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Educators - Smarter Steps

Building A S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Future for Students with Disabilities

August 22, 2017Kelly Ott

Building A S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Future for Students with Disabilities.

Building a name and reputation as a caring and compassionate educator occurs spontaneously when you are truly client centered. This involves so much more than developing IEP goals or providing therapy services to students. It means, providing the therapy or instruction, ongoing analysis of student’s needs, counseling and educating families, as well as advocating for our students with disabilities.

Although providing quality instruction is important, students and families remember your services when you go beyond the instructional goals. As a result, your megaphone for success will be those individuals and families that you go the extra mile to help.

Lara recalls a time when a parent said in IEP meeting: "Are you really listening, ...or are you just waiting for your turn to talk?" She was a first-year speech-language pathologist and was extremely anxious and worried about what she needed to share in the meeting. Both her supervisor and principal were observing her in that meeting for her professional development plan. She recalls her hands tremblling and her voice was shaky. The parent’s words stopped her in my tracks. She said, "yes, I am very focused on what I need to tell you and it blocks me from listening sometimes. I do have anxiety. I want to make sure I don't forget to tell you all the great progress your child has made." She reached across the table and put her hand on Lara’s to calm her down. The parent said, "I'm nervous too. I'm afraid that no one will hear my voice. Sometimes all a parent wants in these meetings is for you to listen for a little bit." Lara turned the report over, closed her mouth and nodded for the parent to continue. Lara believes that she learned more from that parent in that moment than any of her supervisors. A lesson that we must continually work with families.

I remember similar experiences over the years when providing therapy or educational services to students and have identified other barriers as well.

  • Special Educators and SLPs become so focused on our piece of the pie that we forget to listen to the expertise and input of others in IEP meetings.
  • We get stressed at the policies, process and mandates which can cloud the work we do.
  • We lose valuable time with our students because of the amount of paperwork and data gathering that is required.
  • It is difficult to stay up to date with evidence based practices and current trends in education or therapy.
  • Many of us are not familiar with the laws, regulations, policies, process, and ethics related to the services we provide.
  • More often than not, we are providing quality services but do not know how to adequately document what we do in ways that reflect best practices.
  • We end up feeling overwhelmed which creates further stress, frustration, and eventually burnout.

Most importantly, those of us serving students with disabilities also need support, guidance, and advocacy for continued professional development. Keeping up our momentum to serve our students in the best way possible requires maintenance.  S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Steps was created in hopes of reducing special educator and SLP burnout due to these factors.

S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Steps is a consulting business developed for special education staff and parents of children with special needs ages birth to 21. This organization is designed to assist special education teams on how they can achieve federal and state compliance while empowering self-advocacy skills throughout development and implementation of Individual Education Programs (IEP's).  We are focused on simplifying the process and procedures so that you can spend more time where it matters most—with your students!

S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Steps provides consulting, live and recorded tutorials, professional education and parent resources, and information for each step of the IEP process. These educational resources reveal for parents and professionals how easily they can achieve compliance while creating quality personalized learning programs. When teams work collaboratively toward building comprehensive educational plans, the student outcomes are much more successful.

Kelly Ott, MEd, MHS, CCC-SLP  and Lara Wakefield, PhD, CCC-SLP
S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Steps resources and support services on TPT and at