IEP Season as an SLP: How to Survive

March marks the beginning of more than just a new season of weather for the school-based SLP—as March rolls in, so do the IEP meetings. Each year, I seem to forget how crazy IEP season as an SLP really is. And every year, it greets me abruptly, throwing me headfirst into a sea of data and dates and resarch and goals. So, how do I prepare for IEP season?

how to have a good iep season as an slp

Write Down Due Dates (In a Sensible Order)

The first thing you should do—long before IEP season approaches, really—is make a master list of your IEP due dates. There are several different ways you can organize your list depending on how IEP meetings are scheduled at your school.

One of the simplest ways to organize your list is by date, from earliest in the year to latest. In my experience, most teachers will schedule their meetings over the course of several months, by date. That’s not always the case, though!

Some schools may try for efficiency by setting up IEP writing and meeting dates by teacher, grade, or some other criteria. If that’s the case at your school, you’ll need to organize your list according to that criteria.

Additionally, some teachers like to get all of their meetings over with all at once, grouping meetings together over the course of a few days regardless of the due dates. If teachers are fully responsible for how they set up their meetings, it’s worth checking with them about how they plan to schedule them.

Write Speech Only IEPs Early (Or Late)

Once you have your list written, tackle your speech only IEPs! I prefer to go ahead and get my speech only IEPs written early in the season so that I can spend the rest of my time working around teachers’ schedules. Another option is to look at the earliest due date on your speech only list and have all meetings around that date. Because SLPs typically have fewer speech only IEPs than related service IEPs, I find that having IEPs due earlier in the year isn’t as big of a deal. And also, we’re generally dismissing more students than teachers, so our IEPs rarely work their way to being due in February.

Take Time to Organize Your Data

IEPs often start coming due around the time of the third progress reporting period. That’s actually quite handy! Sometime in January or February, I like to sit down and make sure that my therapy data is in good order. If I’ve fallen behind on transferring data from my sticky notes or random pieces of paper into my master document, I go ahead and do it all at once.

This is also a good time to point out that it’s a really good idea to have some sort of master progress monitoring chart! I have one in my SLP Organization Unit, but these days I keep a simple Google doc for all of my students. Using CTRL+F helps me find student names while I’m working, and I can rearrange the order of my tables based on my therapy schedule for easier input. I like this style of chart because I can quickly look down each column to monitor progress, as well as keep notes on additional skills I’ve baselined or trialed.

The desk of an SLP trying to survive IEP season.

Use Your Go-To Therapy Activities

For a month or so out of the year, my therapy planning consists of baselining tools and my favorite go-to activities. If you don’t already, make sure you have a few go-to activities for each of the potential areas on your caseload. These should be easy to implement, low prep, easy to use, and versatile.

Some of my favorite activity types for this time of year:

  • sorting activities
  • stories on the student’s reading level
  • writing and journaling activities

For therapy groups, I really like having activities that students can do on their own while I work individually with students to do baselines. And that brings me to my last tip.

Have Good Baselining Tools

We all have our cabinet of formal assessments ready for evaluations, but it’s just as important to have informal assessments that can be used for baselines. These could be informal screeners, language sample methods, or progress monitoring tools. Generally, I keep a few different kinds that I can pull based on the age of my students and the skill area I’m interested in.

I also like to have some basic worksheets for some of the more commonly targeted language goals ready to use. Sometimes, I’ll take an area that I’ve identified on a screener and have students complete a worksheet on that skill to see how they do in a more contextualized setting and/or on their own. However you decide to do it, having an aresenal of tools just for getting baselines is essential.

bonus tip for surviving iep season as an slp

One last thing that is essential for surviving IEP season is not forgetting to take care of yourself. You’re going to busy—really busy—and it’s going to be tempting to let a lot of good habits fall by the wayside. Don’t let this happen! For the duration of IEP season, choose one personal habit that keeps you sane and commit to it every single day. It doesn’t have to be the same habit every day! Just choose one thing to do just for you every day of the season (and beyond!).

Also, don’t forget that you can start new habits at the beginning of the school year or any time!

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