January 7, 2017

SLP Snow Days: Getting Through Without Getting Behind


The forecast is showing snow! There are two types of people: those who are pumped at the possibility of getting a day off, and those who are less than enthused because they know that meetings will be postponed, therapy sessions will be missed, and work will be waiting for them when they get back.

If you get bummed at the thought of a snow day, let's brainstorm. What can be done to ease the burden of a snow day?

Pre-Snow Day

The weatherman is calling for snow and chances are, school won't be in session. Depending on how early you know this information, there are a few things you can do to prepare. 

If you know a week or so ahead of time, start making phone calls to parents. If you THINK you're getting a snow day on a day when you have a meeting,  call the parents and find out if there is another day they will be available, after the snow, in case this one falls through. Go ahead and jot that date/time down so that as soon as school is back in session, you can sent out a new notice. If you are for SURE getting enough snow for a snow day, cancel the meeting, find out a new date/time that works, and send out a new notice to parents.

If you only have 1-2 days of notice for an upcoming snow day possibility, your options are a little more limited. You can call the parents or inform them via Remind  and let them know that due to snow, the meeting may be postponed, eliminating the chance of them being 'unaware' the meeting is not going to happen. Jot down the child's name on a notepad, and be prepared to come up with a rescheduled date as soon as school gets back in session. 

If snow is going to make you miss a deadline, remember that you may be able to pull the meeting forward using a 7-day waiver form. If the parent is unable to attend, a phone conference may be an option. However, always check your district requirements first.

In fact, you may even plan very far ahead and schedule meetings much earlier than necessary in order to miss chances of snow. For example, in my area, we typically get most of our snow in January/February. Therefore, we try to schedule as many meetings as we can in December. This decreases the chances of missing meetings due to snow.

On a final note, if I know a snow day is going to happen, I may try to squeeze in a few extra sessions (or add an extra student or two to my groups) so they won't be missing therapy that week. It doesn't always work out, but I give it an honest effort!

During the Snow Day

For goodness sake, enjoy the snow day!! Do not stress out about things that should have been done or are being missed. Snow days are one of the perks of being employed in a school (and sometimes early intervention or a private clinic, if the snow is bad enough). Catch up on things that are enjoyable--  a binge-worthy tv series, a favorite book, or take a nap by the fireplace. The rest will fall into place.

 

 


After the Snow Day

The big question-- to makeup sessions or not to makeup sessions? There is not a GREAT answer to this, because every district is different. However, let's look at what we know. ASHA states that the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs responded in December 2015 with an email to state special education directors reiterating that missed sessions do not necessarily constitute a denial of a free and appropriate public education. This means that missing occasional days of speech therapy due to things such as snow days, does NOT deny a child FAPE and therefore should not be grounds for a required makeup. If you are having trouble with getting this across to yous SPED director, I suggest showing him/her this article, as it truly gets to the heart of the issue. In my district, we are not required to makeup these days. I simply document in my Medicaid notes that the student was not seen that day due to a district snow day.

Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) Days

We are implementing NTI days in my district this year. These are days when school is not in session due to weather, but teachers are still working from home. In short, students are sent home with schoolwork to be completed on the day off, and the teachers must be available from home during school hours, in case the students have questions about their work. So what can we do? 

First, remember we can NOT bill Medicaid for these days. We are not providing physical (or virtual, such as teletherapy) face to face therapy with these students. Even if you are required to have activities prepared for your students to complete during this time, sending activities home with these students does not count as a billable service. Just wanted to be clear on this! Instead, mark this day as a snow day in your Medicaid program.

Unfortunately, in my district, it cannot be assumed everyone has internet.
My suggestion is to find an all-in- one activity and send that home with ALL of your students. I'm thinking something along the lines of a speech/language calendar, like those offered on Super Duper's website or on Teachers Pay Teachers. Another option is to send home a letter to the parents saying the NTI day assignment is to read a book, and either listen for the speech sounds (articulation), practice fluency strategies, or discuss the information within the book (language). Again, both Super Duper online and Teachers Pay Teachers have handouts for parent-friendly strategies for speech and language. For more complex students, you may have to get creative, but book reading can target everything. Let the parents know via a note on the assignment or a text via Remind that this will be used for NTI days.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a district where internet is provided to everyone (yes, those exist), you could always send home a link to your speech-language school webpage (if applicable) or links to passages (such as those on ReadWorks) that may be useful to your students. 

My main point here is to remember to be available. If you are a contract SLP, this section may not apply to you. Check with your district for specific guidelines for NTI days.

What about you? Snow days-- do you love them or hate them? How do you handle NTI days if your district implements them? Let me know in the comments!

2 comments:

  1. We don't have snow days here but we have had some hurricane and tsunami days. We try to make up the sessions. We usually schedule meetings at least a week before the due date so rescheduling hasn't been a problem.

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    1. Wow, I can't imagine! We also try to make up days, but one year we missed around 2 weeks of school so it wasn't entirely possible. And scheduling ahead is a great idea. We usually schedule 3-4 weeks in advance, so if the parent doesn't show, we still have time to send a (required) 2nd notice. However, KY also allows for extended timelines due to inclement weather, but I don't think all states do that.

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