7 Things Speech Pathologists Do at School #education

**Thanks for stopping by!! Since writing this post, I’ve launched a new blog related exclusively to speech therapy: SpeechisBeautiful.com. If you have any questions about being a speech path, pop over there and ask away! Thanks sooo much! ~Sarah**

I’m a fan of the “mini-series”– covering a topic over a series of blog posts for a short period of time. Every Monday in the month of February I’ll blog about a topic related to #education (at least tangentially).

When I decided to become a speech-language pathologist, I really had no idea that speech pathologists worked at schools – I assumed that they worked with patients in clinical settings, hospitals, or private practice. All that changed when I went to graduate school and discovered that many speech pathologists work in school districts supporting children’s learning. In fact, more than 50% of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work in school settings, making school districts the largest employers of speech pathologists nationally.

When I was in graduate school at Northwestern University, I chose one school placement and one placement in a clinical setting (which most students do). For my school placement, I worked in a school in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). I loved the kids, the dedicated special education teams, and the fast-paced environment. I knew that I when I graduated, I wanted to work for CPS and I was placed in schools where I could use my ability to speak fluent Spanish.

But what do SLPs do at school?

1)      Part of the special education team – Speech pathologists work as part of a team that determines the need for evaluation and special education for students. When a teacher submits a referral for special education or a parent comes to the school asking for an evaluation, the special education team consisting of a school psychologist, the school social worker, the speech pathologist, the occupational therapist, and/or the physical therapist review the information provided by the teacher or parent on the referral or in a meeting to decide whether an evaluation is necessary.

2)      Testing by the SLP – When the need for evaluation has been determined and the parent(s) have signed consent for evaluation, we evaluate students using various different tests. I test for speech sound delays/disorders, language delays/disorders, and fluency disorders (stuttering) and I have even had students with voice disorders. But schools are not hospitals or rehab clinics. Speech impairments in the school setting have to have an “adverse educational effect.” For example, if a child presents with a lisp, he/she does not get services at school unless the lisp affects the child’s education.  Most of the children I work with have serious speech delays or disorders which impact their education and their ability to access the general education curriculum.

3)      Writing IEPs – IEPs are Individual Education Plans, which are written after it has been determined that the student has a speech problem. An IEP not only describes how the student is functioning in the classroom, but the roughly 16-page form details the goals that the student will be working on and how many minutes per week that the student will be seen.

4)      Therapy happens – SLPs decide how to deliver speech minutes to students. There has been a big push over that past decade to include students in their regular education environment to the maximum extent possible. I am also tasked with serving students with communication disorders inside the classroom, but I don’t enter into the regular education classroom as much as I wish I could. Many of my students’ speech issues really do respond better when they are away from their peers (and they do look forward to working in small groups in the speech room away from their classmates).

5)      Talking to parents – Most speech pathologists spend some time every week talking to parents in IEP meetings or to explain the progress the student is making in speech class.

6)      Keeping speech therapy progress notes up to date – After every session, a speech pathologist writes down how much time was spent and what was worked on for every child. Much of the time this is typed into the computer so the data can be viewed and complied to track progress (or lack thereof). Writing daily notes is my least favorite thing to do.

7)      Consulting and collaborating – Speech paths are often looked to when there’s a student who has some kind of difficulty communicating. Consulting with regular education teachers happens on a daily basis in most schools (and it’s one of my favorite things to do). Additionally, many speech paths collaborate to create lessons for entire classrooms of students. Many students without speech impairments benefit from reviewing a language concept.

When speech paths work with children in a clinical setting, they don’t get the opportunity to see kids in a naturalistic environment. I enjoy working the school setting because it is a place that kids spend most of their day, learning new skills. I believe school is like a child’s “workplace” and it is where they develop a sense of themselves as independent and distinct from their family unit.

Although most people conceptualize the foundation of education as reading and math, I believe that the underpinning of academic success is communication. There’s nothing better than seeing students making progress with their speech because it can only mean good things for their classroom work!

**Thanks for stopping by!! Since writing this post, I’ve launched a new blog related exclusively to speech therapy: SpeechisBeautiful.com. If you have any questions about being a speech path, pop over there and ask away! Thanks sooo much! ~Sarah**

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21 thoughts on “7 Things Speech Pathologists Do at School #education

  1. I did my undergrad to be an SLP, however it was right after No Child Left Behind and there was such uncertainty as to what SLP’s roles would be (probably a little over-hyped in the education setting, especially the cutting of articulation therapy, which I had a major issue with!) that I was turned off by it, so I did not continue on to get a master’s degree.

