Journey to Speech Language Pathology

Growing up I never knew exactly what I wanted to be. A baker, a teacher, a dancer, even a professional potato peeler on a Navy ship (that is 100% true). After many years of searching I landed on a Speech Language Pathologist. How do you go from potato peeler to SLP? This is that story.

Little Elizabeth 💃🏼

Now as a kid I was always trying new things. Technology? Sure! Mission work? I got you. 4-H President? You’re talking to her. But that made choosing my “thing” very hard.

In high school I started to narrow down my choices, and after having a fantastic time doing labs in Chemistry I thought I had found it. I would spend my free time in study hall going down to set up labs for other classes. Doing experiments were like the creative side of me peaking through, while to math spoke to my analytic side. I was going to be a Chemistry High School Teacher.

High School Graduation

I applied to several school for undergrad, but I knew there really was only one place I wanted to be. Ball State University. The Harvard of the Midwest (totally joking). I had found the school after my mom had signed me up for a two week summer architecture program there in high school. Yes… landscape design was on my shortlist for awhile. Getting back on track, I was so excited to start at BSU, and study chemistry secondary education.

First Day of College

Well it wasn’t very long after I had moved in to the dorms and started classes that I realized that chemistry was not for me. The physics classes and calculus classes were not enjoyable at all, and I felt way over my head. The only saving grace my first semester was my lab class. I loved going back to the hands on learning.

The amount of time that I wanted to attend my classes and do my homework were quickly declining. By Thanksgiving break I knew I had to figure something else out. It was hard for me to admit that I needed a change. I told everyone I was going to be a Chemistry Teacher what would they think? Looking back now I am so glad I made the switch, and I now realize no one will care if you change your mind, you’re still learning!

Now I am a huge TV junkie and I had been binge watching all of “Switched at Birth”. If you haven’t seen the show it’s about two girls switched at birth, one of which is deaf. I was interested in the ASL culture of the show and wanted to know more. Talking with my parents over Thanksgiving break, I decided to share my newest interest. Ball State had a deaf education program which I thought would be a perfect carryover from chemistry education. Although that path was on my list to consider, my parents brought of speech language pathology as a path in life. At the time I had heard a couple girls in my dorm were doing that major, but honestly I didn’t know much about it.

Ball State University

Doing some research I came to find the large scope and range of services that an SLP can provide services. SLPs can work in schools, hospitals, private practice, and more! It allowed me to pull in all of my different interests, and allow myself to branch off if I ever need a change. All of these things really spoke to me.

So I quickly changed my major and classes for second semester. I knew I would need to pull up my poor grades from first semester if I ever had any chance of getting into grad school… But what would that experience hold in store for me?

Part 2 coming soon…

Best Selling Speech Therapy Materials

Ever feel like you are stuck using the same materials again and again? These speech and language resources are perfect for your next therapy session. Some of my best selling and highest rated activities!

One Sheet Articulation Activities

No prep articulation activity pages to target each speech sound from isolation to sentence level. Includes visuals for how to make each sound. Includes all sound areas in all positions. {b, ch, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, initial r, s, sh, t, th, v, w, z} Perfect for homework or centers!

Students can work their way through the articulation levels with one simple worksheet. Start with sounds in isolation, move to words, phrases, and then sentences. This is great for students to use during those long breaks away from therapy! Grab it here.

These articulation lanyard cards are perfect for the on go therapist! Targets /b, ch, d, f, h, g, j, k, l, m, n, p, initial r, s, sh, t, th, v, w, z, vc, cv, cvc, cvcv/. Pushing in to classes, but are always running around with your students? Then these are great to use with your students for quick therapy targets. Sized perfectly to fit on your lanyard!

Only choose which cards are on your high priority list for target sounds. That way you can add or take away cards as needed depending on your caseload. Grab it here.

Teen Problem Solving & Inferencing | No Prep | One Sheet Activity

This simple, no prep, problem solving & inferencing activity is perfect for social skill lessons! Great prompts for teens and older students. Covers a variety of topics and situations.

Use the pictures to help guide students in their problem solving questions. Each page includes a short passage for student to read detailing a particular problem. These problems are real life scenarios students face in today’s ever changing world.

Also includes blank pages with world bubbles about each picture. This can be used to help extend your lesson by role playing what each individual may say. Perfect to use for students and those hard to had to take data on social skill goals! Grab it here.

No Prep Dinosaur Articulation Coloring: All Sounds

No prep articulation coloring and dab it worksheets. This MEGA packet includes all sound areas in all positions. Each page even has the word list of each target picture.

{b, ch, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, sh, t, th, v, w, z}

Students will love coloring, dabbing, or even smashing their target sounds with this fun dinosaur coloring sheet! Includes one black and white worksheet per sound. This makes for an easy print and go activity to finish our your dinosaur unit, or use on it’s own! Grab it here.

I’m a School SLP

I’m a school SLP.

That means that I focus what I learned in graduate school on children from ages 3-21 with a wide range of abilities. I can help your child who has trouble with his “s” sound. That also means that I can help the student who stutters while presenting in front of the class. That student who is nonverbal? Yes, they are on my caseload too. Don’t forget about the student who has language difficulties, and sometimes answers questions with the wrong ‘wh’ question. Or how about the student with autism that keeps getting in fights because they have difficulty interpreting social situations? I am on their team too.

Some students you may not realize that I also see could be the child who just had their cleft lip repaired. The student with a life long syndrome that affects their ability to swallow, and eat at lunch with their peers. The student who was in a car accident, and now has a Traumatic Brain Injury affecting their speech.

You may see us playing games in the room, or see us walking around school with one student and think it’s easy. I’m a professional who is constantly evaluating and reassessing my students so they get the best therapies possible.

School SLPs have to ride this fine line between the school and medical communities. What I say next is not everyone, but it’s enough to be said. We are often alone (or greatly outnumbered) in our school districts. Most teachers, staff, and administrators don’t fully grasp our scope of practice. Medical SLPs, OTs, PTs, and doctors don’t always think our evaluations, recommendations, or therapy practices to be up to their level. The letters after my name are the same whether I work in a school or hospital. School SLPs play games, love hands on activities, and participate in school spirit days that to some in the medical community may diminish our professionalism in their eyes. It’s difficult to for me to find my place, and that’s not something that grad school prepared me for. I think this feeling is why school SLPs feel so connected to each other via social media.

I love puns, bright colored classrooms, silly sock days, classroom parties, eating school lunch with my students, and working with teachers, paraprofessionals, nurses, and counselors to help our students.

We (myself included) need to help educate both the school and medical communities on the importance behind what we do. Only through this can we better help our students, families, colleagues, and our own importance in serving the school districts. Be that importance show it’s self in salary, supplies, or even a room larger than a janitors closet.

I am a school Speech Language Pathologist.

Social Skills for Middle & High School

Social skills, my favorite area of being a speech-language pathologist. I never had a client in undergraduate or graduate school who had pragmatic language goals. I feel like it is not even an area that we truly target in our schooling. We are taught about AAC, PECS, autism, but how do we really help these students, and what is our role on the IEP team? I wanted to share some of the main things I do with my students, as I absolutely LOVE this part of my job.

Life Skills Push-in Therapy

This is one of the biggest things that has really helped my students. I push into work experience classes, created social skill advisory periods, and helped co-teach with teachers to assist with high need students. This has increased the carryover for my students, as I can teach them in the moment. Many of my students don’t understand that what they learn in the “speech” room can be carried over to everyday life. To read more on how I started push-in check out my blog post here!

One of the easiest ways you can start with social skill push in is helping with cooking time with your life skills students. I use yourspecialchef.net for visual food directions. If I don’t find something I like, I make my own. You can target functional skills that students will really use.

How To Structure Lessons

How I store and set up my brain breaks

When I do push in lessons with a larger group of social skills students, I make sure it is as structured as possible. These students appreciate the fewest unexpected events, so I have lessons set up the same in order for students to focus on our lesson and not a distraction for the day. Each student has a notebook where they take notes. These notes are for students to think about each answer before shouting out. It also allows students to “stretch your brain” as I tell my students, this is to push them past their first answer.

