Speech Therapy in Schools: The Role of an SLP

October 27, 2021By: Lymari Segarra, M.S., CCC-SLP

Having qualified and passionate Speech-Language Pathologists in schools is a critical part of ensuring student success. Understanding the differences between what a clinical SLP does and the duties of a school-based SLP can be the first step to learning which type of role is best for you. Read on to learn more about the role of a school-based SLP and the importance of their support.

What is speech therapy in schools?

Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs) are specialists in identifying, diagnosing, and offering speech language therapy in schools to children who have communication disorders. Speech therapy services may be offered to any student that qualifies under the eligibility of Speech and Language Impairment or other eligibility that affects communication skills. An SLP in a school district is typically part of the special education team.

Speech and Language issues children face in school

Students with speech and language impairments present different challenges in school. They may be at risk for low academic achievement and difficulties communicating with peers, teachers, and school staff. As they get older, students tend to not like to participate in class because they recognize that they have difficulties in communicating or may not understand what is happening around them. Children who receive speech and language services in the school may have one of the following diagnosis:

  • Articulation Disorders
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)
  • Cognitive Impairments
  • Fluency Disorders (Stuttering)
  • Hearing Impairments
  • Language Delay
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Phonological Disorders

How do these issues impact learning?

Speech and language difficulties can significantly impact many areas of a student’s life, especially their learning. When presenting these difficulties they may have problems in learning new vocabulary, performing tasks independently, and answering questions. They can also seem as shy because they may use very simple words, phrases, or sentences to communicate.

The importance of speech therapy in schools for children

Students with communication disorders have the opportunity to receive speech therapy services at school if the impairment is impacting their access to the curriculum and academic progress. Speech therapy at school has many benefits for students, like helping them improve their communication with their peers, teachers, and the community. The school assigns a multidisciplinary team to each student that meets at least once a year to discuss and measure student progress and offer recommendations that benefit their learning.

The role of an SLP in a school setting

Speech-Language Pathologists in schools has several roles, one of them is offering speech therapy and conducting evaluations to students in the special education program and those who are referred by teachers, parents and/or the school district personnel. A school SLP job description may include working one-one-one with a student or facilitating group speech therapy in schools. In addition, an SLP in a school will accomplish the IEPs for the students in the caseload, as well as completing all required documentation for students receiving speech therapy at the school. They will collaborate with special education teachers, regular teachers, and school staff. They will also be an advocate for students who have communication problems. There are a wide range of SLP school jobs across the country varying from part-time to full-time, virtual and on-site, and can have large and small caseloads.

Who do school speech therapists work with?

The SLP job description includes various duties that differ from clinical Speech-Language Pathologists who work with patients across the lifespan, however, when in schools they service students from preschool to high school. A high school SLP will serve students in grades 9 – 12 and other school-based Speech-Language Pathologists may service the whole school population. This could be with students with learning disabilities, autism, intellectual deficit, attention deficit disorder, or those who participate from general education and only need to work with speech or language. SLPs collaborate with other therapy and education professionals in the school to best support student in achieving their IEP goals.

Speech therapy in schools vs private therapy

Speech therapy in a school setting is meant to provide support for students whose communication impairment is affecting their access to the curriculum and academic progress. Different from services in a private clinic, where the impairment will be treated regardless of the academic achievement of the student. An example of this is a diagnosis of Dysphagia, which in the school setting might not seem as an impairment affecting the students access to the curriculum, therefore the student would not be found eligible for speech therapy based on this diagnosis solely.

Benefits of teletherapy for speech therapy in schools

Teletherapy is a service model that is offered live to the student, as well as traditional therapy “at the table”. A secure connection is used where audio and video are shared to work with the goals established in each student’s IEP.

When considering SLP school staffing options, teletherapy is a great option to consider because it offers many benefits, including the following:

  1. Ensures continuous and uninterrupted treatment. Speech therapy services can be interrupted for multiple reasons, such as: transportation problems, accessibility to specialized clinics, student health problems, among others. Teletherapy ensures that the student will receive the service without problems in the natural environment and minimizes all the other obstacles where the service cannot be offered.
  • The family participates more actively in therapy services. The advantage of offering teletherapy services is that parents do not have to go to where the specialist is, only with a video call it can be discuss the student’s progress, family concerns and anything regards to their current speech goals.
  • It is a flexible service model. It accommodates the needs of the student, family, and specialist. Delays, problems with the car, scheduling, among others are minimized.
  • Access to specialized clinicians. Teletherapy has brought a great benefit of being able to have with easy access to specialists who are difficult to recruit and who can offer their services for the benefit of the school community. For example, access to bilingual SLPs, certified SLPs in assistive technology, etc. This makes the quality of service excellent.
  • Guarantees the same quality and effectiveness in the service. There are several studies and investigations that indicate that teletherapy is as efficient, valid, reliable, and effective a service model as the traditional “at the table” speech therapy service that we commonly known.

If you’re an SLP who is interested in learning more about transitioning your school based skills into a teletherapy environment, reach out today or check out our SLP school jobs!

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