What is an SLP? and Other School Resource Staff Explained

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In today’s episode you’ll be meeting my new part-time co-host, and we’ll be taking a deep dive into support staff in schools and how they can help your students learn better through teacher and parent cooperation.

Below you will find the full show notes and reference list for Episode 18 of The State of Education Podcast, presented by One-Room Education, along with links to the resources mentioned in this episode.

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Question of the Week:

Have you ever worked with a Speech Therapist in a school setting?

If you have any questions or comments about this episode or any of the information presented, please make sure to leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

What is an SLP? and Other School Resource Staff Explained

Show Notes

Welcome back to the very first episode of Season 2 of The State of Education podcast, presented by One-Room Education.

In today’s episode we are going to be introducing a new part-time co-host!

We’ll also be talking about:

  • What is an SLP and why are they in schools?
  • What other resource staff are available in K-12 schools?
  • How can students and families access resource staff in schools?
  • How can teachers and resource staff better work together to help our students learn more effectively?

I was writing pieces for the blog and I am a speech pathologist. So I have a lot of experience in the education field because I’ve been mostly in a school-based setting. So mostly in the school, I have worked in a private practice, a pediatric private practice. And then currently I provide services via telepractice. 

Again, it’s a lot of time working with schools, but it is a variety. So it’s sometimes working with brick-and-mortar schools. Sometimes it’s students who are homeschooled or attend virtual school. I have seen some private patients online as well. So definitely a good variety. 

Amanda, The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

So why don’t you tell the listeners what it is actually that a speech language pathologist does? Because unless you’re someone like me who has encountered them for traumatic brain injuries like I did for my husband or somebody that has had to use them for their children, most people don’t know what a speech language pathologist is.

Katie J., The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

So within the medical setting, there is rehab, and there’s more acute care. Some of it is more for we can work with patients with dysphagia, which is difficulty swallowing and feeding. All ages can work with feeding with infants and children, although we have somebody who is post-stroke and they’re having difficulties at that point.

And then there’s also after a traumatic brain injury, or after a stroke, it could be more the cognitive, it could be a cognitive deficit or we work with people who have Alzheimer’s or things like that, and kind of more helping them manage their day to day functioning, coming up with routines for remembering tasks and things that. 

And then there are so many areas like aphasia which a lot of times comes after a stroke where there are so many different types of aphasia, but then people have difficulty communicating at all or using their words correctly. And that could be a hospital setting and acute care setting and outpatient rehab therapy clinic type of thing, or just people with a lot of medically fragile kids that just have a lot of needs. So that would be more the medical side. 

Then there’s voice treatment, which is, you know, people may have heard of singers getting vocal nodules. It’s very common for teachers to get them too because you’re talking all day. So, but other issues can come up with voice that we would work with learning proper vocal hygiene and things like that. And that can be, that could be in the medical or school setting. 

So the speech also sounds like language, an understanding of language. So common things that we’ll hear from teachers is students who have difficulty following directions or answering questions, comprehending things that they’re reading. And then also besides comprehension is their expression of language. So that could include working on improving vocabulary skills, grammar, sentence structure, and that sort of thing. 

And then another aspect of language that we work on in schools is the social aspect of language. So there can be verbal and nonverbal aspects. So being able to participate in conversation, but then also interpreting, gestures and body language and eye contact. And the figurative language, things like sarcasm, jokes and idioms and metaphors and all of that. 

So yeah, as you can see, it is, it is a broad, very broad field. 

Amanda, The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

I know that you work with students, primarily, but if there’s a teacher that sees that there’s an increasing number of students in their classroom that are having similar difficulties you wrote about in the articles you wrote about COVID speech delays and the problems that that’s going to present down the road.

Are they able to reach out to you for resources on how they can adapt their lessons better to a larger group if they’re having an issue?

Katie J., The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

As you know, someone working in that school, any teacher can have access to reach out to me and some of it I guess probably depends on the school. Some places will even have their speech therapists do an in-service or something like that because even within the settings that we work the other people who work in the school don’t fully understand exactly what we do that can benefit their students. So doing something like that can be really helpful if the administration is open to that and then that’s a great time to fully explain, okay, this is what you work on, this is what we don’t work on as well and we can’t fix everything.

There are certain things that sometimes it’s assumed that we work on but that’s not really within our scope of practice so I feel that’s a good way to, you know, make sure it’s clear and then provide supports or say, okay, these are the most common things you might run into in these grades here are some strategies and things that. 

Amanda, The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

What I like so much about your profession as a resource is that it can take the psychological and social aspects that we learn as educators of the development of a kid and be able to apply them to physical development, which I feel is something that’s missed. It’s just completely missed in the training of educators.

