The Frenzied SLPs are here to talk about work relationships. I've had many wonderful licensed assistants who I've learned a lot from. Here are 5 tips in working successfully with licensed assistants.

1. Learn their story

When first meeting a licensed assistant, keep the focus on THEM. What is their goal in working as a licensed assistant? I've had some who wanted to make sure the SLP field was for them before grad school and some who are happy being a licensed assistant because they enjoy the therapy. How did they end up in this field? What is their experience and what do they hope to accomplish for your district or practice? What are their areas of strengths and interests and what do they need to learn more about?

I always share my story, too. I received therapy from a young age until 4th grade (when that lingering /r/ finally popped in), went to college, worked in journalism, then got jealous of the school breaks that my sister, mom, and aunts had, so I went back to grad school and became an SLP in the schools. I wouldn't recommend going into a field for just that purpose, but it's my story, and it's worked for me.

2. Ask what they need in a supervisor

Sadly, it took until my most recent assistant for me to learn to ask that question. She is not new to the field, and someone who is just starting out may not know what they need. But this question gets them thinking.

In the case of my current assistant, she wanted to be able to bounce therapy ideas off me and get my input on what I think would work and would not. That one question has been the basis of defining our work relationship. I'm not making her into a version of me. I'm giving her guidance in being a great therapist for the students.

3. Communication

Ah, another area I've learned a lot in, and I'm still learning. Before annual IEP meetings, the two of us talk about what a student needs. The IEP happens - and I forget to print out the new goals and objectives for the assistant. It's a small step that means a lot to the assistants, but I get so caught up in finishing the paperwork, I often forget that step.

Learn how your licensed assistant responds to supervision. For example, I don't like words I perceive as shouting. I really don't like emails that go out to everyone to address a few people. You know - follow the dress code, show up to work on time... I always think it's me when it's not. So I try to communicate with assistants by asking questions and then giving them my perception. I need to know how they think before I give suggestions.

I also try to communicate what the next week will look like and where I'll be on different days.

4. Be willing to learn yourself

I often tell my assistants that I'm jealous of them. They get to do therapy all day. I don't. Through the process of supervising, I've learned that licensed assistants are passionate and creative about therapy activities that meet students' goals. I've learned about new books, different ways of behavior management, and all kinds of creative lessons.

5. Be their advocate

I really don't like the term "licensed assistant." In the school system, it implies "parapro." Our licensed assistants have to have 24 hours in communication disorders classes in college.

A few years ago, a teacher at the school I worked at became a licensed assistant. There were several teachers who then stopped by to ask how they could be my "aide." I explained the process, and it wasn't as simple as they had hoped.

I also make sure my principals and parents know the qualifications of a licensed assistant. In Texas, we have to send out a letter every year telling parents who will be providing services, and it's a good opportunity to outline the requirements and qualifications.

I have had a few parents question the ability of a licensed assistant to provide services. In most cases, the parents have later expressed appreciation that their child is receiving more consistent services, weekly homework, and that their child really likes the licensed assistant, the points I make when parents ask. At IEP meetings, my principals often stress the same points and are able to talk about how the arrangement has worked out well at our school.

Being an advocate shows so much support and strengthens the relationship with my licensed assistants.

Since I started supervising 10 years ago, I've had several licensed assistants, and I've learned from each one. I truly hope my mistakes and tips help you in your journey. To read more, click on the links below:
Halloween can be a hard holiday to address. Scary, fun, imaginative... it's hard to know what's appropriate for schools. Here are some of our favorite activities for elementary.
 Not-so-scary Halloween activities for mixed speech and language therapy groups in elementary school
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 Too Many Pumpkins
"Too Many Pumpkins" by Linda White is a fantastic book about a woman who HATES pumpkins but ends up with a LOT. There are some jack-o'-lanterns in the book, but none of them are scary. There are themes about all kinds of ways to use pumpkins, neighbors, and sharing. My students love the language in the book, the pictures of the cat, and the secret at the end.

Pumpkins: Fact and Opinion (left in the picture) addresses difficult language concepts plus more. My artic students can work on speech sounds in words and reading aloud, and my fluency students can practice their strategies while reading.

Pumpkin Patch Spatial Concepts (right) is a great way to incorporate movement while listening for directions and prepositions. Just put the cards on a ring for easy flipping and storage. Students love pretending to put pumpkins on their heads and jumping into leaves!
 Mouse, Look Out! and The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything
Of course, the "The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything" makes the list. I bought it out of desperation on impulse in the early 1990's in a small bookstore in the mall. I've had to buy several copies since because the book is so well-loved and used by students - and me! The language is fun and patterned, and students laugh at the ending.

"Mouse, Look Out!" was a gift from my sister to my son. I'm borrowing it for a while. The setting is an abandoned house - nothing haunted here - and the illustrations are gorgeous. A cat hunts an unsuspecting mouse but gets his own surprise at the end! Once students find the ending, we go back through the pictures to find the clues. This is one book that I always find something new in EVERY time I read it. The book is no longer in print, which makes it a little more costly than most books.
 Stellaluna and Bat Fact and Opinion by All Y'all Need
Creepy crawlies in nonfiction activities are great for speech and language therapy. A lot of classrooms have Bat Week, so learning about bats ties into curriculum. My favorite bat book is "Stellaluna", and Bats: Fact and Opinion is great for following up with mixed groups.

Because I have to rotate Bat Week, my sister Amy also made some fact and opinion packs for spiders and (shivers) snakes.

Use suspenseful, fun, or nonfiction activities to address Halloween in your school.
 For mixed groups in Speech and Language Therapy. Halloween can be a hard holiday to address. Scary, fun, imaginative... it's hard to know what's appropriate for schools. Here are some of our favorite activities for elementary. |SLP| Halloween|SpeechThearapy| #SLP #Halloween

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