Speech-Language Pathologists and Teachers: Working Together

3:00 AM

As a speech-language pathologist in an elementary school, I have found that my students demonstrate the greatest success when I work hand in hand with classroom teachers. Now, whether you are a teacher reading this or SLP, you may be chuckling to yourself thinking that would be great in a perfect world, but who has time for that? I get it. I promise you though, that front loaded time WILL save both of you time (and headaches) in the long run. I’ll admit that I have long been a self-professed “speech nerd” but when I added teacher collaboration (both at work and online), my skills increased tenfold. Working together benefits ALL of our students, and increases our skill set as educators. I consulted with some fellow educators and came up with some suggestions that will help both teachers and speech-language pathologists alike.


As SLPs, it is important that we STOP and take time to let teachers know what developmentally is and is not expected of their students. This lends to appropriate referrals and interventions.

“In kindergarten there are areas that are developmental. It would be nice to have specific information on what concerns at this age I should have as a teacher and what is developmental.”
Gloria Whittenberg from 2 Scoops of Kindergarten

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) offers a great resource which outlines Your Child’s Communication Development- Kindergarten Through FifthGrade

Another way that I broke down what we do as Speech-Language Pathologists was by participating in career day at my son’s school where students participated in an Escape the Speech Room Challenge to learn about the various aspects of our field.


As SLPs, it is important to collaborate what not only what we are working on with students identified for speech-language through an IEP but also collaborate with teachers on ways to help students that fall into an “at risk” group, recommended for RtI services.

“As part of our referral process, we are supposed to do 4-6 weeks of interventions. Having some simple interventions we could do to prove we tried we be great! I always struggle with that.”
~ Crystal White, Primary on the Prowl

I couldn’t agree more. When SLPs and teachers truly work together, that is where the magic happens. I have been truly blessed to work with some OUTSTANDING educators in my time. I was also fortunate to receive Orton Gillingham Training alongside the teachers in my district. This helped me design interventions that supported the district training initiatives through a communication lens that was data driven and could be individualized to help at risk students. For example, in my Spelling Buddies and Articulation Mirror Station, I pair the spelling patterns of phonemes with a photo model of the correct placement of the sound. My colleagues teaching Kindergarten and First Grade were able to easily incorporate it into their instruction, offering an additional visual for their students. This Alphabet Sound Banner also incorporated the spelling patterns into décor that they could display in their classroom if they chose to do so.  One important aspect to remember is to give options, not requirements. No one wants anything shoved down their throat (we get enough of that already, don’t we?). 

"I'd like to know some specific things that could help kids in class. They always write that in the IEP but then never tell us what to do!"
~Julie Santello, The Best Days

I found the same to be true Julie which is why I try to include sound placement cues or tips on specific language skills in activities that students could carry out in the classroom such as those mentioned above. While I provide teachers with an “IEP at a Glance” for their students, I also find it helpful to use Goal Tags as concise reminders for both the teachers and teachers on what their students target in speech-language. My students love them and pair them with brag tags that celebrate their efforts.


"I loved it when my speech therapists took the time to find out what we were doing in class and incorporated that into their activities. I also liked when they shared ideas for me to use in class to reinforce the things they were working on. I think that clear communication and collaboration makes for a more successful SLP / teacher relationship."
~Christy DeVito , Exceptional Thinkers 

This piece of advice is really so very important. LISTEN.  Listen to what teachers need, what they are working on and how you can support them and we all win. For example, a couple years back, a conversation with one of my Kindergarten teachers was about shapes for Tangrams that she had available in her classroom. I was then able to create an activity that targeted math standards, reading standards and added articulation practice to the mix. I threw in a data notebook for good measure. (If you haven’t guessed already, SLPs LOVE DATA. We basically eat, sleep and breathe it. True story.) Together with the technology specialist, we installed the Sight Word Tangrams onto the iPads that Kindergarten had access to and Voila!, a simple activity that could be incorporated into the classroom, helping us both address student needs. All because I simply listened.

What tips do you have to enhance SLP/teacher collaboration? I'd love to hear them! Please let me know in the comments below. 

by SLPtalk

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