From Rehab to Recess A former health care clinician shares insights into transitioning into a new position—or just beginning—as a school-based speech-language pathologist. School Matters
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School Matters  |   October 01, 2016
From Rehab to Recess
Author Notes
  • Kylie Grace Davis, MS, CCC-SLP, works in the Montrose County School District in western Colorado. Her previous clinical experience includes skilled rehabilitation services, mobile modified barium swallow studies and tracheostomy management in long-term acute care hospitals in Denver. kylie.davis@mcsd.org
    Kylie Grace Davis, MS, CCC-SLP, works in the Montrose County School District in western Colorado. Her previous clinical experience includes skilled rehabilitation services, mobile modified barium swallow studies and tracheostomy management in long-term acute care hospitals in Denver. kylie.davis@mcsd.org×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / School Matters
School Matters   |   October 01, 2016
From Rehab to Recess
The ASHA Leader, October 2016, Vol. 21, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.21102016.34
The ASHA Leader, October 2016, Vol. 21, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.21102016.34
I recently began working at an elementary school after years of employment in skilled nursing facilities and hospitals providing adult rehabilitation and tracheostomy management. The funny thing is, I originally became a speech-language pathologist because I wanted to work with kids.
During college, I worked as a full-time nanny and wanted a career focused on children’s literacy development. Speech-language pathology was a clear choice! However, during grad school I developed an interest in neurodegenerative disorders and dysphagia, so I completed my clinical fellowship with a rehab company in Denver working with adults.
Six years of bedside swallows later, I decided to try working with kids again. My husband and I were relocating, and I was ready for a change. (And getting holidays and summers off sounded pretty nice, too!) I found my new work setting by first submitting my resume and a letter—describing my desire to begin working with kids again—to the ASHA Career Center. Shortly after, the Montrose County (Colorado) School District requested an interview. When I talked with them, I emphasized previous experience as a nanny and volunteer work for Read Across America. I also exceeded required school hours as a graduate student.
The district offered me the job and assured they would provide mentorship. I accepted the position and soon realized I truly enjoyed working with kids as well as adults. The universal need for effective communication throughout a person’s life drives my passion for the field of speech-language pathology.
Back to school
I’ll admit: Making such a big change was intimidating. My previous caseload of around 10 patients jumped to treating 60 students. On top of familiarizing myself with each student’s goals, I needed to review typical school-age development and assessment protocols while establishing clear behavioral expectations for my students.
Gradually, I learned about IEPs, eligibility and academic standards. However, the fundamentals stayed the same—modeling, errorless learning, scaffolding, providing feedback and reinforcement. All of these approaches remain important parts of any session, whether you’re treating an 80-year-old with dementia or a 6-year-old with a language delay.
The supportive nature of our district, my SLP mentor and the enjoyment of getting to know my students made my first semester a great experience. Every day I leave school with something positive—the students’ enthusiasm is contagious. And I know I’m really making a difference to these students: A child develops critical language and literacy skills from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Gradually, I learned about IEPs, eligibility and academic standards. However, the fundamentals stayed the same—modeling, errorless learning, scaffolding, providing feedback and reinforcement.

One of the major perks of being an SLP is the opportunity to use our clinical expertise in diverse ways. Many SLPs—including myself—develop an early interest in a specific setting, but I challenge you to consider working with different ages and populations. The way my interests and skills expanded surprised me.
Lessons learned
Practicing in a school gave me the chance to learn new things and become a more competent SLP. Here’s what helped me most in making such a major transition:
  • Get mentored: Look to more experienced SLPs in your district for direction. Observe them providing services at their school for a day. Have them attend IEP meetings with you at first. Collaborate with them to administer and score your first evaluations. Don’t be afraid to continue to receive support and ask questions. Be open to feedback and look for opportunities to improve. We can learn so much from each other!

  • Build rapport: Take the time to get to know the kids. Play with them. Have fun! Spend a few weeks simply focusing on who they are as kids. Gaining their trust early yields great rewards in the long run.

  • Collaborate: Take advantage of opportunities to talk to parents and teachers—you gain a better understanding of your students’ personality and behavior in class and at home. Maximize opportunities to work with teachers on integrating treatment into the classroom, which helps students progress toward functional goals and make the connection between communication and academics. Also, reach out to your school psychologist for students’ developmental history and cognitive assessment data.

  • Use the curriculum: To support teachers’ work and children’s academics, develop strong knowledge of the curriculum in your state/school, and use it as a basis for treatment.

  • Review: Brush up on typical development, phonetics and standardized testing protocols. Read through old notes, textbooks and lesson plans to get ideas for treatment. Online webinars also offer quick refreshers.

  • Document: Get organized with a written schedule and list of your entire caseload, including service times and goals. Begin tracking attendance and minutes right away. