Published on April 29th, 20190
Professional Insights: Working as a School-Based S-LP
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 Aimee Miller.
Describe your work setting.
I work in north-central Alberta as a private clinician. I am contracted into provincially, federally and privately-funded schools in the region, as well as into home and community settings for children who are not participating (or participating only part-time) in their local school system. How I become a member of those school teams varies. Sometimes it is the division or school requesting service. Other times, government services for children with severe disabilities supports my involvement. In some cases, it is the family who pays for services.
Approximately how many students do you work with over the course of the school year?
Between 60-90 students. The lower number would be the children receiving consistent support of some level, the higher number would include all the children who pass through my service in one way or another.
Can you tell us something unique about your position?
This is such a tricky question because I am not sure my position is unique at all considering the diversity in how S-LPs function in schools. I suppose the less common part of my position is that I am a private clinician, typically contracted for specific purposes or students. So the service I provide or the role I play can vary significantly from day to day. In some cases, the organization already has other S-LP services in place and there is some niche role for me to play, such as intensive support, specialized knowledge or professional development for school staff. In other cases, I have been brought in to design and provide services to places that have little or no history of S-LP services.
In the more temperate months, I sometimes travel in a camperized van and camp between visits. So, I have been writing reports in the evening at a campsite and had fox or deer friends come to visit. Thankfully, no bear friends have ever come along though!
What does an average day look like?
Other than a long drive, there is no such thing as an “average” day for me.
How does your role fit in the day of a student?
My role for any student is completely individualized to the student and team needs and priorities. This can take on many different forms. I try to shape my role and services to fit each team and provide the appropriate support for them to be empowered and successful.
What is the best part of your job?
The relationships! Meaningful connections with students, families and school staff is a core value of my practice. I am not perfect at relationships by any stretch, but I make them a priority every day despite how wildly busy days can be for S-LPs and school staff. I believe this helps many other aspects of service fall into place more smoothly. Building relationships is no easy feat because I am always an ‘outsider’ in the beginning, typically not visiting frequently, often coming into sensitive situations and it takes time and energy.
Within the context of the many challenges school S-LPs face, it becomes about the little things in my opinion. For example:
- Knowing a student and team look forward to our time together
- When a student is so pumped about their success that they start to see their future and state their own goals
- Seeing a parent relax and smile when they feel heard and supported
- The vulnerability of sharing struggles and successes as a team
- Being present for a team or parents’ journey from “this is what the child doesn’t do” to “this is what the child is good at”
What is one of the most challenging parts of your job?
I am isolated from other S-LPs, so I have to work harder for opportunities to collaborate and learn from other members of our profession.
And managing demands for service, of course!
The Takeaway: What do you want people to know about your job as a school-based S-LP?
Being a school-based S-LP is far from glamorous. This complex role is fraught with challenges. Our role is often misunderstood, under appreciated and exhausting. But it can also be dynamic, collaborative, fun and exceptionally rewarding…and this is exactly where I am meant to be. High-five to all the school-based S-LPs in Canada doing spectacular work every day!
Aimee Miller is a registered speech-language pathologist in private practice in north-central Alberta. She started her career as an S-LP assistant working in a variety of service areas with some amazing S-LPs before returning to the U of A for her Master’s. Aimee constantly struggles to maintain a work-life balance, but when successful, finds herself trying to be artistic, skiing, and spending time with her inner circle, dogs and horse.