Thursday, September 1, 2011

SLP Corner: No IEPs!

* Warning: this post is heavy on the SLP talk and jargon. Read on if you dare!

I think I may have found the perfect job: minimal direct therapy, lots of assessments and no IEPs! My new job is working for SERRC, a non-profit funded by grants and contracts. There are several divisions to SERRC, and I work for the part that contracts with school districts to provide their SPED needs.

Their needs may be speech, OT, PT or general SPED administrative support. Some districts need OT and PT but not speech. Or vice versa. Typically these are rural school districts that don't have enough of a caseload to warrant hiring a full-time or part-time therapist, so they contract with SERRC.

I don't have a caseload per say in terms of number of kids. My caseload is quantified by the number of districts I'll be traveling to. Typically, a therapist has 4-5 districts. This may not seem like a lot, but when calculate that you travel to a district four or eight times a school year it fills the calendar quickly. Two of my districts I travel to eight times per year. Add in holidays, testing periods, winter break, spring break and varying start and end dates for each district and suddenly you're sucked into a scheduling quagmire.

I have four districts: Cordova, Galena, Tanana, and the Aluetain Islands, where I'll stay 2-4 days onsite at the district. While there I'll do assessments for new referrals, annual IEPs, report on general progress, and provide classroom support as needed. Being at an IEP meeting, even entering data into the IEP form, is not part of my contractual duties. I just about jumped out of my chair screaming with delight when I heard this! I don't even have to stipulate duration and type of services! That, is a decision for the IEP team. <ahem, ahem> In my reports I'll make goal recommendations and report on progress but all other decisions are for the team to decide.

Not having to attend IEP meetings almost makes the pay cut and lack of medical benefits for 90 days (don't even get me started on that!) worth it.

Among my co-workers I've already earned the reputation as "that girl from California" for all the eligibility questions I ask. As I've previously mentioned, compared to California, Alaska SPED law is vague when it comes to determining eligibility for Speech/Language. Basically, it's up to my clinical judgement. Apparently I'm the "professionally trained communication expert" whose forte it is to make these decisions. Christ. Whenever someone says this I still look over my shoulder and ask, "Oh, is she coming today? The communication expert? That'd be GREAT if she were here." Then I realize everyone is staring at me and waiting for me to enlighten them with my expertise. Super.

Lack of expertise aside, I'm excited for this job. Not just for the "no IEP meetings" clause of my contract but the overall experience of traveling and meeting new people. This isn't fancy travel and I won't be staying at the Marriott. When I first interviewed for the job I was told, "You may need to bring your own water filtration device and sometimes a sleeping bag. Because you might be sleeping in the school. On the floor." Sign me up!

As a friend reminded me though, let's see how I feel about all the travel after spending some time flying in a Cessna at minus 30 degrees!

While at a 3-day in-service in Juneau I was advised to get to know my pilot when flying to small towns. If a storm comes in and the plane needs to leave early, the pilot will call ahead to the school to find me and make sure I make the flight.

During the in-service my boss shared stories from her itinerant days and said, in her sweet West Virginia accent, "There'll be times that don't seem very funny to you right then, but later they'll be hilarious!" She laughed for five minutes after that statement.

I was also told to buy a pair Bogs. Insulated to -40 and they're easy to pull on and off at airport security. Practical yet so stylish and pretty! How can a girl go wrong?


  1. I love my Bogs! They are particularly helpful when you have chubby calves.

  2. Sounds like she laughed the way you did when you said "Just wait until we get to Fairbanks". Things are always funny after they happen if no permanent injuries were sustained (or if you're not the one left with the "funny limp").