In our district, we hire a select group of individuals with a Bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. For any number of reasons, they do not have a master’s degree in the field but have an interest in working in the school system doing speech and language therapy. And they rock!
First a little background as to how we utilize these SLP Assistants in our school system. We are a large metro district with over 175 SLPs…and at any given time there are at least 3 of them on maternity leave, 1 of them on family or medical leave, and 2 full- or part-time vacancies. As with so many districts, there is little to no money for certified SLPs to substitute (if we could even find any) or to fund compensatory speech-language services after school or during summer breaks. So a viable solution was to hire these lovely people to fulfill this need. They are paid on a separate pay scale between a paraprofessional position and certified bachelor’s level teacher. They are able to provide short-term speech-language services as indicated in the students’ IEPs with supervision and support from a dedicated supervisor (typically one of us) as well as direction from any other SLPs in the building, if applicable. These SLP-As do not write IEPs, attend meetings, or conduct evaluations. They do write their own lesson plans (with assistance as needed), take data and document their sessions, and assist in development of present levels and IEP goals based on their work with the students.
All the fun of being an SLP without all the extra paperwork and meetings? Sounds like a dream come true, huh?
Trust us, our program coordinator receives no shortage of applicants for these positions – and we have had nothing but success with each and every one of them. School administrators, teachers, and even the SLPs they cover for beg them to stay each and every time!
And their value has not gone unnoticed by us…
Just because you’ve been a practicing, certified school-based SLP for more years than you care to mention does not mean you have seen or done it all. Even if you have seen or done it, do not underestimate the power of standing outside the situation and helping someone else be more successful. Much like being a CF mentor, supervising SLP-As provides opportunities to learn new ways of conducting therapy, model strategies and techniques, and see things from a totally different point of view.
This supervision process has taught us that the best of SLPs have an instinct that cannot be taught in graduate school. No amount of theory, book study, or reading research and textbooks can prepare for the therapeutic skills that our SLP-As were seemingly born with. Sure they have each learned things from us and made improvements over time, but it as much through the experiences they have had as the guidance we have given. We have learned through instructing them the importance of receiving solid data that can be easily analyzed in order to write data-driven present levels and goals. We have seen firsthand that flexibility is the most valuable asset an itinerant staff member can possess. They allow us to think better on our feet (and, if we may say so ourselves, write some pretty nice IEPs about students we barely know!). They make us better problem solvers and better SLPs.
Thank you SLP-As…you have taught us more than you can imagine! It’s always a pleasure to work with you!