Over the past couple of weeks I have spoken to some SLP’s who I’ve worked with or known over the years in several states who are doing therapy in the schools. Listening to their stories of what is required now of therapists brought back memories of why I stayed and why I left that delivery model. Honestly, I came away from our conversations anxious, listening to the increased responsibilities for taking data, filling in computer forms, paperwork, little prep time and larger caseloads. Phew!
I began my career as a preschool therapist working in the public schools in the Chicago area. Back then, it was cutting edge to be delivering the services within the public school preschool classes. I was on the floor with my Fisher Price house, school and farm, doing what I had been trained to do and loving it. I quickly learned how to effectively deal with all kinds of people–teachers, parents and administrators–to work within the system.
After 16 years working in the schools, I left to start my private practice. I loved working in the schools because:
- I enjoyed working on a team. The PPT meetings and Annual Reviews required listening and learning from a group of OT’s, PT’s, teachers, social workers, nurses, adaptive PE teachers and others to form the best plan for a child. I learned from each one in their disciplines. We laughed, fumed, brainstormed and grew together.
- In my last setting I had to share a room with a fellow SLP and we both gained from the sharing and laughing as kids occasionally answered the wrong therapist across the room or said something so cute that we couldn’t contain ourselves! I always had a ready colleague to answer a professional question.
- I appreciated the continuing education provided that applied to our setting.
- I liked the bowl of chocolates that our secretary always had available.
Why I left:
- I didn’t want to change a 3 year-old’s dirty diaper anymore.
- I had so little free time to do the required paper work.
- I REALLY wanted to spend time doing what I loved, which was working with kids and meetings, and other responsibilities were encroaching.
- I didn’t feel as effective as a therapist as I was being asked to treat greater numbers of kids in a group.
As I told my friends, there is no prefect setting. Do I feel free of some of the restrictions and continually added outside responsibilities? Yes! I am so blessed to be able to go to clients’ homes, get to know very special families in depth, and do what I love for a whole, pure hour–treat kids to improve their speech and language. Do I like preparing invoices, scheduling and re-scheduling, dealing with a rare parent that is difficult (with no principal to back me up) or making my way through the snow when school is cancelled? No, but I feel like I am right where I should be at this stage in my career.
I have the greatest admiration for public school therapists because I have been one. If you are a parent, the next time you see your child’s school speech therapist thank her/him. They are spinning so many plates at once to provide the best program for your child’s speech and language success!