And I think that people like you being in schools is such a huge resource. And I think that there should be a yearly meeting because you know, teachers have to go in a week or two before classes start for in-services and stuff like that, and I think having a presentation by your guidance counselor, by your speech pathologist, by your school psychologist, about who they are, what they do, and how they can help you to prevent issues in your classroom and create a better environment that’s more cohesive with true learning, as opposed to the chaotic craziness that we have now. And then you only see kids whenever they are so far down a road that it takes a lot to backtrack them to get them back on the right path. 

Katie J., The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

But also the warning signs, what to look for and when to notify us. I get asked a lot of the time, so when should I contact you? Or they either contact you about everything or they’re hesitant to contact you at all. And so it’s trying to find this place where everyone kind of understands it.

Amanda, The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

So I think that the teacher training also should include, if you’re employed by a public school district, here are some resource professionals that you have available to you. And here’s a basic overview of what they do. And here’s when to contact them, because obviously we’re told when we’re supposed to get a hold of social services.

We’re told when we’re supposed to get a hold of the guidance counselor and we’re told when we’re supposed to get a hold of the special ed department. Those are the three things we’re told. Aside from that, we’re not trained on any sort of resources that we have available to us to help students actually learn, and I think that that’s a very sad state. 

So if you could maybe give a little bit of a description of what occupational therapists are,  outside of helping the old lady that got the hip replacement. If you could give a little bit of a description of what they are and then how you work with them and how that fits into the greater educational ecosystem.

Katie J., The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

So occupational therapists help you with your occupation. So if you’re a student, your occupation is being a student and whatever you need to do. So in a school setting, it would be things that help you be successful in school and they’re more the fine motor skills versus physical therapy. So a lot of times they’re working on improving handwriting. That’s a big one.


And then a lot of visual perception. So it’s not so much vision issues with, oh, the student needs glasses, but some of the ways that they’re taking in the visual information or the way they space their letters. Sometimes they need certain modifications to their environment. They need it to write on a board that’s more slanted upward versus a flat surface, and then they also do a lot with sensory needs of students. So that would be like, maybe a student needs to sit on a bouncy ball for part of the day. So they can kind of move, but they’re still sitting or they have some kind of fidget. So they need to keep their hands busy, things like that. 

Amanda, The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

Most people think that even if the school recommends somebody that that’s going to come out of their insurance or that they’ll have to pay copays and stuff like that, and I wanted to make sure that people understand that if you get these resources through the school district, the school district pays 100% for that, at least where I live. Is that pretty much true across the board?

Katie J., The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

So you have to qualify, but if the student qualifies and goes through the process of an evaluation and they have to meet a certain eligibility, there are several different ones they could qualify for. But if they meet at least one of those eligibility thresholds, they qualify for services and that’s not something the parent has to pay extra for.

Now, I think it is important for parents to know that, as I said before, anything that we work on in the school setting has to have a direct impact on their education or social skills within the school environment. So, obviously, parent input is a big part of what we consider, but that doesn’t mean a parent can come in and say, oh well, when we’re out at the store or at grandma’s house, this happens. If we’re not seeing it in the school, usually we can’t address that unless it’s impacting them in the school. So there is a difference. 

Amanda, The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

What I really, really want community members and parents to understand is that even though there are public services available through the education system, that doesn’t mean that educators or therapists are making the laws that we have to follow. And the fact that what Amanda and I would think is developmentally appropriate or what Amanda and I think is the right pacing for a student is confined by what bureaucratic regularity, bureaucratic regulators who have no experience in our fields, have decided is the “norm” or the average. 

If a student is exhibiting problems, but because of one reason or another, they don’t meet that minimum threshold, are you guys able to after your evaluation, give advice to the parents on, hey, you might want to go to this type of professional or maybe just work with them on this by yourself, but they can’t come to me on a regular basis kind of thing. Can you give the parents a direction to go in, if they can’t work directly with you because of whatever the regulation is that they don’t quite meet that day?

Katie J., The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

And so when that happens, every time we do an evaluation, there’s usually a meeting before we do the evaluation to kind of go over these are the areas we’re looking at, we get parent consent, all of that. After the evaluation, we always review whether or not they qualify just to go over the results. So at that meeting,  you said, if they didn’t qualify, we could give suggestions for what they can be doing.

We have to be careful when we say things because we can’t say, you should go to an outside therapist, but we can say, this isn’t something that I’m able to work on at this point in time. Sometimes they’ll say the old wait and see, oh, we can retest in a few years, which, you know, is not always very encouraging. It’s so frustrating as a teacher or as a parent whenever you know that a kid has a problem. And you hear, let’s retest in a couple of years because that means that you guys know there’s a problem, but they don’t meet the requirements to get your particular services paid for by this district usually. And it means waiting for the problem to get worse. 

