Job Title: Speech Language Pathologist
Education: BS in Speech Pathology, James Madison University MS in Speech Pathology, James Madison University
Previous Experience: Prior to the job I currently hold I worked in public school settings with various "special education" populations and disorders. For example, articulation disorders with school age children with no learning issues, language disorders with preschool developmentally disabled children, mentally challenged children, learning disabled children and fluency disorders with high school students. I have also worked with severely and profoundly mentally challenged children in the areas of augmentative communication.
Job Tasks: I currently work as a speech language pathologist at a private school which is a therapeutic school for emotionally disturbed and learning disabled students ages 6-21. My school serves as a contract school for other area school systems which cannot provide an appropriate education for their students. Most of these students are referred due to their behavior problems and their severe learning deficits.
My typical day is spent working with students in a 1:1 setting and providing therapy to help remediate my students' deficits in a particular language area. Most of my students have delays in phonology (reading), receptive/expressive language skills, auditory memory (retrieval) and auditory processing (understanding spoken stimulus), fluency (stuttering) and written expression.
Prior to providing therapy to a student, I have to develop specific goals and objectives for each student and present these goals to my team, the contracting school administration, the parents and other people involved in this student's life. Many outside agencies such as social workers, attorneys, and educational advocates are involved. I develop goals and the amount of service delivery based on the student's current level of functioning determined by observation and testing results. My goals and objectives are then written to include measurable goals and objectives that optimally will be attainable in one year's time. I also present based on the severity of the students disability how many sessions per week I will need to see them. Most of my students are seen for 1.5 hours per week (3 times per week for 30 minute sessions). Many times the contracting school system does not want to fund the therapy so I will have to provide rationale for my request. To prepare for my school day, I have to plan what activities I will do with the student, document the results of the therapy and if the activity was successful or if it was unsuccessful and what were possible interfering factors.
Administrative tasks involve the daily notes and attendance sheets, at the end of the month a Medicaid form must be filled out so the contracting school system can recover payment, quarterly summaries are required at the end of each quarter, at the end of the year I must submit a detailed final report with progress and recommendations to the contracting school system and I must write IEP goals one time a year. Along with the paper work, many times in the afternoon I have to meet with teachers, psychologists, art therapists if there is a concern about a particular student. There is an additional need to pursue continuing education, planning exciting and innovative ideas, much of which occurs off the "time clock".
I do not have to travel in my particular job because I am working for this particular school. Unlike a public school setting, my caseload is smaller, I see most of my students individually and I coordinate three language groups that focuses on reading skills (phonology) that I conduct along with a classroom teacher.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is working with other professionals and the students. It is exciting to work with a 14 year old student who cannot read and didn't even know the sound code of our reading system, read his first sentence or book. I also enjoy researching and reading about different strategies that I can use with a particular case. I find this interesting because there is no written prescription to remediate each student's disorder because everyone comes with different baggage. While school teaches you the basics, a lot of my current work is due to trial and error and researching. The worst part of my job is the paper work.
1. You will need a masters degree in the field, pass a national exam and completed a clinical fellowship year (CCC) currently, some places will take an undergraduate speech pathologist with decreased pay and having to be constantly supervised - in the past few years when there was not a shortage without a masters you would not be considered employable.
2. Currently their is a shortage of speech language pathologist so jobs are available or it is a great time to open your own practice so you can contract yourself out to school systems, hospitals, nursing homes etc.
3. You can work with a variety of populations and ages. Adults, children, preschool.
4. You have an option of working in a school setting or a hospital setting. I chose a school setting due to the population (children over adults), you have your summers off and other school vacations so it is a great if you have children yourself.
5. When you are completing your clinical fellowship pick an environment with other speech pathologists so you can see a variety of therapy techniques and methods
Additional Thoughts: When you are considering this career, while it is rewarding it does require extra time that you are not necessarily compensated for in cash but it can be interesting and challenging work.
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