Interview with Mary Cooper of Old School Speech

Mary Cooper, M.Ed., CCC-SLP is a veteran Speech/Language Pathologist in her 34th year as an SLP. 32 of those years have been in the public schools. She received her BS in Communicative Disorders from East Tennessee State University and her M.Ed. in Speech Pathology from Georgia State University. She holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She is an active member of the Tennessee Association of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists, serving on the Schools Committee.

Note: You should consult with your doctor or speech pathologist for recommendations on treatment. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Mary Cooper and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

What inspired you to start Old School Speech?

I started reading other Speech blogs and realized that I may have something to offer to make things easier for younger SLPs. Plus, blogging is therapeutic to me. Blogging is a way to get things off my chest and be able to work through some difficulties by writing things down.

What do you hope your readers get out of your posts?

New ideas to make things easier for them. Whether it be a difficult case, less than ideal situations with parents & coworkers, therapy ideas, or handling paperwork, I would hope that someone could use a little bit of my experience to make things a little smoother and easier so she/he can enjoy the job a little more.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in school speech-language pathology since you started over 30 years ago?

Since I have worked mostly in the schools, I can only speak to that setting. We now have to be experts in everything; we can’t really “specialize” in one aspect of Speech Language Pathology. We have more diagnoses that we have to research so that we can best help students. We have to be more creative now. Then, of course, there’s the whole technology component to therapy that wasn’t there 30 years ago!

You talk about the use of technology in your blog a lot- from apps to Dojo to Google forms. How do you find/look for new ways to integrate technology into the classroom?

I read other Speech Blogs, communicate with other SLPs around the country, and pay attention to what the classroom teachers are using. If the teachers are using something in the classroom, I try to see if I can modify it for use in my therapy room.

We highlighted your post “Keys to Modifying Therapy Activities” because you have addressed an important point that therapy is not one size fits all. It is important to evaluate the success of your treatment approaches to best fit the needs of each student. What are some tips for SLPs who need help knowing when and how to modify activities?

As stated in the blog post, it really is just trial and error. Pay attention to your students/clients and how they are reacting to what you are doing. They will let you know if you need to modify through their actions and body language. Your training will kick in and knowing how to modify will become second nature. When working on recalling information from a book, for example, if a child is unable to answer questions after the book is read, try reading one page and then asking the question. If that is still too difficult, read a sentence and then ask the question. It’s just Speech/Language Pathology common sense!

You have worked in 6 different school systems! Out of all of them, what made the best experience the best?

I truly believe that I took something great away from each of the school systems. From that first school system where I started my career as a bachelor’s level speech clinician to my current school system, each gave me invaluable experience that has helped me to grow as an SLP. I’ve learned flexibility, worked with various disabilities, learned to work with non-verbal children, learned how to deal with “behavior difficulties”, and learned how to work with the faculty and staff as a team. I have been very fortunate to have always had good experiences in each of the school systems, so I cannot narrow it down a best experience!

What is your advice for SLP graduate students and new school SLPS?

Be patient and don’t be afraid to try new things with a student, even if it doesn’t work the first time. Be flexible, don’t be afraid to ask questions, but most of all enjoy what you’re doing!

Thank you so much for the interview. As I’ve told my interns, we’re all learning. I don’t have all the answers and I learn something new almost every day!