As I have been going about my work as an SLP who works in the school system, I have had
the opportunity to meet several professionals, parents, and colleges that have asked excellent
questions about their work experience, what can be done about growing caseloads, what works
best, and professional development. This has sparked my interest as I am the Professional
Development Chair for USHA.
I was thinking that these concerns are ubiquitous in the school district in which I work and likely
elsewhere throughout the State. So, I will do my best to answer some of these questions that
I have broken up my thoughts into categories in hopes to make my thinking clearer and hoping
that the readability of my thoughts come across clearly.
Some of the main concerns that I have been hearing about are regarding caseloads, workloads,
and service times. Each area can be somewhat daunting even overwhelming at times. I did a
little research to find out some of these questions. The Utah State Office of Education (USOE)
website was quite useful for getting most of this information. I was able to pull up a State
document outlining the caseload limits for Special Education. The link to the document can be
found here: http://www.schools.utah.gov/sars/DOCS/resources/caseload.aspx
The most interesting information was found on page 6-7. This documents all of caseload
information per Educator. For instance, Life-Skills classroom (self-contained) teacher should
only be in charge of 10-15 files. Resource teacher should only be in charge of 25-35. Speech-
Language Pathologist should only be in charge of 50-60 files. The list goes on to explain other
teacher limits. The document also states that even though you are the file holder for 50-60
students, you, as the SLP, are likely serving other students. As you can see, your workload
has quickly grown in size and possibly doubled and/or tripled in some cases.
Don’t hit the Panic Button yet, there is a silver lining and perhaps a space (albeit small) to
breathe to this ever growing workload. I asked the USOE if there was anything that could be
done about this issue. They suggested a few things:
1. Take a look at the kids that are qualified or qualifying. Are ‘we’ as a multi-disciplinary team/
IEP over qualifying students?
If no, then your are doing things correctly. Well Done!!
If yes, reevaluate your data as and IEP team or multi-disciplinary team on a case by case basis.
2. Know the difference between workload and caseload. There is a difference between
caseload and workload. The difference is that a caseload is:
“the number of Individual Education Programs (IEPs) for which the case manager is
responsible. Special educators may often serve students in addition to the students
whose files they manage” (2008, Caseload Guidelines).
A workload is:
“In addition to the caseload responsibilities, workload could include items listed
under “Considerations” in the guidelines, including but not limited to a special educator’s
responsibilities, duties, other assignments, the impact of parent involvement, providing
services to a student whose file is held by another educator or provider, training and
supervision of support staff and/or peer tutors, etc” (2008, Caseload Guidelines).
In summary, the workload is larger than the caseload--in saying that (here is the silver lining)
there are ways to decrease the stress of a high workload. I will mention this briefly as I will
be covering it more in depth in the next article, but that is collaboration. Any student that you
do not hold their file, typically, you are a secondary service provider and you may reduce your
service minutes to that student (in the IEP meeting or interim IEP). This does not mean that you
no longer work with the student, but it does mean that you work closely (collaborate) with the
teacher and/or resource teacher to make sure that the student is receiving the interventions
that they need to meet their IEP goal(s) and the common core curriculum.
3. Are we over serving students? An example of this situation is: a student who receives
resource language and also saw a speech-language pathologist was getting multiple forms
of expressive and receptive language services. From the classroom, to resource, and from
the school SLP. If the student has a disability that requires specialized services, spend the
IEP minutes/time with the student on that specialized service. Meaning: articulation, fluency
(stuttering), swallowing (less often), documented voice issues, etc. When a student is in
resource, collaborating with the resource teacher is a must. Any suggestions they can glean
from you as the language expert, will not only help serve the kids on your workload, but also
help those resource kids that are not getting direct services from you.
Eric Dutson, M.S., CCC-SLP
Next time part two Collaboration