Meeting My Students – Spotlight on SLP Ashley
Working remotely is one of the major perks of teletherapy, but something about seeing your students in person for the first time can be just as rewarding. After recently being featured in the ASHA Leader, our awesome tele-SLP Ashley is back again to share this exact feeling with us. Ashley was highlighted in our #WhereWeWork series last year, in which she shared some home office tips, along with her and her students’ reactions to teletherapy. Read on to find out how her first in-person meeting with her students went!
“The most common questions that I often get in teletherapy is, ‘Is it hard to get to know the kids?’ ‘How do you do therapy on the computer?’ ‘Don’t they misbehave?’ The answer to all of these questions is that I have an amazing aide dedicated to making sure that the students get in the speech room and get any additional assistance that they need to help them accomplish speech therapy tasks. I cannot imagine doing this job without a dedicated aide, though I know several SLP’s that do.
I have been working with Val for almost 2 school years now. She is my right hand. In fact, she knows to listen to what I mean and not what I say about 99% of the time.
She thinks in advance and is able to tell me when a student is absent or testing during that time, and a lot of the time will say, ‘I emailed the teacher and they said we can take this student today since this student is absent.’ She also makes sure that my IEP paperwork gets sent to the correct people before the meetings, and I sign and send all of the signature pages before the meetings start. I am about 90% more productive with Val as my aide.
Now that I am in my 2nd year at Stockdale High School, I have gotten to know the staff pretty well. One teacher I am particularly fond of let me help ‘Co-teach’ a class with her that many of my students were in. She was amazing about filling in the gaps when I was on a computer and not present in the room if the kids were getting off task or needed more guidance than I could give. We have high schoolers, and we actually communicated about prom and individually dropped hints to some of the kids come prom time.
It was so fun seeing prom pictures of some of our students. This particular teacher is a mom, too, and we have actually shared pics of our kids and had a bit of mom humor with each other. She even mailed me a Christmas card this year! I thought that was super sweet.
My special ed director has been amazing and so supportive of teletherapy as a platform. Our first interview was over the phone and we hit it off immediately. She said in the interview that teletherapy was their choice to ‘bridge the gap’ between the amount of students needing therapy and the shortage of SLP’s in California, but, even if Bakersfield had 100 SLP’s present in their district, she would still opt for teletherapy for some students. She feels that some students will feel more comfortable logging into a computer to participate in speech therapy versus sitting in a room with an SLP. I think she is right! ‘Facetime’ is such a normal modality for these kids, and sometimes their interactions with adults or peers outside of the internet is more intimidating and less natural than logging on to a computer. That is difficult to imagine for those of us over 40 – myself included!
Meeting these ladies face-to-face was so much fun! I just love them and felt so strongly like I was one of them, even though, distance-wise, I am quite a ways away (a 21 hour commute according to Google Maps, but who’s counting?).
I also had so much fun meeting my kids when I attended Stockdale. You can read more about this experience on the ASHA Leader here.
Here are a few other tidbits I wanted to share about my visit:
One of my students is autistic and just precious. Every morning that I log in, he says, “Hello Ashley LEEEmaster!” I entered his classroom and his teachers and peers recognized me and said, ‘Hello!’ He came over and said, “Do I know you?” I said, “yes!” He said, “What’s your name?” I said, “Ashley.” He said, “LEEEmaster? I am so glad you came to see me in Bakersfield, California ALL the way from Oklahoma in your orange shirt!” He was so enthusiastic. It was just the coolest thing ever.
Also, one of my students had her earbuds on and was doing Algebra homework in her study hall. I walked over and tapped her shoulder. She took an earbud out and looked at me. I said, ‘I just wanted to come over and say ‘hi!’’ This is a student I have worked with for over a year at this point. She said, “I saw you, but I’m doing my Algebra homework.” And put her earbud back in. She was pretty annoyed that I interrupted her! Teens!
I wanted to find something “cool” to do with them that they could remember me by. Since I am Cherokee Indian and happen to be from Oklahoma, I bought some leather bracelets and some letter stamps. I let each student “stamp” a bracelet with their name or nickname. I also told the “Social Skills” teacher that I would take over the 2 days I was there. We played “Taboo” after we stamped our bracelets. It was so fun to get to be present with the students and I felt like they interacted with me in a completely different way.
I am privileged to be at Stockdale High School in Bakersfield, CA. I had a blast there and am absolutely hoping I can visit CA at least once a year as long as I am serving students there.”
Revisit Ashley’s journey into teletherapy in our #WhereWeWork series here.