Disrupting the Flow: The Role of SLPs in Schools

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I have had the awesome opportunity to begin my career in the public schools.  I have worked in public schools with private school flair and more urban public schools.  While I have been in private practice for over 10 years now, I continue to keep my pulse on the public schools and remain knowledgeable about education, RTI, and academic strands.  I maintain and agree with my mother that a child’s education is more reflective of the individual professional in front of them that  goes beyond the call of duty.

My mother is a public school teacher who has chosen to begin and make an impact on Chicago’s southside.  When I visit home, I may sometimes visit my mother’s classroom (because the feeling of visiting your mom at work still makes me feel like her little girl).  But now as a speech language pathologist, my mother wants me to work on her classroom library, give insight on reaching students with language learning difficulties, and adding creativity to a classroom wide positive behavior reinforcement system.  Each time my mother hears me speak, visits me at work, or we discuss education; she always maintains that her school SLP just doesn’t seem to do what I do.  I am always saddened by the reality that her SLP probably has a huge caseload and cannot be as impactful, I hope.

Still in 2012 I am as astounded as I was in 1999 when the role of the speech pathologist is not clear social workers, principals, Title 1 teachers, and educators.  While I would like to move beyond the ‘speech teacher’ title, I think that a deeper understanding from the school team AND adding more value on behalf of the SLP needs to occur.

Last week I was reminded of a conversation I had a few years ago with a school based social worker who informed me that she could not provide me with information about the student because I was just speech, working on articulation.  This student had moderately severe social behavior challenges characterized by decreased physical and emotional regulation along with perspective taking and problem solving.  In the spirit of collaboration, she refused to share important information that would support language therapy sessions because of her misguided belief about my role.  This inaccurate information led me to better position myself in educating my team members about my role. Of course, it made my job fuller and dually taught me how to collaborate and delegate across my team members.

While some educators are astounded by all that encompasses speech-language pathology, few may be intimidated by it, and others may welcome your insight; the role of the SLP is to bring your A game every day with all of your knowledge in auditory processing, language processing and its relationship and impact on reading acquisition, reading comprehension, written language, and spelling.  Yes I’m speaking of reading in particular to reading.  In Disrupting the Flow, the needed knowledge of the SLP should be a catalyst of the hard work of treating the brain, addressing the behavior, and creating the new neuropathways that support true change.  When you disrupt the flow, not everyone is happy or pleased.  But there will be eyes watching you.  So bring it!  Your students and the building should be better for having known you.

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