So we can say, oh, I can’t work on that with him in the school, but outside of the school, they probably can work on this or they have a lot more leeway to that sort of thing. So that parents know that we’re not the only option for them. I mean, technically, we’re not supposed to directly recommend it, but you want to make them aware that it’s just this setting because a lot of times they could get services for if there’s any kind of slight deficit, they can most of the time get services. 

Amanda, The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

So the school system is pretty much like any other governmental entity where they can only fix a problem once it’s bad enough, and the same goes for, I’m assuming, therapeutic type stuff because I know that I’ve had kids where I know if they just had a couple of hours for six weeks of somebody’s time that it would completely fix it, and then it could save everybody a lot of time and save that kid a lot of frustration and heartache. 

But they don’t qualify through the school because it’s not bad enough for them to have them qualify for special ed yet. So then the parents will oftentimes if they don’t qualify through the school, you’ll get parents who think that they’re making it up or think that the teacher just doesn’t like their kid, or it can create it. If the kids don’t meet the minimum threshold requirements on your end, then it can create a lot of friction between parents and students and teachers and that puts tension on that relationship that’s usually already kind of destroyed at that point. 

Katie J., The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

It does get tricky. I mean some schools will have awesome types of programs where they do a lot more preventative measures where they have the speech therapist goes into a lot of different classrooms and do a language lesson and work with the teacher and they do more preventative things that are for all the students to hopefully help all the kids and those who don’t quite qualify. So that they hopefully can just not have to wait until they get to the lower point where they do qualify because they’re getting this preventative help.

Amanda, The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

Some people say, well, why are these people even on the payroll? It should all be going to teachers or whatever. And I don’t think that that’s necessarily true because if you’re going to say that teachers are able to do all these things that your kids are going to get an education of a certain caliber, then you need to have as much support for those students to give them the best chance of achieving their standards of the education that you would like them to have. 

But the administration doesn’t really foster, I don’t think they actively discourage on purpose,  not collaborating between the resource professionals. But they themselves don’t know, so they don’t actively encourage it either, and they have so much on their plate a lot of times that they just don’t have the time to deal with it. 

And so it gets passed off to somebody else and it gets passed off to somebody else and it’s bureaucracy at its finest, right? There are people that are willing to help and able to help, but we can’t because we don’t know each other, and we don’t know what each other does. And I honestly don’t know how to fix that. It’s a management issue as far as I’m concerned.

And with the increase in classroom sizes there’s the teacher flight. So that’s people leaving the education field. They’re just peacing out. They’re like, this is ridiculous. I’m out. And then those people are not being replaced by new people going into education. 

Education is not a hugely desirable profession right now, and I don’t blame young people for not wanting to go into this cluster that is the education system currently. Right? So, I see, at least from the classroom teacher and looking at the system as a whole, I don’t see this really getting better. At least for the student. 

I don’t see the situation getting better because teachers are just going to get more and more students put on them as more and more teachers leave and less and less teachers come into the profession. And then teachers are going to be more burnt out and then less likely to reach out to resources because they just don’t have the mental capacity to do it that day. And then you guys are going to be overburdened by people that went way too far down the road.

First year teachers, man. I feel bad.  you didn’t sign up to break up fights every couple of periods or to deal with mental breakdowns. I’m not joking. You did not sign up as an educator to deal with a litter box being put in your classroom because a kid decided that they are a cat that day. Yeah. I am not joking about this. 

This crap is allowed to happen within and, and we as teachers, if we say no, screw that screw you, we’re not doing that to the rest of our students, we can be fired for discrimination. And so if you don’t allow it, if you put your foot down and you’re like, screw you guys, we’re not doing this to the rest of my 20 other students. We’re not, we’re not allowing this psychosis in here. 

Then you get fired and they’ll bring in a sub or one of the administration staff will come in because you were discriminatory towards a student and then you’ve lost your entire career. But people didn’t sign up for that. If you’re a primary school teacher, you are technically a primary caretaker of that student because you have them for eight hours out of the day. So you qualify legally as a primary caretaker of that student.And it’s our job as professional teachers. Well, it’s supposed to be part of our job as professional teachers to show students what a stable, healthy work environment is supposed to look like. And to provide stability in a life that may not otherwise have it. 

And if a teacher is so tapped out to the point where they’re just yelling every day at the kids, and nothing is actually getting accomplished, they’re not being able to teach the content because of the behavior issues, they’re not being able to control themselves and their own reactions to what’s going on in the classroom, what’s going on in their personal lives, what’s going on in everything and it can snowball. 

