The Importance of Work Team Relationships

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:

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  1. These are really useful, practical tips! I hear you about being jealous of doing therapy hours instead of mounds of paperwork and meetings. Thanks for sharing your perspectives!

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience and insight Laura. You are so thoughtful, and I know that shines through in your work relationships. I especially like the tip about asking what your assistant needs in a supervisor. I haven't thought to ask that question, but I will. Thank you!

  3. Great points, Laura!! I have often said the same thing to my assistants, "You get to do speech therapy!"

  4. As always, words of wisdom my dear friend! Your licensed assistants are so lucky to have you as a colleague! I especially like #1. Building relationships from the start!

  5. It says a lot that TAs are stopping you in the hall, wanting to know how they can be your "TA"!!! These are such great tips!!!!


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