Early Intervention Speech Language Pathologist
Job Title: Speech Language Pathologist
Type of Company: I work for an early intervention program that is part of a larger non-profit human services organization in Boston. We work with children up to three years old who have developmental disabilities.
Education: B.S., Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology M.S., Speech-Language Pathology
Previous Experience: My first job after graduation was in an elementary school, where I worked as a speech language pathologist (SLP) for children in Pre-K through 5th grade.
When I moved to Boston, I decided I wanted to work with families and younger children, so I looked into jobs in the field of early intervention.
Job Tasks: My work in early intervention is complex, challenging, and rewarding. In many ways, each day is different from the next. I have several roles and responsibilities, including (1) participating in assessments to determine whether or not a child is eligible for early intervention services, (2) home visits -- working with infants and toddlers and their families in their natural environment (usually their home), and (3) leading a therapeutic play group two mornings a week. In addition, I am a clinical supervisor for graduate students who are studying to become speech language pathologists and are looking for experience working in an early intervention program.
The children that I work with are all under the age of three years old. They are eligible to receive early intervention services either because they have significant developmental delays or because they and/or their families have at least four environmental risk factors. These environmental risk factors include "child characteristics," such as extremely low birth weight, extended hospital stays, and chronic feeding difficulties, and "family characteristics," including homelessness, substance abuse in the child's home, and violence in the home.
Most of the children with whom I work have significant developmental delays. These include, but are not limited to, receptive and expressive language delays, autism spectrum disorders, hearing loss, Down syndrome, and Global Developmental Delay.
I generally see about five families per day for home visits and assessments. I collaborate with my co-workers during assessments, because we do those in groups of three in order to have a multi-disciplinary team. A typical assessment would include me (an SLP), a social worker, and a special educator. On the days that I lead the therapeutic play group, that takes up the entire morning, and I usually schedule a couple of home visits or an assessment in the afternoon.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: At my program, we work hard to empower parents, to encourage them to see themselves as their child's best teachers. Being able to work with the child within the context of his or her home life is so important; it's one of the best things about my job.
I also enjoy the flexibility of my schedule. While I need to work forty hours in a week, I do not have to work a set schedule each day (e.g. 9 to 5).
Job Tips: Not everyone who is a speech language pathologist works in an early intervention program. There are a variety of paths one can take in this field, including working in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, and private clinics.
You need to go to graduate school and earn a master's degree in order to become a licensed speech language pathologist. I began studying to be an SLP as a junior in college. Before that, I took a variety of courses in order to determine what I liked best and what I could envision doing in the future.
Additional Thoughts: I would encourage those of you who are considering becoming a speech language pathologist or who are interested in learning more about early intervention programs to contact a professional in your area (or call a local early intervention program) and ask to meet with someone to talk about their experiences. You may even be able to shadow that person for a day. This would give you a sense of what it might be like to work in the field.