Speech Language Pathologists in Schools 10 Tips for Success
One of the great things about being a speech language pathologist is the diversity of work that the career offers. SLPs are eligible and qualified to work in many settings, and the work within those settings is often quite varied.
So whether you are considering a change from full-time employee to a traveling SLP professional, are thinking about changing your work environment, or are desiring a change in the type of client you serve, there are many reasons to consider working with children within the school setting.
Here are 10 important things to know about working as a school-based SLP, including tips to get the most out of your job and provide the best treatment for your students:
1. Understand your role. Know what the school’s principal expects of you and understand your position as a member within a team of professionals that can include a teacher, social worker, psychologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, health aide, reading specialist and others.
2. Understand and use the IEP. Because you are working in an academic setting, you are a contributing member to the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). These are mandated documents that describe how well (or not) a student is functioning in the classroom. The form also lists the goals set for the student and the services and instruction that will help him/her achieve those goals. It will denote how much time you will spend with the student.
3. Remember that time is at a premium when working with your roster of students. Veteran SLPs advise not to spend precious time developing treatment plans. Instead, take cues for therapy from the students. This allows you to tailor therapy to the needs of individual, to make the most of the time you spend with them, and to be flexible.
4. So, be flexible. Remember that students have off-days (and so do you). What you had planned may not be right for the time or it may even cause harm. Part of your role is to help your student navigate social situations, which can be difficult for children with speech problems. Be willing to use your time with the student for emotional support or encouragement.
5. Observe students outside your sessions. It is important to see your student function within the classroom, so try to allot time for this.
6. Think of your student’s teacher as a resource. He/she can fill in the blanks and provide an accurate account of how your student is progressing (or not) in the classroom setting. Teachers also can benefit from any tips you can give them.
7. Get organized. Because most school-based SLPs experience a time crunch, organization is a key skill to master, say veterans. Some recommend creating a color-coded file system for making the most of the time they have, dividing cases into the categories of “Do today,” “Do later” and “Complete.” This system allows you to see at a glance what you’ve accomplished and what still needs to be done and when. The system also creates a sense of control – a key factor in keeping stress levels low.
8. Keep good records. Implementing the above organizational strategy also promotes keeping records up to date, and there is a lot of recordkeeping when working in the schools.
9. Communicate with parents and guardians as much as time allows. They can be important allies and can help reinforce what students learn in your sessions.
10. Keep the bottom line in mind: whatever time you spend with your students will impact their lives and their education.