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The Importance of School-based SLP Jobs During Covid-19

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) works to assess, diagnose, treat and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders, and there are numerous job opportunities for these therapists throughout the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the SLP job market will continue to see substantial growth, as well.

In fact, the BLS predicts that employment of SLPs is projected to grow 27 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the 5 percent average growth for all occupations. Although SLPs can be found in a variety of different settings and practice areas, working with patients across their life span, school-based SLP jobs are expected to continue as the largest area of employment and growth.
SLP jobs are important for a number of reasons, explained Katie Christensen, M.S., CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist who works in a school in Washington State.

Why school-based SLP jobs are so important

“First of all, we get to support kids and teach them speech and language skills in the environment where they are directly applying them,” Christensen said. “We can help them in the classroom, we can do some quick pullout and then they can apply those skills right away. There is so much opportunity for carryover and for students to apply their skills right away to really help them be more successful.”

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), one and one-half million students receiving special education services have communication disorders, and SLPs work with these pupils to develop and improve their communication skills.

“Another thing that I think is so important is that in the public school system we serve any student who walks in the door, so it is not dependent on students having insurance or having parents who can take them to therapy. Really, we can meet the needs of any student and it breaks down some of those barriers to accessing services,” Christensen said.

Providing speech-language therapy during COVID-19

Barriers to learning and communication are ample during the coronavirus pandemic, further highlighting the importance of SLPs in the school setting.

“Particularly now in times of COVID, I think therapy is even more important,” Christensen said. “A lot of private therapies may not be functioning in the same way or may not even be open, so schools providing those services may be the only access a student has right now.

“At the heart of it, we teach kids how to communicate with other people and right now COVID is so stressful and kids don’t really understand what is happening. And for kids with speech and language delays, that is even harder for them,” she added. “Therapy can help them thrive in this situation that is really stressful and a struggle.”

SLPs are providing access to care remotely in some cases, as many U.S. schools are currently operating virtually, using a distance learning format.
“We will be providing services remotely,” Christensen said of her school’s plans thus far for the 2020-2021 academic year. “The most common is to sign in through Zoom or Google Meets and then do a live session with the student. We can really target the majority of the same things we would do in person. There are obviously some challenges and barriers but it can be incredibly effective still which is great.”

Benefits of school-based SLP jobs

Favorable schedules, competitive compensation, job security and endless personal and professional fulfillment are just a few of the many reasons that speech therapists choose a career as a school-based SLP.
Christensen noted that her most treasured aspects of working in the school system include being able to help children communicate better every single day and collaborating with other professionals.
“Being able to work with all of the different staff members in the school -- the teachers, OTs (occupational therapists), resource teachers -- really to make a holistic difference, and we can all work together to really make a bigger difference for the student and help them apply their skills in all areas. Getting summer off is great, too!” she added.


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