Becoming a school-based speech-language pathologist is a noble career choice. We are devoted to helping children reach their communicative potential. There is a lot to love about the profession; below is a list of what I like best about what I do.
1. Helping the Kids that Need it Most
The most fulfilling aspect of being a school-based SLP is helping children with special needs. We give students the skills they need to communicate optimally with their peers and teachers, whether it's through producing speech sounds correctly, constructing age-appropriate written sentences, following multi-step classroom instructions, or using a communication device. Many students are aware of their communication impairment; for some it is a major source of frustration and embarrassment. Seeing the smiles on these children's faces when they experience success makes all the paperwork, meetings, and daily grind of the job well worthwhile.
2. Summers Off
And it's not just summers! There's also winter break, spring break, snow days, federal holidays, etc. SLPs in my school district are contracted to work 189 days out of the year. The workday hours are not bad, either: on a typical day, I work from about 8:30 to 4:00 (this doesn't include the many before- and after-school IEPs and other meetings.
3. It's Fun!
Few professions allow you to play like speech-language pathology! Most of my elementary students really enjoy coming to speech therapy because nearly all of my activities at this level are embedded in games or other activities that are intrinsically rewarding (arts and crafts, for example). Therapy with my preschoolers is almost entirely play based as well.
4. Creativity (The Sky's the Limit!)
According to ASHA, evidence-based practice is the integration of the therapist's expertise, external scientific evidence, and patient perspectives. As long as the SLP's methods are backed by evidence, her choice of materials depends on her expertise and the student's needs and interests. I create a lot of my own materials, customizing them to the students they are intended for. I love that I am free to create new games and activities for my kids. It can be time consuming, but it makes therapy more personal and fun for the students.
5. Job Opportunities
Wherever there are schools, there are school-based SLPs! Ours is a burgeoning field!
The school SLP is a member of numerous teams. The team I work most closely with is the multidisciplinary evaluation team in my school building. This usually consists of the school psychologist, occupational therapist, school social worker, and special education teacher. We come together to plan evaluations, discuss results, and make decisions about a student's special education programs and services. Being part of a team dedicated to helping students is a powerful experience. Each member shares their expertise with the group, providing insights into the student as a whole that any one member alone would not have seen.
SLPs encounter variety everywhere in their job, from student demographics to worksites to therapy materials to colleagues, etc. We work with students with an array of special needs that demand different skill sets. In addition to students with a primary speech and language impairment, I also work with students with a learning disability, cognitive impairment, Autism Spectrum Disorder, emotional impairment, hearing impairment, traumatic brain injury, or other health impairment. My choice of therapy goals, location, frequency, and materials is customized to the student's particular needs, which are always unique.
8. SLP: Elementary School Rock Star
Word gets around that speech therapy is fun: games, stickers, lots of attention, and getting to leave class - what more could a kid ask for? For these reasons, SLPs are popular figures in elementary schools. On a daily basis, kids I don't even know approach me, asking to come to speech. I constantly get high fives and smiles as I pass my kids in the halls. It's nice to be loved!
9. It's All Good
Every SLP has had the experience of a therapy session gone wrong: the printer breaks, therapy materials are missing, a student shows up 20 minutes into the session, and we have to improvise with what we have at the moment. At the very least, when things go wrong in a session, there is
the still the opportunity to offer the student something invaluable: our undivided attention. I've noticed that many children crave the attention and positive regard I give them by just listening to how their day is going, asking them about their interests (also a chance to assess speech and language, by the way), or playing a short game with them. Even when the planned therapy fails, the therapy session doesn't have to. There is still the opportunity to spend quality time with the student and take some informal data.
10. Taking Home the Work (In a Good Way!)
Working with children all day has given me insight into how to stimulate my own son's language development. The materials I make at school can also be used as games or crafts for home. There is never a shortage of fun, educational projects for my son and me at home!
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