Adjusting to Life as a Middle School SLP


This year, I requested to be moved to another elementary school in my district. An opening came after another SLP retired and I jumped at the chance. The school is a a little closer to home, much smaller, and overall a better fit for me. When I requested to move schools, I knew I would also have to travel to another school since the caseload at that particular elementary school never gets too crazy. Even though I had always had just one school before, I was open to traveling.  In addition to my new elementary school, I would also travel to the high school two mornings a week to primarily work with an ID classroom. However, the day before school started this year, I got an e-mail from my boss at the school board office saying I had been moved to the middle school and would no longer have the high school. Initially, I was NOT happy. I do not handle last minute changes well, my caseload would be bigger, and I had only worked with middle schoolers once before - very briefly right after graduate school.

Now, I am one month into this middle school business.... and you know what? I am actually enjoying it.  My caseload consists primarily of students working on receptive/expressive language, social skills, fluency, and a few kids still mastering the dreaded /r/. I expected middle school attitude, students skipping speech that I would have to track down on a weekly basis, and kids who would be hard to motivate during sessions. For the most part, my students are exactly the opposite. My students still like coming to speech. They are motivated and see the value in why they are coming. They are grateful when I help them with their English homework. They are sweet and funny and they still like the occasional game in therapy.

Here are some things I have learned to help make serving a middle school a littler easier:

  • Students Should Know Why They are Coming to Speech - Let's be real. My middle schoolers know by now that not everybody gets speech. They need to know why they are coming and what they are working on. They also need to know why what they are working on is important. On the first day of speech, my students and I reviewed their goals and then brainstormed ideas about why they need to know how to do those things! Our answers ranged from doing better in school to making friends to interviewing and getting a job. The students also set goals for themselves in speech.
  • Show Students Respect - I know my middle schoolers don't want me interrupting their classes and singling them out. To help my students remember when to come to speech without me having to show up at their door and embarrass them, I made my students speech hall passes and also let the teachers know when they would have speech. The passes have the dates and times they need to come to speech for the first semester. When they get to class, they can just show it to their teachers and come down to my room without it being a big deal.
  • Make Therapy Relevant and Meaningful - For students working on language, I collaborate with the teachers to see what they are working on in class. Several of my students are in collaborative English classes, where they get special ed support in the classroom and also attend reading support classes. The special ed teachers are able to tell me what my students need extra support with from their classes and vocabulary they are discussing for me to review with the students. My students appreciate being able to have somebody help them in a small group or 1:1 so they don't fall behind in their work.
  • Keep it Fun - Just because these students are older doesn't mean they don't like fun and games, particularly the boys. They love a little competition. I try to keep the reinforcer games simple, because the work is obviously what is important. My student's favorites so far are card games, roll and cover games, and Jenga. I also run lunch bunch for students working on social skills. I have 1 or 2 students come who are not working on social skills so there is a good peer model. The kids have loved it (even those not working on social skills). Some of my kids not in lunch bunch have even requested to come! (And who can say no to kids asking for more speech?!)

I have been pleasantly surprised how much I am liking middle school. Do you work with middle school students? What do you think? Any more tips?


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