Speech therapists need certain traits and skills, such as compassion, good communication, and patience, but that’s not all. If you plan to work as a school-based speech therapist with children, additional skills and traits are needed to be successful.
As a therapist, it’s important to take an honest look at the skills you need to work on. Most of us have something to improve! Below are ten skills and traits that school-based therapists should master.
10 Essential Skills and Traits for School-Based SLPs
Working with children in a school setting as a speech therapist requires adaptability. You will work with students with a wide variety of speech and language difficulties, including voice disorders, stuttering problems, and swallowing difficulties.
Therapists need to switch gears quickly from working with children with one type of disorder to another. In addition, certain types of therapeutic strategies you implement may not work. You need to think on your feet and adjust plans. Learning to adapt to each situation will make you a stronger therapist.
2. Teamwork skills
The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” may also apply to a student’s treatment team. School-based speech therapists are one member of that team. Children may also work with physical and occupational therapists as well as special education teachers. Aides, counselors, and parents are also part of the team working with each student.
School-based speech therapists must communicate well and get along with a variety of people, even those who may be difficult. Being a team player is a must-have skill for speech therapists.
3. Willingness to learn
Most school-based speech therapists have a minimum of a master’s degree. Regardless of your education, there is still more to learn. Therapy, including speech therapy, continues to evolve. Advances in technology and new research may change the way some types of language disorders are treated. New inventions may allow speech therapists to perform their jobs differently.
It’s vital for school-based speech therapists to stay up to speed on the latest studies and advances in speech therapy. Being open-minded and excited to learn more about your field helps you treat your students optimally.
4. Organizational skills
Working with children in a school setting as a speech therapist is different than treating children in a hospital. Caseloads, responsibilities, and paperwork may vary. Speech therapists need to juggle meetings, therapy sessions, and required documentation and charting. Additional duties also pop up, such as impromptu parent meetings and additions to your workload. Staying organized is critical to being a successful therapist.
Children may respond differently to various methods of speech therapy. It’s helpful to be resourceful and to have a variety of tools and ideas when working with students. Therapists should be familiar with the latest apps, games, and equipment to work with children of all ages. Speech therapists must also know where to get answers when they have questions.
6. Compassion and empathy
Children are from different backgrounds and situations. Your job is to do your best to provide therapy. Leave preconceived notions and beliefs at the door. School-based speech therapists should be empathic and compassionate while still expecting their students to work hard to reach their potential.
7. Problem-solving skills
What works for one student may not work with another. A school-based speech therapist should be willing to try different approaches and not give up. There may be situations where it seems you cannot reach a child, but remember the saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” Being a problem solver also means getting creative with the techniques you try. Trying certain techniques or using games and toys may be just what you need.
8. Enjoy working with children
Although it may seem obvious, school-based speech therapists should enjoy working with children. Keep in mind, not all people who like working with children enjoy working with all age groups. Ask yourself, are you willing to work with preschoolers? School-age kids? High school students? These questions can help determine what your ideal working environment is.
9. Motivational and encouraging
Ideally, school speech therapists should strongly believe in their students, which helps children believe in themselves. As a therapist, you are responsible for engaging kids in therapy sessions and not giving up on them. Although therapists should not have blinders on to the obstacles a child faces, it’s helpful to be someone who can see the positives and find things they can build on with a student.
Some students may feel discouraged when it comes to participating in speech therapy. You have the unique opportunity to speak positivity into their world and encourage them.
10. Communication skills
As a therapist, you collaborate with parents, teachers, other therapists and speech therapy assistants. Communicating well with a wide variety of people is a must-have skill for speech therapists who work in schools.
Effective school-based SLPs listen to what others are saying and consider their input. They also delegate when appropriate and maintain good communication.
7 Tips to be Successful as a School Speech Therapist
Working as a school-based speech therapist can be rewarding, but it can also be a challenging career. If you are a new therapist, you might not have a lot of confidence and experience to rely on. Even if you are a seasoned speech therapist, working in a school is different than working in a medical setting, such as a nursing home or hospital. Fortunately, there are several things to increase your chances of success:
1. Partner with parents
Collaboration with parents is an essential part of working as a school-based speech therapist. Parents are more likely to work on speech therapy goals at home with their children when they feel included and valued. If you fail to support parents, they may feel overwhelmed and powerless. Parents of your students should know what you’re working on and how they can help.
2. Locate a school SLP mentor
Finding a successful school-based therapist as a mentor can be a valuable resource. A mentor can help you learn more about the field and provide you with constructive criticism. A good mentor can also lend an ear when you have questions or concerns about how to handle a particular situation.
3. Don’t stop learning
Just because you graduated from school doesn’t mean you’re done learning. Speech therapy continues to evolve, and new techniques and strategies are always being studied. As a speech therapist, it’s important to continue to stay current on new research and advances in therapy. Read professional journals, attend conferences, and take continuing education classes.
4. Get involved in speech therapy groups or organizations
Professional speech therapy associations can be a great source of information. Consider joining a local or national therapy organization. Getting involved in a professional association provides you an opportunity to attend speech therapy seminars and workshops, along with meeting other therapists.
5. Treat the child, not the disability
When you work with each student, remember that you’re treating the child as a whole. You’re not just dealing with a certain disability or challenge. Children are more than their diagnosis, and not every child with special needs has the same needs.
6. Know your students
Children are all different. When it comes to speech therapy, treating all children the same may not be effective. Some children may need more repetition than others. What works for one child may not be effective for the next. Getting to know your students is so important.
You don’t have to learn every detail about their life and family, but determining their strengths and what motivates them is useful. Knowing each student’s personality allows you to use different strategies for each individual student.
7. Believe in your student’s success
One of the best things you can do for your students is to have faith in their success. By believing in the potential of each of the children you work with, you help them believe in themselves. Each child may progress at a different speed, and even minor improvements should be acknowledged and praised.
While there are other skills that make you a successful therapist, the above list is a good start. What skills and traits do you think are vital to working as a school-based speech therapist? Please share with us in the comments section below.