    Unlike you I only knew SLP’s worked in schools, as I had been in therapy until I was 8 in school! I would have to agree with the end of #4, I LOVED getting away from class to go to speech. I remember we would play Hi Ho Cherry O (I’m sure it had something to do with my problem saying ‘r’s!).

    1. Wow! Well, you could always go back. There is still huge demand for speech paths in most of the country! 🙂

  2. As someone looking into pursuing a career in speech pathology, this was very informative. Any further advice for those interested in the field?

    1. I really enjoy working as a speech path. Feel free to email me with specific questions: fedupwithlunchATgmailDOTcom

    2. Great post! And Sarah, please check out my blog slpecho.wordpress.com where I have blogged about advice for starting in the SLP field. Check out the #slp2b ‘s on Twitter for more advice. It’s a wonderful field 🙂

  3. Just wanted to let you know that I so very much appreciate what you do for our kids. My son had an IEP (though didn’t meet with the speech path — he could talk a mile a minute all day long! — he mostly saw the OT), and it made a world of difference for him. As a result of my experience with this system, I strongly encourage my friends with kids who have learning differences to send their kids to their local public school. You guys are the ones who know best what kids need to do, and how to help them do it. I’m very grateful to you for all your hard work for kids.

    1. Most special ed teams really do know their stuff. I’m so happy that you had a good experience. Sometime parents really have to fight for services, which is a shame. Thanks again for commenting!

  4. Just ran across this and had say ‘great post!” I too am an SLP in the schools and absolutely love my job. I found your blog on facebook and was caught because every morning we adults get angry at what they are feeding our babies. There is so much that needs to be changed.

  5. I am also really interested in pursuing a career in Speech Pathology. I am just a junior in highschool and I’m trying to figure out if this is really something that I will be interested in doing. The job sounds challenging and rewarding at the same time. I can’t wait to start studying. Thank you for this post!

  6. I am in an Elementary Education grades 1-5 program in college right now but I am starting to think of switching majors to become an SLP. I was planning to get my masters degree anyway and I enjoy school so this does not put me off, I am just scared of the switch. I really want to work with in a school. I had never had an interest in working with sever disability students because I fear that I would not be cut out for it, but after watching many SLP videos I think it would be really cool to help students with mild-moderate disabilities as well as other students that may not have disabilities but just have speech or communication problems. Is this a realistic expectation or would I most likely get students with sever disabilities as well? I really think this career looks very interesting and feel that I could always go back and take the praxis to become a teacher later if I wanted to….but I just don’t know.

  7. I am a secondary school language arts teacher. I am thinking of becoming a SLP, but I do not know where to start. Do I need to take another undergrad course for that or can I move on by taking a masters? Do you know of any short term courses that will lead to that? I would appreciate any idea you can give me. Thanks!

  8. great posts. i am currently an undergrad now going to become an SLP and am so interested in learning anything I can. Any blogs, sites I should be involved in?

  9. Hi, I really like this sight. I just recently had employment as an RTI Tutor. I providentially ended up in a special needs classroom.I fell in love with the children and was given the opportunity to teach phonics and early reading to each child in the classroom. I found I loved teaching phonics and sounds. I also had the opportunity to teach to six 2nd grader early reading. Many of them English language learners

    Im now seeking a bachelors degree and then a masters. Since I love teaching sounds would speech language pathology be a good tract for me. I have looked into cota but Im not sure I can get a job in this area in the schools .I really want to work in the schools helping those with disabilities/

  10. Hi my name is Bianca and I am currently writing a research paper on the career of Speech Language Pathology. I am very interested in this career and would like to pursue it in college. I read your post and I think this is amazing information, I would love it if you could get back to me, maybe I could ask you some questions for my report? Please get back to me thanks!

  11. Hey I have a question about the evaluation process. Is the SLP on the IEP team legally allowed to use another SLP’s evaluation report to determine strengths/weaknesses and need for services? Or, does the SLP on the IEP team have to be the one to evaluate the child?

    1. Yes, a speech path can use another report and read it during a meeting and use it to justify the need for services. Feel free to check out my new speech blog speechisbeautiful.com. I think I’ll write a blog post on this! Thanks!

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