9. SLP Caseloads

Window looking out.

When there is no extra help for school speech therapists (SLPs) they cope the best they can. So “…managing a high number of communication disorder caseloads in the schools—with all its required responsibilities—has left many speech-language pathologists feeling utterly overwhelmed and burned out, according to Larry Biehl, CCC-SLP. Some have left the field, while others do their best cutting corners. Yet, the real losers are the students who need and deserve high quality services” (Speech and Language).

One busy SLP said everyday she has to do triage to cover all of her duties.

R. Greenwald of the University of Minnesota reports most SLPs like their jobs in many ways, but once their caseloads pass 45 pupils approaching 60, frustration sets in. Based on her survey data, “Speech-language pathologists are satisfied with their job even if they have a large caseload…[but]…the larger the caseload size, the lower the job satisfaction.”

One SLP sought advice on “language therapy for a large caseload” (Speech Pathology.Com): “I am having a hard time feeling like the therapy I provide for my language disordered students is effective. My caseload is large (60 + students), and the teachers have been difficult to work with as far as letting me group my children in the way I feel is appropriate…Can you help me?! I’m approaching burnout!”


Reducing one’s caseload through eligibility management shifts the locus of control to the SLP as defined by his or her job description. If caseload standards are set by the state and more SLPs are hired within the district, all the better. But the overloaded practitioner does not have to wait for external solutions. One can work within the framework of IDEA 2004 and be a local leader in the reduction of misidentification of at-risk children. There is more support for this school agenda than hiring more SLPs.

Eligibility management is contagious. Other specialists catch on fast when they see a concrete examples and hear articulate justifications. Special education teachers also have children who make for extra work and do not seem to belong in the resource room.

Administrators know about “disproportionality” and can identify with efforts to exit children who are no longer eligible. Reducing overidentification enhances professionalism.

John M. Panagos

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