they really comprehend the story.  Purposes for reading can include any of the following:  sequencing, making connections (to self, to other books, to the world), summarizing, story grammar elements, main idea, concepts of print, and many, many more.  Be very explicit in sharing the purpose for reading with the students – let them know so that they know what they will need to remember.  Also, don’t try to do too much each time you read the story.  You will read it again!

Before reading, you also need to help your students build or access their background knowledge.  What do they need to know (or already know but may have difficulty remembering) about the content of the story.  Ask questions, talk about the cover and title, and predict what the story might be about.   The context will help students comprehend the story.

During reading, you will read the story to the students, but you will also pause to ask questions.  Remember to tailor your questions to your PURPOSE that you established prior to reading.  So, if your purpose for reading is to work on story grammar elements, tailor your questions during reading to the story grammar elements.  For example, you could stop when you first encounter a character in the story and say, “Look, here’s a person in our story!  Where would she go on our graphic organizer:  characters, setting, problem or solution?”  Continue to periodically check for students’ comprehension of the text.  Are they still with you?  Do they know what’s going on?

After you finish reading the book, don’t stop there.  Go back to your purpose and do something with the students related to that purpose.  So, if your purpose was to identify story grammar elements, maybe you have the students complete a graphic organizer of the story grammar elements.  Or, you compare the characters in the book you just finished to those in a previously read book.  Don’t do too much – just think of your purpose.  Remember that you will read the book again!

Here are some great links and resources for structured shared reading: – templates for shared storybook reading in English and Spanish – book and lesson ideas around shared reading

Ezell, H.K. and Justice, L.M. (2005).  Shared Storybook Reading:  Building Young Children’s Language and Emergent Literacy Skills.  Baltimore:  Brookes Publishing.

Happy Reading!

Creating A Master School Schedule ….

is like working a 3-D jigsaw puzzle.

With  budget constraints looming over our heads, building a master school schedule becomes even more important than ever before.  A well planned master school schedule accompanied by thoughtful student placement can ensure that limited staff and resources are used in the most efficient ways possible.  This planning is important in all areas, but probably none any more important than planning for one of our least available resources – special education staff.

To meet Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requirements, IDEA states, “Each public agency must ensure that- to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities… are educated with children who are nondisabled;” It also states that each public agency must ensure a continuum of placements to meet the needs of children with disabilities.
(This Models of Support document describes a continuum of services.)

Creating a master school schedule is like working a 3-D jigsaw puzzle, but when all of the pieces fit together, it becomes a master piece.  If you are an administrator or a teacher, now is the time to start gathering information to help plan for serving all students with the resources available.

To help you in creating your masterpiece, we’ve included two support documents, one for elementary campuses and another for secondary.  These support documents will help you organize, review, and analyze, how and where your students are receiving their special education services.

Elementary Analysis of Performance of Students with Disabilities

Secondary Analysis of Performance of Students with Disabilities

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS to keep in mind when developing a master school schedule:

  • To what extent do our policies, priorities, and actions reflect our educational beliefs?
  • How might we work smarter and more efficiently?
  • How can school schedule and class placement impact teaching and learning?
  • Which students, teachers or subjects should have priority when developing a master schedule?

If you would like to dive deeper into this process and would like further assistance, please contact:

Cathy Miller
Education Specialist for Access to General Curriculum (AGC)

Jim Gonzales
Coordinator Special Education

Alternate Assessment Change for 2011-2012

The Texas Education Agency via TETN announced this morning that STAAR-Alternate will be the only assessment administered for students with significant cognitive disabilities beginning with the 2011-2012 school year. While TAKS, TAKS-A and TAKS-M will still be administered to students in grade 10 and 11, TAKS-Alt will NOT be available for 10th and 11th grade students meeting the criteria for the most significant cognitive disabilities.

Pat Otto, the Alternate Assessment Manager at TEA provided the attached document to explain the rationale for this decision and how state testing requirements will be met for the affected students.

More details will be coming in the Alternate Assessment TETN scheduled for May 12th from 1 – 3 pm, but we wanted you to have this information as soon as possible because of its implications for ARD Committee decisions and summer training.

Please feel free to contact Ann  Jacobson at if you have any questions about the transition to STAAR-Alternate.

TETN April 5, 2011 Document

TAKS-ALT Participation Requirement Criteria

Blog Post on Assessment Decisions for Students with Disabilities