In the middle of my lessons I do brain breaks which you can grab as a freebie on my Tpt. These brain breaks allow us to practice our lesson for the day, whether it be adding to a conversation, body language, or eye contact. Each of my lessons have worksheets, online quizizz (check it out), or board games that go along with the goal of the day. Finally, I give every student a daily job for the month. This allows us to build a strong classroom system, and keep each other accountable for something.

Social Skill Resources

Some of my go to resources and games for social skill lessons! Affiliate links.

If you are going to buy one thing, it has to be this book! Social Thinking Thinksheets for Tweens and Teens was a lifesaver my first year out of graduate school. I now base all of the language I use with my students off of this book. Includes a TON of lessons with matching worksheets. I use these lessons at least twice a month. I even help teachers by providing them the common language I use with my students so they can carry it over to their classrooms.

Sometimes I need a no prep option for my students to work on, and I struggled to find something for older students. So I made these one sheet, no prep pragmatic language worksheets. Students can fill these worksheets out then we can talk about them together. Allows them time to “stretch your brain” before answering. Grab them to target problem solving and inferencing in one worksheet!

What Do You Say… What Do You Do… At School? Social Skills Board Game is geared for younger students, as one of the areas is on the playground, but it can be used with your lower level students. My students skill enjoy playing games, and I love games that also target goals. Students race around the school to collect tokens and answer social skill questions.

“10 Ways” is the perfect social skills app for middle and high school students. There are 9 different topic areas that are targeted with this game. Why do I love this no prep game so much?
Students love the jeopardy style questions. Able to save a game if you don’t get it finished in one session. Multiple students or groups can play. Variety if question types. I’m also lucky enough to have an Apple TV so I can screen cast my iPad for all the students to see.

Some pictures from my lessons!

IEPs for Newbies

IEPs. The thing they never really prepare you for in college, but takes up a third of your time. Whether it’s writing goal updates, summarizing present levels, determining minutes, or sitting through heated discussions, IEPs are a fact of life in the SPED world.

In school you were taught how to write goals using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) or ABCD (audience, behavior, condition, duration). You probably even wrote several evaluation reports and SOAP notes. You learned the basic of an IEP and possibly how your role looks in the ideal team. It seemed easy enough.

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Well, I quickly learned I was nowhere near as confident or prepared in my early IEPs as I thought I would be. It’s nerve-racking walking into a new school as a CF, and being the expert for the first time on a student you may barely even know. Parents turn to you to answer why progress is or is not being made. Teachers want to know how to help “Johnny” in the classroom. Your principal may be in the room, and you want to appear as if you know what you are doing.

Speechy Musing bell curve handout. I place mine in a clear sleeve to use again and again!

Here’s the big thing… you do know what you are doing. Be confident that you learned something during your 6 years of education. It’s ok not to know the answer, but it is not ok to make up the answer. You can always offer handouts to parents and teachers if they want more information. Slowly you will gain that confidence to speak up for each student. May the paperwork seem like a lot? Yes, but over time you will find a system that works for YOU! You’re going to have that meeting where you second guess your decisions, and other meetings where you are so excited for the student and their progress.

Below are some helpful hints and resources that really set me on the right path. Be confident, you can do this!

  • Read the student’s most recent IEP and/or Eval report.
  • Set deadlines for yourself ahead of what your district expects.
  • Ask your mentor to read over your first few IEP reports.
  • Invite your mentor to a few meetings the first semester. It never hurts to have a sidekick! They aren’t there to judge you.
  • Bring notes in the meeting. You may blank because of nerves, and this is the main time to express concerns.
  • Sign up for Speechy Musings‘ blog to get her bell curve chart. This has helped me on many occasions!
  • Start a goal bank of most used goals so you don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel.

Now do I still have IEPs where I don’t know the answer or I’m nervous for? Of course! You will have those difficult meetings, and that’s ok. Will you get forgotten about sometimes since you may be a related area and not primary? Yes, but keep communication between teachers open. Each meeting and report will get easier. Share your newbie IEP tips in the comments!