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Sunday, September 26, 2010

ORGANIZATION-Part 2- Working Folders/Files

Good Morning Everyone! Of all the information that we will share, I think today’s tip is the greatest time saver and stress reliever EVER! Leah and I will share how we lay out our “working files” to streamline your documentation. This is a lengthy blog but well worth your time to read.

Once again, Leah and I do our files similarly, but slightly different. First though, I want to make sure everyone understands what I mean by “working folder” or “working file”. In public schools the student’s academic records are stored in a locked and secure location making access to them inconvenient for daily use. The real folders are usually only opened at meetings, annual updates, and for filing progress reports, etc. Our “working files” are those folders we keep in our possession in our therapy rooms -- those files in which we keep our information and daily documentation. I should also add that these folders/files are stored and locked in our therapy room at night also.

I’ll explain how I do mine, and then you will read how Leah does her system. I use a simple manila folder. By using actual manila folders it gives me the tab to write the student name and therapy time. I attach those 2 part paper fasteners to the inside at the top of the folder, on the left and right sides. The left hand side of the folder (when it is open), is where I put my Service Logs. I use the same service log whether the child is Medicaid or not. If the child is not Medicaid I simply hand write in the student name. If the child is Medicaid I will use a pre-made label with all the Medicaid required information.

Let me veer off topic slightly here and explain my system for using labels. When a child is first enrolled I will print 3 pages of 10 labels (2x4 inches) with their name & their Medicaid #, service provider & provider #, and the diagnostic area & codes, etc. Now all I have to do is peel and stick labels on the pages. Our school district provided us with 3 part NCR Medicaid approved printed Service Logs. That is why I needed so many labels. Each month I could tear out and replace all my students Medicaid service logs in less than an hour. I keep the back page for my records right in the folder for reference when reporting progress. Just put the new service log on top of the older copy.

On the right side on my folder I kept a copy of the child’s current IEP which contained all the info I would need regarding latest testing, current goals and objectives, annual and triennial review dates, DOB etc. And last, I keep those labels, worksheets/homework sheets, etc just loose within the folder. (I would stay after school periodically to copy large quantities of worksheets/homework so they would be available and ready for my therapy.)

At the end of each therapy session, I would quickly note the results of each session on the service log in the child’s folder that was in that particular group and put them back in the “milk” crate. Voila’! Documentation completed with little time or effort spent. Pull the next group’s folders and you are ready for your next session.

Leah uses different-colored 2-pocket prong folders for her daily working files. She uses the colors to indicate the grades for her students. For example, Kindergarten folders are orange, 1st grade folders are purple, 2nd grade are blue, etc. She keeps her folders turned on their sides in a milk crate so the spine of the folder is at the top. On the front of the spine she writes the students names with a Sharpie marker. If the student moves or is dismissed from services, it is easy to reuse the folders simply by using an art gum eraser to remove the writing, or sometimes she just cuts a piece of duck tape and places it over the names. (Duck tape comes in many colors now!) Since it does, she also uses it to help her know at a glance which students have Medicaid numbers by placing a piece of silver duck tape on the bottom across the spine of the folders. She also has placed a piece of turquoise tape on the top end of the folders to indicate which students are considered “duplicated.” This is a visual reminder that other special education personnel are involved with the child if any IEP meetings need to be scheduled during the year. A picture of her working folders is shown.

In the front pocket she keeps a year-at-a-glance attendance calendar that was created by Sue Sexton (5 Minute Kids). The calendar can be found at HYPERLINK "" Scroll down to the section titled 5 Minute Kids Data Forms and click on the Calendar 2006-2017.xls to find the form. You will need Microsoft Excel to be able to open the form. It is a quick and easy way to see if you are meeting your therapy minutes. Behind the calendar, Leah keeps data/tally sheets.

