How to Become a School Speech Pathologist

School Speech Pathologist Job Description: What is a School Speech Pathologist?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 over 40% of speech-language pathologists work in schools and education- more than any other setting. School speech pathologists work with students directly in schools to address any speech and language needs the students may have. They serve children across age groups with a wide range of disorders- from stuttering to language development to autism to ADHD to dysphagia.

School Speech Pathologist Job Responsibilities

School speech-language pathologists have many responsibilities, including:

Assessment: If there is concern that a student has speech or communication difficulties, a school SLP can assess the student to see what their needs are.

Treatment: When it is determined that a student requires the help of a speech pathologist, the school SLP will design and implement a treatment program. This program may include individual and group therapy sessions in “the speech room”, as well as changes to the classroom setting, integration of therapy into the classroom, and continued therapy at home.

Collaboration: It is often important that speech and language therapy extends beyond the classroom to bolster the efforts made in the short amount of time children often have with their speech pathologist. It is also important that a child with a speech or communication disorder has an optimal learning environment. All of this requires collaboration. Teachers need to be trained to ensure students with speech needs, and even classrooms as a whole, are teaching in a way that promotes literacy in an environment suitable for all students. SLPs must also collaborate with families to make sure that progress can be made at home, as well. SLPs must work to build strong relationships with teachers and families to get the best outcomes for the students they help.

Data Collection: Collecting data is crucial to evaluating the effectiveness of a treatment plan. SLPs must keep data to ensure their methods are working and their students are progressing. The ASHA Code of Ethics requires the use of Evidence Based Practice- using treatment methods that have been proven through research, and when non are available, using personal data to ensure what you are doing is effective.

Documentation and Billing: Being a school SLP also comes with its share of administrative tasks- writing reports on students, billing to medicaid, developing IEPs, and more.

Culturally Inclusive Assessment and Treatment: When providing assessment and treatment to students, the SLP must be mindful of how cultural factors may influence how to best assess and treat the student. For example, use of other dialects such as African American English influence a child’s morphosyntax, phonology, and more. What could be mistaken as a speech disorder may in fact be simply a difference in dialect. There are assessment tools that SLPs can use to take dialect into account. Additionally, bilingual students are at risk of misdiagnosis and underdiagnosis of speech and language disorders. It is important to use evidence based tools to ensure bilingual students receive proper assessment and treatment.

School Speech Pathologist Salary

According to ASHA‘s 2018 Schools Survey, school SLPs make between $62,000 and $68,000 per year depending on the type of school they work at.

How to Become a School Speech Pathologist

To become a school speech pathologist, one must follow the traditional path to becoming a speech pathologist, which you can find on our guide, How to Become a Speech Pathologist: A Step-by-Step Guide. There is nothing more specific that you need to do to specialize in the school setting, but there are things you can do throughout the process of becoming a school SLP that can best prepare you to take on the role, including:

Fulfilling practicum requirements in a school setting: Depending on your master’s in speech pathology program, you may be able to devote some of your practicum hours to an educational setting. A school SLP with a CCC-SLP credential will be able to supervise you so you can get credit. Remember that you will need a variety of practicum experiences across age groups to earn your CCC-SLP, so not all of your time can be spent in a school.

Spending your Clinical Fellowship Year in a school setting: You can use your clinical fellowship year to work in a school setting and learn from an experienced school SLP.

Choose classes that are specific to school or child speech pathology: Take any opportunity you can to learn what is most relevant to the area you wish to practice in! Of course, be mindful of all of the other subject matter requirements you have to meet.

Seek out professors with school speech pathology experience for advice: Knowledgeable professors can be a great source of career advice, and may be able to connect you with research or other opportunities that are relevant to school speech pathology.

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