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What does the day-to-day experience of a speech pathologist consist of?

The career of speech pathology and child development interests me, but the aspects on the job sometimes is concerning. I'd like to know exactly what a speech pathologist's schedule is like? #children #speech-pathology #child-development

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Alyx’s Answer

Hi Tashiyra,

I found this testament of a working speech-language pathologist and what her day looks like. Hope it helps!

A Day in the Life of ...
Twenty-six-year-old Greta Hansen-Begg wouldn't trade her job as a school speech therapist for anything in the world. "I love working in a school because I like working with children and teachers. I like the whole school atmosphere - walking down the hallway and seeing the children's collages and artwork on the wall. Being a good, effective communicator is a highly regarded quality in our society, and sometimes kids with communications disorders lack confidence. I like making kids feel special and confident."

Hansen-Begg originally planned to become a teacher. By the time she was a high school senior, however, she wasn't sure that's what she wanted to do. One day she picked up a job fair catalog and flipped through the pages looking for a career that looked interesting. "I read a single paragraph about communications disorders and I was hooked," she says. " It sounded absolutely right for me." Later that year she volunteered at a school in her district with a lot of special education students enrolled.

Special education students often have major problems communicating, usually because of brain damage or physical disabilities. Speech therapists use a variety of ways to help them communicate more effectively. As a volunteer, "I had my first encounters with people with communication disorders. After that, I decided my career path and have not questioned it once since. I've been very satisfied with my decision," she says.

Hansen-Begg now works with school children individually, in small groups, or in the classroom, depending on what suits the needs of the child. She currently treats 45 children.

Her main duties are identifying, assessing and treating children with communication disorders such as fluency (stuttering), hearing impairment, voice disorders, articulation disorders, autism and social skills disorders, to name a few. The ability to work well with a team is important because speech therapists often work with classroom teachers, parents, school principals, special education teachers, occupational and physical therapists and more.

Because speech therapy is considered special education, speech therapists must follow federal laws and guidelines when planning and providing treatment, all of which must be well documented. Hansen-Begg also screens preschoolers several times a year to identify young children who may need special education services.

Like many professional people, Hansen-Begg dislikes the amount of paperwork her job requires. "It's very time-consuming. I would love to spend more time planning," she says.

Before landing her current position, Hansen-Begg attended a state college in Minnesota and acquired her bachelor's of science degree. She then continued on for her master's degree. "There are stringent certification requirements, set by the national association [American Speech-Language-Hearing Association], in order to graduate, including completing 275 supervised clinical hours in various settings," she says.

During graduate school "I had lots of client contact," Hansen-Begg says, adding that she got an opportunity to work at a number of off-campus internships, which she really enjoyed. Graduates must then complete a nine-month clinical fellowship before becoming certified. "The fellowship is a graduate's first real job, but you're supervised for a certain number of hours by a certified speech/language therapist."

Hansen-Begg accepted her present job at a small school district near Minneapolis. She works with children from first through seventh grades, and travels back and forth between the elementary and junior high school buildings. She advises people interested in the field to become familiar with the work by arranging a "job shadow" with a speech therapist or by volunteering or working a part-time job at a site where people with communication disorders are treated.

"Ask lots of questions," she says. "Most speech therapists I know are very excited about their jobs and are willing to talk to others who are interested in this ever-changing profession." Also, when looking at schools to attend, "look especially for undergraduate and graduate schools that offer lots of off-campus clinical internships."

Thank you for all of this information. It was very helpful and I really appreciate it! Tashiyra F.

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T.’s Answer

It varies depending on the setting and also depending on the location. Not every speech language pathologist's day looks the same.

When I was in a private clinic with higher level brain injuries, I walked in with my labcoat to a small office and set up my diagnostic assessments. Then I would interview candidates who desired skilled treatment and provided diagnostic assessments that lasted about 1 hour per person. I had prep time in between to consult with physicians regarding the results and the potential rehabilitation goals to help the individual improve their cognitive linguistic communication.

When I was in a school setting, my day consisted of MWF groups of 2-3 children separated by either age or impairment and doing activities in my speech office to address their goals. Sometimes the children were brought to the office. Other times I had to go retrieve them individually from their classrooms. In between I had prep time for evaluations, getting ready in between sessions, billing medicaid, talking with teachers or parents regarding the student progress, and then on Tuesday and Thursdays I had IEP meetings and meetings with parents.

When I was in the nursing home, my day varied depending on who the administrator was. I had 9-12 hour days where I had 6.5 hours of treatment scheduled, a meeting to consult with the nutritionist/RD regarding acute weight loss or failure to thrive adults. I then had screenings, referrals for evaluations, meetings with family members called care plan meetings, and inservices.

The day in the life is not the same. We have such a specific and wide field.