Career Spotlight: Speech Pathology
Ashley, bridget and I (allie) are all practicing speech therapists. we all met in graduate school actually! i’ve always been curious about what people do for their careers and why they chose it so i decided to make a series spotlighting different careers for women. to start it all off i thought we’d begin on a topic i know best, speech! Each of us work in slightly different capacities under the larger speech umbrella and there are even more ways to be a speech path not included in here! it’s such a diverse field! But anyways, let’s begin!
Education Based (Ashley):
I work for a school district in orange county, CA. I finished grad school in May 2017 and had a few months off before starting my job. I was assigned to an Elementary School that has a special behavior program on campus as well as mild/moderate special needs students. The district I work in is known for being very litigious. That was probably one of the most stressful parts of my first year. We had meetings with advocates and talks of parents lawyers etc. Being new, and not super confident yet, that was REALLY scary. Now I know, my special education team is fabulous, I had a great supervisor by my side (one time a week, eek!), and such an amazing group of speech-language pathologists in the district all supporting me during this first year. I worked from home way too often but I learned SO much and loved every minute of it. I am feeling really passionate about pragmatic social skills groups due to not having much experience with that type of treatment and encountering many many students that could benefit from that type of intervention with me. I am working on creating mini lessons that can be used for push-in therapy in our behavior classrooms as well as by general education teachers if there is a common theme they would like to address. I really love the collaboration I get to do with not just teachers, but our principal, assistant principal, education specialists, and other service providers. It really makes such a difference when you can collaborate and all be working towards similar goals at school.
Private Practice + contracted with a school district (Allie):
In graduate school I always said I wanted to go the medical route with speech. Despite that, while I still do, I've so appreciated everything I've learned since working in a private practice (just celebrated 1 year!!). Every day is different and each day brings a different set of clients who keep me on my toes and challenge me in unique and surprising ways. Because my clinic is contracted with the local school district, I also get to travel to different elementary schools twice a week and complete full speech and language assessments for triennial IEP's. Our clinic sends our Speech Language Pathology Assistants (SLPA's in California) into the classes during the week for push-in services (working around what the children are already doing in the classroom) and then I get to pop in and assess the kiddos when their IEP is coming up. I kind of get the best of both worlds having one foot in schools and one in a clinic that is more like an outpatient facility (1 client for 50 minutes).
Communication is everything. And how cool is it that I get to help people communicate for my job?? Sometimes it means I'm helping a child speak for the first time or I'm helping someone speak again after an accident. Sometimes this means I can help a child with Autism navigate tricky social norms and sometimes I'm working on building grammatically correct sentences. I get to work alongside a family and my client and help them with something so integral to being a human. Some days I get overwhelmed by the weight of this job or by lack of progress, etc. but it's nice to look back on the big picture of my job and be grateful that God chose me to help people in such an big way.
Early intervention (Bridget):
When I was a senior in high school, my friend and I were chatting about the different universities that we were deciding between. My friend mentioned that if she went to Gonzaga University she was going to study education and if she went to Western Washington University (WWU), she was going to study Communication Sciences & Disorders (CSD) a.k.a. Speech Language Pathology. Before that day, I had never heard about CSD so I asked my friend to tell me a little more about it. After we talked, my interest in the profession was peaked. I ended up attending WWU and decided to take the Introduction to CSD course just to make sure that it was a major I wanted to pursue. I immediately fell in love with all the profession had to offer and begin the road to becoming a Speech Language Pathologist.
Throughout my undergraduate and graduate experience in Speech Language Pathology, I have always loved the fact that you can work with a wide variety of ages and in many different settings. Currently, I work with the Birth to 3-year-old population in Early Intervention. In this setting, I am helping children learn how to communicate more effectively and am helping them develop their receptive and expressive language skills. I truly enjoy my job though some days it can be challenging working with toddlers…however their cuteness makes up for it! What I’ve really enjoyed the most though is working closely with the parents and other team members (special educators, physical therapists, occupational therapists) to create a holistic therapy plan that works into the family’s daily routine. It’s a very rewarding job and I always take delight in sharing in the joys and successes the child has with their parents, no matter how big or how small. These tiny humans are so resilient and they inspire me every day!
And if you’re at all still curious about our field, I was asked to participate in a video when we were still in graduate school to help educate others on the amazing work we were doing in memory care facilities. That’s something I love about my job. We get to work with people from the beginning of life to the end and ensure they are living their best possible life all along that spectrum. Also, I might be biased but we went to the best grad school ever. Go Pacific!!