Inserted first in the 3-prong section is a piece of cardstock with the 2-part paper fasteners that I mentioned above. This is where Leah keeps her service records. She bends both prongs to the left so that she can easily slip her service records on and off the prongs without having to bend the prongs each time. This keeps the prongs from breaking, as they do after repeated bending. The most recent service record is always on top. At the end of the month, for those children who have Medicaid numbers, she slips off the service record, copies it using colored paper, sends the original in for billing, and places the colored copy back in her folder. She then places a blank copy of her service record on top and she is ready to document another months services. She uses the colored paper to help keep on track with submitting her Medicaid billing. If there is still a white copy on top, she hasn’t submitted it yet!

Her service record is a form that shows at a glance all the pertinent information regarding that child. The top of the paper has been completed with the child’s name, birth date, Medicaid number, service provider and number, annual review date, triennial date, etc. Also included are her states Medicaid codes and spaces to bill for the month. The child’s goals are listed next. Underneath that is a chart which has the headings: date, time in, time out, IEP objective, Procedure code, Care coordination, Units, Activity/Progress, SLP initial. When she sees her children, at the end of each session, she quickly completes one row in the chart with the daily info. At the end of the month, she tallies the Medicaid units, signs the bottom, copies it and her billing is complete.

Behind the service records, but also in the 3-prong section is where Leah keeps her pre- and post-test baseline forms. At the beginning of each year, she quickly administers a baseline probe for the items targeted for therapy. If the child has not mastered all their goals by the end of the year, the same probe is re-given to show progress. They are then re-administered the following Fall. Doing this can also be show regression or progress over summer breaks.

In the back pocket of the folder Leah keeps her blank service records. When an IEP is written, she creates the service record on her computer. She makes 10 or 11 copies and places them in the back pocket so she will have enough copies for one year of services. Behind the service records she will keep activity sheets for use with that student. At the end of each therapy session she quickly completes the service records, puts the folders in the milk crate and she’s ready to pull out the next set of folders for the next group!

Here's a close up of Leah's working files:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

ORGANIZATION-Part 1- "Milk" Crates

“Milk” Crates

Hello Again! I am excited to write this next series on organization and making your space work for you. Who of us doesn’t appreciate a tip on making our day go just a little bit smoother? Leah (the other SLP of 2 Gals Speech Products) is the QUEEN OF ORGANIZATION, so much so, that what I share are basically all her ideas.

This entry is dedicated solely to the use of “milk” crates. These versatile bins are priceless when working with little to no budget for office supplies. I have used them straight up, on their side, and upside down! Today they are readily available at any major retail chain such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, or Target, and are inexpensive. We love inexpensive!

Milk crates can be used in many ways, but here are a few suggestions:
Simple storage bins that can he kept in closets or closed cabinets.
As a step for a child (wouldn’t hold adult weight) to reach a sink or fountain.
As a seat for a child while doing small group activities.
As a riser to hold another crate at table height.
Turned on its side and placed on top of existing shelving it creates more shelving.
Stacked on its side it creates independent shelving.
Storage for frequently used therapy materials and data sheets by your table.
Can be a portable file cabinet.

Leah and I used them as file cabinets, which we kept by our therapy tables to hold our “working folders.” We kept our working folders within our reach so that we did not have to get up and go pull the folders from a file cabinet, which was great little time-saver. She and I organized our files within them slightly differently so I will share both ideas.

Leah kept her folders filed by grade level and I kept my by time slots. Leah’s school schedule is limiting in that she typically cannot have more than one grade level in her therapy groups. Since this is so, she uses colored 3-prong pocket-folders for her working files. Each color represents a different grade level. She writes the students name along the left-hand edge of the folder and then puts them in her milk crate with the names now showing at the top edge of the folder. When a group comes to therapy, she quickly grabs the student’s folders from the milk crate beside her chair. Putting them away is simple too! Just put them back with the same color folders.

For my system, I kept hanging folders in my crate labeled by my therapy time slots; 8;30, 9:00, 9:30 etc. Within those hanging files I kept the children’s working folders by their therapy group time. All the students who came at 8:30 were kept in the 8:30 hanging file folder. It was very convenient just to grab the “8:30” group of files and be ready to go! Returning them to the proper location back in the crate/file cabinet didn’t take 2 seconds. Simply put them back in the empty time slot.

