If you work as a speech therapist, you are likely already aware of the benefits of working in the profession. Speech therapists play a vital role in helping people overcome various language, speech, and swallowing problems. But if you have only worked in hospitals, rehab centers, and nursing homes, you may not be familiar with the advantages of working as a school-based speech therapist.
What is a school-based SLP?
A school-based speech-language pathologist (SLP) provides communication and speech services to students in an educational setting. Although the therapy they provide is very similar to SLPs in other settings, school-based SLPs possess unique skills and are specifically trained to address communication challenges for students in a school environment.
School-based SLPs work closely with teachers, administrators, and other special education professionals to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). They also provide guidance to teachers and parents to help students implement strategies learned during therapy in their everyday lives, especially in the classroom.
What do speech therapists do in a school setting?
There are many similar responsibilities between school-based SLPs and those in other settings, but there are also responsibilities that are unique to SLPs in education:
- Assess and diagnose communication disorders. SLPs will perform assessments to identify communication disorders in students.
- Develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). SLPs will work with parents and other professionals in the school to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP), as well as provide therapy and services to the student to ensure they stay on track with their learning and skill development.
- Meet required state and local policies. In any setting, including schools, SLPs are responsible for meeting state, federal, and local policies in their practice. This can include Medicaid billing, report writing, and logging therapy sessions.
- Collaborate in classrooms settings. One of the keys to success as a school speech therapist is effective collaboration. According to ASHA, most of this collaboration is with general education teachers in order to integrate newly learned therapy skills into their everyday classes and learning.
- Mentor aspiring SLPs. SLPs in a school setting may be responsible for mentoring and supervising student SLPs, SLP clinical fellows, and SLPAs.
- Create balanced and effective therapy schedules. It is critical for school-based SLPs to create schedules that accommodate students’ therapy needs while still allowing them to be in the classroom learning amongst their peers as much as possible.
The difference between school-based SLPs and SLPAs
School-based SLPs and SLPAs have similar qualities and work closely together to provide therapy to students and develop IEPs. However, there are some distinct differences in their responsibilities and qualifications.
SLPAs work directly under the supervision of a licensed SLP. To become a licensed SLP, you must obtain a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, complete your clinical fellowship year, and obtain state licensure and certifications. To become an SLPA, you must obtain an associate degree in speech-language pathology and apply for state licensure.
In a school setting, an SLPA may assist the SLP with preparing material, documenting sessions and progress, and providing assistance during therapy by implementing IEPs that have been developed by the SLP.
7 reasons to become a school-based speech pathologist
There are several great reasons to work as a school speech therapist, including the following:
1. Treat children with a variety of communication disorders
Speech therapists in schools are able to work with children with a wide array of disorders that may impact hearing, speech and language. For example, you might have children on your caseload who have Down Syndrome, hearing loss, and autism spectrum disorder. It is also common to work with students who have various expressive and receptive language delays.
In a work setting that changes from day to day, you are tasked with the unique challenge of providing services to students who need them in a creative and engaging way, using your ability to problem-solve.
2. Get to know children and their families
In a hospital or rehab center, you often only work with patients for a short time, but school speech therapists often treat children over an extended time. You might work with the same child for several years in a row. Working with children long-term not only helps you get a better sense of their goals, but it allows you to see both immediate and long-term progress.
3. Work as part of a team
In addition to teachers, counselors, and other professionals, speech therapists also work with parents to help children reach their IEP goals. Not only do you have support when you work as part of an interdisciplinary team, but you have the chance to learn from each other. You also have other team members to bounce ideas off. This is certainly an advantage when working together on an IEP to determine how best to address students’ needs.
4. Help disadvantaged children
It is rewarding to help anyone improve their ability to communicate. But when you work with disadvantaged children who may otherwise not get the help they need to reach their potential, it can be especially rewarding.
5. Make a difference in the day-to-day lives of students
Effective communication improves a child’s overall quality of life. Speech therapy in school helps improve a child’s ability to communicate in a variety of ways. For example, a school speech therapist can help students learn how to use communication devices, talk without stuttering, and understand non-verbal social signs.
The communication skills a child learns during speech therapy can improve their academic potential, assist in social interactions, and help them throughout their life.
6. Work in a variety of settings
With a high demand for SLPs in education, there are certainly several opportunities for you to choose from, especially when you partner with an experienced staffing agency such as Sunbelt.
Our team can provide you with a variety of school-based settings across the country to ensure you are placed in the most suitable environment. Whether you want to focus on a specific age group or a specific area of speech therapy, you will have the flexibility to work in a number of different settings.
7. Get weekends and summers off
If you work as a hospital, nursing home, or rehab speech therapist, you probably work year-round, including some weekends. School-based speech therapists typically work the same schedule as teachers, which means weekends off. Although academic calendars vary, many schools do not hold classes during the summer, which means you also have summers off.
Time off is a benefit that most school professionals can appreciate. You work hard and deserve time to spend relaxing to prepare for another school year or semester. This also provides you with the opportunity to take on per diem assignments in other work environments, if desired.
Frequently asked questions about being a school-based SLP
What are the educational requirements for school SLPs?
To become a licensed speech-language pathologist, you first must graduate with a master’s in speech-language pathology. Following the completion of your masters, you will need to complete your clinical fellowship year under the supervision of a licensed SLP, then pass the ASHA national examination. Depending on the state you practice in, there may also be other requirements to receive your license.
What’s the average salary for a school SLP?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for SLPs who work in elementary and secondary schools is $75,650. There are several factors that will influence your salary as a school SLP, such as your level of experience, the state in which you are licensed, and the specific school in which you work.
What’s the job outlook for school SLPs?
School speech-language pathologist jobs are projected to grow by 21% from 2021 to 2031 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth is attributed to the increasing awareness and diagnosis of children with communication disorders, as well as an increase in the older population in the United States requiring speech services. The need for SLPs in education will continue to rise as schools strive to meet the communication needs of students.
Ready to take your speech therapy career to the next level? Search available school speech-language pathologist jobs.