So what is the main thing that you want people to know about what your profession and other resource professions do in a school and how they can help you to be able to do your job more efficiently? 

Katie J., The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

I think one of the things would be trying to be as specific as you can in any concerns you have. Sometimes every school has different processes for referring a student. Typically, they make some kind of referral and then we do a screening before we do an evaluation to determine if we actually need to do this for you. You need to do a full evaluation. And sometimes there’s a lot of information and sometimes it’s hardly anything. It’s really hard to look for something when I don’t want to look for. 

If you say, I can’t understand them, does that mean they can’t formulate complete sentences, their sentences are out of order? They’re not using parts of speech?  They don’t use any verbs? They’re only using nouns? Does that mean they’re not using sounds correctly? Do you know if there are specific sounds? But I know some of this is different because I know what I’m looking for or what I’m trained in and a teacher may not know what to listen for, but as much information as you can provide is helpful when I’m going in to see what’s going on. I think that’s a big one. 

Is it impacting their reading, their spelling, their writing? A lot of times sound errors will do that. How are they doing socially?  What happens when people can’t understand that? Do they get frustrated? Do they just try again? Do they say things in a different way? How do they respond to models of the sound or prompts?  Have you tried showing them modeling the appropriate way or showing them how to produce a sound? Just, all those kinds of things. 

Amanda, The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

That’s kind of what I’ve been trying to do with One-Room and you know that because you’ve been behind the scenes with me a little bit. I want to show as many facets of education as possible because like I said earlier, it’s not just somebody standing in front of a class and having your kid take notes and whether your kid understands that or not. 

The modern public education system is so much more than a student-teacher relationship and a parent-teacher relationship. It is so far beyond that. That type of baseline relationship between the parent, the student and the teacher has not existed in the American education system since the one-room school houses they were named for. 

And that sort of collaboration and cooperation is what I feel needs to be tapped into again because everything is so compartmentalized that people don’t see how everything intertwines and relates to each other anymore.

Katie J., The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

I really try to make what I’m working on more functional and so a lot of times at that age, if I’m working on something with a student, we’re kind of working on a skill or strategy that will help them if they apply it in the classroom, right? But sometimes that carryover is the hard part because we’re separated. They come to my office and then they go back to class. 

So I try to get more information from the teacher. What are you studying in class? What are you guys reading this week or this month? So I think at the older levels, I mean, it’s helpful at all levels, but especially the older levels having more of an idea of us trying to know what you guys are doing in the classroom that we can use that directly. If I’m doing a strategy, but I’m just picking this random passage or activity, they might do it with me fine, but they’re not seeing the connection to what they’re doing in class. 

Amanda, The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

The coordination and the collaboration on an individual professional basis is probably where it’s gonna have to come from because as I said, the administration doesn’t know what the hell you guys do or why you’re part of the education system. And once teachers understand what you guys do, we teachers tend to overcompensate. So they send you way too much stuff that they shouldn’t be sending you because they’re like, Oh, I have a resource they can help me here, take this, take this off my hands. And it’s just not really helpful. 

And the compartmentalization and I’ve talked about this ad nauseam, that it is such an issue, English, math, science, history, civics, that kind of stuff, social studies subjects, to teach them as if they exist in a realm of their own and they don’t overlap or correlate with each other in any way is so just, asinine is the only word I can think because nothing is standalone. 

Every subject interacts with the other subjects, whether you think they do or not, and I think that whenever you have a smaller classroom, or if you go back to the one-room education model, you see how everything overlaps and you just build on one thing after the other. 

As far as One-Room Education goes, both your role on the website as a staff writer, and now on the podcast as a part-time co-host, what are you hoping to achieve with this platform? 

Katie J., The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

I think that we are a resource for teachers, all kinds of educators. So not just classroom teachers, but also parents and students. And so I think part of it is, I hope that we can bridge that gap and improve those connections between teachers, students, parents, and professionals in the school setting. 

And even though some of the things that we may talk about might not be happy news, At the same time, hopefully we can provide some encouragement and help teachers and parents and students feel empowered to you know, either speak up or take action or reach out to people within their circles within their community to either make a change or encourage something that they see that’s great. I think a lot of people have concerns with things going on in education on all sides.

 And yeah, I guess just that this would be a place of open discussion. And I think sometimes just starting that conversation that maybe will make someone think and be like, Oh, well, I could do that. Or I could reach out to this person or Oh, I didn’t even realize this was going on. Or I never thought of that. I’m going to look into that more. So being that starting place to empower teachers, parents and students, and staff to work towards what they would ideally like to see in education today.

Amanda, The State of Education Podcast, 5/2/23.

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