Here's a visual example:

Next week I’ll go into detail about organizing your working files to streamline your documentation. Simple little ideas that have a big pay off in saving you TIME.

May you find joy in your work this week.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back To School-Part 6- Scheduling Software

Good Monday Morning Everyone! Itʼs great to be alive and we are blessed to have a job!

This morning I want to talk about scheduling software. Even though I am no longer working in public schools, I was thrilled to see someone had created software that will make our schedules for us. WOOT! Scheduling our kids for therapy is the single most difficult task of our jobs. Donʼt you agree? Although there are a few other software systems other there, I will be talking specifically about Caselite Software only because that is the one Leah has been using.

The website for this software is if you would like to go there and read more about it.

Leah says it is very time intensive to set up the first year, but thereafter does not require so much work as the childʼs information transfers with the child as they change grades. Initially you have to input your school(s), teachers, and students. Then for each student you have to input student name, teacher, grade, school, therapy plan (impairment, sessions/week, minutes/session, pullout or inclusive). Finally you input your custom groups, student availability and rotations (if their schedules periodically change). As she said, it is very time intensive initially to set up.

The software will track whether the student is present or absent for therapy. You can note whether the absence was due to an educational activity, holiday, inclement weather, personal leave, unrelated duty, or other item. It also offers a notes section.

1.Makes a schedule almost instantly!
2.Allows for custom grouping
3.Easily tracks attendance
4.Breaks down why service was not provided (weather, holiday, absent, etc)
5.Gives percentage for attendance either by caseload or by individual

1.Doesnʼt show student progress over time
2.Time intensive initially
3.You are tethered to the internet

Since we have not actually used any of the other software out there we cannot tell you about them. We can only share with you that, YAY, such a thing does exist! If you use a different software that works for you, please share your comments with us!

Next week we begin a new series on Organizational Tips and Tricks! You'll want to read those entries as the tips are very practical and will make your therapy day go smoother!

Until next week, enjoy your therapy with your kids!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Back to School-Mastery Guidelines-Part 5

Youʼll be glad to know this morningʼs topic has nothing to do with oral exams! Today I want to refresh you on mastery guidelines for speech acquisition. Once again this is geared more for the “dinosuar SLP” who is still working.

If you work in public schools, then you have state and federal guidelines you must follow. You cannot always do that which you professionally know to be developmentally appropriate for the child. A major frustration for all of us, but one each of us deals with in every state. You cannot place a child in Speech Therapy unless they meet your stateʼs stringent guidelines. In my workplace, I noticed that we, SLPs, were interpreting the articulation data differently in making decisions regarding whether the child qualified or not. The difference was due to our interpretation of age of acquisition for speech sounds. Having graduated from college a hundred years ago, I was still relying on my antiquated knowledge of sound acquisition to make my placement decisions and did not realize things have changed! So for you older SLPs, Iʼd like to bring you up to the 21st century!

The following information is from the research of Linda Mawhinney and Mary Scott McTeague,
Mastery Guidelines-2004.
2 Years of age- 90% of children have mastered: /p,d,m,w,h,n/
3 Years of age- 90% of children have mastered: /t,b,k,g/
4-5 Years of age- 90% of children have mastered: /f,v,y/ (typically at 4)
5-7 Years of age- 90% of children have mastered: /s,z,j,l,r,sh,ch,th/, blends (typically at 6)

WOW! My previous knowledge had no mastery of any sound until age 3 and all the sounds as developing later, so you can see how this would make a huge difference in my decisions on placement. So if youʼre out there, old as me, and are unaware of these changes please TAKE NOTE things have changed!

TIPS: When to be concerned....(Dr. Lonnie Harris)
1.When family and friends have a hard time understanding the child.
2.When the child exhibits frustration when you do not understand their speech.
3.When you, the SLP, do not understand the childʼs speech even if there is no frustration.
4.1st Grade Rule- a 1st grade child should sound adult-like.

Hopes this helps you. Unfortunately, if youʼre like I was, it will increase your caseload, but I was a better Speech Therapist for it.

Next Monday Iʼll be talking about some of the new scheduling software that is now on the market. Enjoy your time with your kids this week!