While my focus is now private practice speech therapy, I have had the privilege to start my career as a school-based speech pathologist. I spent my first five years working in a Brooklyn public high-school. To this day, that job remains the most influential job of my career. I then spent the next six years working in private schools for kids with learning disabilities. Having these experiences has made me an advocate for school-based services when appropriate. School-based services do not always get the recognition they deserve but here is why they should:
Team Approach: One of the biggest benefits of receiving speech services in school is the team approach. Speech Pathologists often work alongside equally talented professionals such as psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, and of course, teachers, some or all who might be involved with your child. This means that multiple people with different viewpoints have eyes on your child. They can get a picture of your child and monitor progress in a variety of different contexts. When I have students in my private practice who also receive speech therapy at school, I have always had the opportunity to collaborate with their school-based therapist at least a couple of times a year. I appreciate that they may be speaking with multiple outside therapists and can make the time to streamline treatment.
Academics: School-based speech therapists have a front-row view of what is happening in the classroom and how your child interacts with the curriculum. In addition to being skilled in reading and writing, school-based therapists often use classwork to help children meet their language goals. Speech pathologists will also do their best to work with teachers to build language supports into classroom teaching. In one school I worked at, teachers would often have the speech team look over their tests to ensure that all of their students were able to access the material. This made certain that a child’s knowledge of the particular topic was tested, not their language skills. In that same school, our speech department ran teacher training and seminars for teachers about how to employ strategies to enhance their student’s understanding and expression. This may not happen as formally in all schools, but it was happening at all the schools I’ve worked at in some capacity.
Socialization: For students who have difficulties with socialization, school-based therapy offers many opportunities to learn and practice social skills. I have seen therapists do some creative activities, such as lunch clubs to promote their clients’ pragmatic (social language skills).
Part of your child’s school day: Getting speech services at school means extra time in the afternoon to do things that your child loves. It is essential for all kids, but especially for those kids for whom learning might be more difficult, to have non-academic outlets. Being part of the school day also promotes a seriousness to speech therapy. Students will often consider speech as one of their subjects or classes.
So if you are trying to decide whether you should pursue school-based services for your child, I recommend reaching out to your school’s School-Based Support Team. They will be able to discuss whether or not your child will meet the eligibility criteria to receives in-school services.