Lately, I have found myself reflecting on the amount of speech time each of my students receives. As I acquire new students and re-evaluate IEP goals and objectives, I need to decide on the best service delivery time to meet my students' needs. I decided to write a post about the process of deciding on service delivery time for speech. This is a moment of self-reflection for me, but may be helpful to others also [...]
When I start thinking about how much speech time a child needs, I always look at two very important points first:
1. The chronological and/or developmental age of the child, and
2. The goals and objectives I have written for the child.
The age of the child is a huge factor in making my decision about how much speech time the child should receive. I always take their actual chronological age into consideration, as well as their developmental age. If the child is very young, I don't usually propose a speech time longer than 20 minutes. The little ones I see tend to lose focus around the 20 minute mark and it can be difficult to fill more than 20 minutes with enough activities to keep them engaged the entire session. But...it depends on the individual child. I have had some pre-k students who I could keep for 30 minutes at a time and they did great. The same is true when looking at developmental age. I may see a 10 year old, who is closer to the age of 3 or 4 developmentally. They may benefit from shorter sessions as well.
The other big factor I take into consideration when assigning speech time is the child's goals and objectives. I never, ever decide on a speech time before my goals and objectives are written. This is so important because the service time needs to be appropriate for the needs of the child. If I have written a lot of goals for the year, I may propose 2 or 3 30 minute sessions per week. I generally stick with 2 sessions per week, unless I have a child who really needs more than that. If a child has just a few goals, they may not need 2 sessions a week, or they may need 15-20 minute sessions as opposed to 30 minutes. Again, it all depends on the needs of the students.
Another piece of service delivery time we need to decide on is the frequency of the sessions. I prefer to see my students for 2 or 3 days a week. I usually save my one day a week sessions for students who are working on maintenance/carryover of a skill and just need a weekly push to keep at it. Otherwise, I tend to stick with 2 sessions per week. In an ideal world, I would love to see all of my kids every day of the week, but this is just not realistic. I always keep in mind how much class time they will be missing when they come to speech, as well as how frequently I am on their campus. I travel between different districts and it's not always possible to be on every campus every day of the week. Sessions 2 or 3 times a week are generally appropriate and what I will most often recommend.
The most important thing to remember when proposing speech time for your students is that it is always an individual decision based on the needs of the student. It's very easy to get into a habit of giving every student 2 20 minute sessions a week, or 2 30 minute session a week. But we have to remember to select our time based on what the child needs, not what fits into our schedule best. If we can keep this is mind, and communicate that with parents and teachers, we will be able to better serve our students.