Surviving the End of the School Year: 5 Tips for School-Based SLPs

5 tips to help school based speech language pathologists finish the school year more organized, with less stress, and better health, gratitude, and optimism.

Alyson Hendry, M.A., CCC-SLP

5/9/20243 min read

Last day as a school based speech language pathologist (SLP). Helping speech therapists stress less and have more fun.
Last day as a school based speech language pathologist (SLP). Helping speech therapists stress less and have more fun.

Photo description- my last day as a school-based SLP after an under-the-sea themed end of year party!

I worked as a school based speech-language pathologist for over 10 years and used to REALLY resist the month of May. The frantic end of year rush of IEPs, progress reports, last minute evaluations, taking inventory, transition meetings, packing up classrooms, finalizing special education records, all while still having to do the “regular” parts of the job- speech therapy, documentation, billing, team meetings, putting out fires–it was too much for one speech therapist.

All of these extra tasks resulted in long hours, sleepless nights, and lots of extra stress and burnout. While I can’t say I “mastered” the end of year with zero stress and perfect execution, I did learn a LOT, including how to stress less and have more fun.

Here are my top 5 lessons/tools/resources to help you stay a little more sane this May:

1. Take care of yourself.

This is arguably the hardest one. When our plates are so full, this is the first thing to go- skipping meals and workouts, staying up late/waking up early to complete documentation, canceling plans with loved ones (or solo recharge time), etc. But, there is no prize for 100% completion, not even a participation trophy! There is only exhaustion and sacrificed health and happiness for you. Give yourself permission to step away for 30 minutes to eat lunch, go for a walk/run, do some yoga, or take a nap. 30 minutes won’t make or break anything, and it will help you refocus and be more productive later.

2. Set boundaries, and do a B- job.

Give yourself a specific number of minutes to complete a task, and make the task fit into those boundaries. If it’s done imperfectly, it’ll really truly be fine. Either no one will ever notice, or they will notice and will ask you to fix it later, which you will. No biggie. Most SLPs I know (myself included) aim for A+ plus some extra credit. This just zaps us of our energy and is inefficient–we overdo it, then exhaust ourselves. We don’t have to live like this anymore, and we need to start breaking that habit NOW for our future selves and future clinicians. Speech therapists have an extraordinary amount of tasks for our job, and it’s not reasonable to get it all done. So, challenge yourself to do a B- job and move on.

3. Simplify.

Copy/paste universal blurbs in your progress reports. Use the same easily customizable homework packet for every student like this one (available for free in English and Spanish). Do the same speech therapy activities with every group with slight modifications for age/grade level. Wear casual, comfy clothes to work (this actually helps me A LOT this time of year). Bring easy, repetitive meals and snacks to make sure you don’t skip meals.

4. Organize for your future self

When packing up your classroom, try to organize and categorize your materials to help your future self. All those loose worksheets? Either give yourself permission to toss/recycle them, or put them in a file folder and label them by category/goal. Don’t let them stay in a disorganized pile for your future self. Let this be a cathartic process of reflection and letting go of the school year. As you’re doing this, keep a notepad or word doc handy and write down your wish list for speech therapy materials. You’ll remember the things and tools you want better now than you will in the fall when many of us get our budgets for the year. This also gives us something to look forward to!

5. Allow yourself to have fun!

Students are having fun, and school based SLPs also deserve to! Make your therapy sessions playful and different from the rest of the school year. Get outside for a bubbles and chalk day, or borrow equipment from the PE teacher for your own mini field day. Play more games. Have gratitude/reflection sessions with students. Join class parties for your service time if you still have minutes to log. Take less data and just be more present and relaxed. Participate in silly spirit days. Have your students help you clean/organize your speech therapy room and materials (for some reason many of them love this?!). Keep their goals in the back of your mind, but remember that EVERYTHING can be therapeutic. SLPs are great at modeling language, speech, and social goals in everything we do.

Incorporating even a portion of these tips will help you survive the end of the school year with less stress, more fun, better boundaries, happiness, and health. Follow me on IG @alysonhendryslp and let me know what are your tools to survive (and thrive) as a school-based SLP in May/June!

Head over here to grab your free Summer Speech Therapy Homework Packet (in English and Spanish) to take one thing off of your to-do list!

Please share this post and the link to download the summer homework packet with your colleagues and on social media!