Throughout my career as a physical therapist, I am often impressed by the versatility of Speech Language Pathologists (SLP).
Many have 2-3 jobs in various settings. For example, an SLP often combines part time work in outpatient, home health and a skilled nursing setting, juggling the schedule to complete everything and managing to stay current in a variety of settings. Brenna Krygsheld, SLP, is no exception. In the first three years since graduating from the University of Wyoming, she started two jobs and managed a caseload in a school that has spanned from K-12 in four different schools!
Never having worked in a school setting I asked Brenna what a typical day looks like as a school Speech Language Pathologist. “My goal is to arrive at school by 40 minutes before the students do. In that time, I can bill for Medicaid, work on IEPs, and generally prepare for the day. I try to fill this time with administrative tasks. As children arrive I help the teaching staff by getting children off the bus, assist with the school bookstore, or I bring sick students to the nursing office.”
What does school speech language pathology treatment look like?
Brenna uses a technique called speedy speech. Instead of gathering a group of 4-5 students for 25-30 minutes, she sees each student individually for 5-8 minutes. “My focus is solely on one student for those 5-8 minutes and we work on whatever his/her needs are,” Brenna explains. The amount of time spent with each student is dictated by the amount of goals they have. “Research says that in five minutes a student can repeat 115 words or approximately 35 sentences. This is more practice than they can receive in a typical group SLP session.”
Brenna goes to the classroom during the students’ “extra block” so she doesn’t take time away from math, reading, etc. She utilizes a speech stick that acts as a secret code. After she works with the student in the hallway, she hands him/her the speech stick and tells them to give it to the next student. “I find this very effective. I save time not transporting students back and forth to my room and eliminate all the distractions that can occur transporting a group of students through the hallway to my room.”
What is an IEP?
During our conversation Brenna mentions the term IEP. IEP stands for “Individualized Education Program,” a legal document that may include the following disciplines: school counselor, special education teacher, school psychologist, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology. Within the IEP each discipline outlines services and sets goals of how many times the student will be seen by a school speech language pathologist per month or year. Goals are monitored monthly and IEP meetings are required to be completed at least once a year. The IEP is a legal document binding the school to provide the outlined services during the school year, summer session or tele-health is also an option.
Brenna’s caseload has a variety of age ranges which means she deals with different diagnoses throughout her day. In early childhood ages Brenna mainly works with late talkers. In the elementary level, the main diagnoses include speech articulation, autism, and pragmatic language skills. Her high school caseload is more focused on language than speech diagnoses.
Throughout the years I have spoken with colleagues who report being treated more like a Teacher than a Speech and Language Pathologist. Brenna agreed, “Yes, Therapy is all lumped together. I try and take the time to explain what I do during meetings with administration and family. I often catch an “aha moment” as they realize that I have a special skill set. Overall, my school’s administration is helpful and tries to build a supportive team.”
Here are Brenna’s helpful tips regarding personality or characteristic traits to possess if you are thinking about working in a school:
1. Try NOT be type A personality for all aspects of your life. You can be type A with your documentation, but you also need to be flexible with the student/teacher relationship.
2. Be creative. You can’t control all aspects of the school day. Sometimes your scheduled time is filled up by an assembly or a play, etc. During a walk-a-thon, I walked with the students and worked on language as best I could. You can’t be regimented about all aspects of your day.
3. Be a team player. I assist by helping out in the morning with school arrivals and I find the more I get involved the more relationships with teachers grow and that helps them understand me and my goals with the students.
4. Be flexible with teacher’s classroom time with students. Seek to understand each teacher may be different. Some teachers are okay with taking students out of the classroom, others only want students out at a certain time, etc.
5. Serving the school helps with the school understanding the needs of SLP students.
I always like to ask therapists if they would recommend their position or setting to other therapists. Brenna started her career with a focus on the hospital environment. She enjoyed learning all the medical treatments more than school based learning. “But, so far I thoroughly love learning about the students. I get to see so much progress. Last year a student came in with no words, and now a year later the teacher commented that she wished the student would not talk so much in class!”
Speech Therapy Goals Met!
Do you work in a school setting and have any tips for other therapists who are thinking of working at a school? Let us know in the comments below. If you are a Speech Language Pathologist interested in working in a school setting, reach out to one of our recruiters to find a job is right for you.
To listen to the entire interview with Brenna, visit myPTpodcast and listen to Episode 8 “An Interview with an SLP in the school setting.”