Association News

Published on May 6th, 2019


Professional Insights: Working as a School-Based S-LP (Sandy)

The role of a school-based speech-language pathologist is broad and varies from school to school. However, there is one thing that everyone can agree upon: students benefit from speech-language pathology services!

S-LPs work with students to reach their full communication potential. This, in turn, helps students succeed throughout the day – from making friends, to engaging with their lessons, to growing as an individual.

To explore the work of school-based S-LPs, we asked some of our members to share their experiences working in a school setting.

Today, we hear from Sandy Crowley.

To access all articles of this series, please click here.

Describe your work setting.

I work in seven public schools spread out across the Labrador region in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Labradorians’ affectionately refer to the geographical area that I service as the “Big Land” because of its vastness. The schools that I service are spread very far apart and vary from less than 1 kilometre to 1,000 kilometres away from my base office.

Approximately how many students do you work with over the course of the school year?

I provide assessment and intervention services to students from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Intervention services can be both direct and indirect depending on the need. The number of students that I work with over the course of a year can vary depending on the type of service.

Can you tell us something unique about your position?

My position is unique because I travel to some of my schools by airplane and stay in that community for the week. During the winter, someone picks me up at the airstrip on a snowmobile and komatik (sled that is towed behind a snowmobile) and brings me to the school. During the fall or spring, I may be greeted by someone on a four-wheeler (all-terrain-vehicle). Depending on the location of the community, it may take more than one day of travelling to get there from my base office. Because of that, I also offer tele-therapy as a way to increase direct services to my students between flights.

What does an average day look like?

My average day looks very different depending on what school I am in or if I am doing tele-therapy. When I am in my local schools (the town that I reside in), I drive to work like everyone else. During the majority of the winter season, I have to plug in my car due to the extreme cold and wind chill factors that can vary from -20 to -55 degrees Celsius. We do not let the cold weather stop us from enjoying the outdoors. The students still get an opportunity to go outside for curriculum-based and play activities.

I used to provide therapy in small groups in a pull-out format, however our school system is now transitioning to a Responsive Teaching and Learning (RTL) multi-tiered model. This will allow me to service students in all three tiers from universal design (tier 1), to targeted (tier 2), to intensive (tier 3). There is currently a three-year plan to have all schools in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador following the RTL model. We are in year one.

How does your role fit in the day of a student?

All students are serviced based upon their individual needs. This could mean therapy in a small group setting in the speech-language therapy room, one-on-one services through tele-therapy, as well as therapy with the student(s) and their instructional resource teacher (IRT) and/or student assistant in the resource room or classroom. It could also mean developing programs to be implemented by appropriate school staff at school or parent(s)/guardian(s) in the home. Therapy is completed during the school day. However, I do offer therapy spots after school. My high school students usually request those spots because they do not want to miss any of their school work during the day.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the people that I meet. Living in the North means that you may not have immediate access to family members. Because of that, your colleagues and your neighbours become like family. It is an extremely supportive environment to raise your children in and to make a living.  Everyday can be an adventure. From seeing polar bears walking down the street outside of the school to having a fox run past your feet. I have experienced some unique things. I grew up in Labrador and I will always consider it my home.

What is one of the most challenging parts of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is trying to meet the needs of all my students within this huge geographical area. Speech-language therapy is such a fluid process and is always changing on the spot. In order to help my students maximize their potential I really need to have the time to get to know who they are and what they want to express.

The Takeaway: What do you want people to know about your job as a school-based S-LP?

That S-LPs do so much more than just “speech sound production” therapy. We support the curriculum by providing intervention in the pre-requisite skills necessary to thrive in an oral language environment. These pre-requisite skills involve phonological awareness, the ability to follow directions, the ability to tell others what they know and have learned and social skills. These skills are a vital requirement in order to succeed academically. I feel strongly that we are an essential part of any comprehensive school system.

Being a school-based S-LP is both a tough and rewarding experience in Northern Canada. The camaraderie that one experiences with school staff and communities in the North due to the isolation is indescribable.  So if you are looking for an adventure and you like winter activities, being an S-LP in Labrador is the place to be.

About Sandy Crowley

Sandy Crowley grew up in Labrador City, Labrador. She obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN), a Master of Communication Sciences and Disorders Degree from Western Illinois University and a Master of Education Degree specializing in Language and Literacy from MUN. She has been a school-based S-LP with the Labrador region for 19 years, with some experience as a health-based S-LP during the summer months early in her career.  She is currently President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teacher’s Association Speech-Language Pathology Special Interest Council and is dually certified as an S-LP in both Canada and the United States.

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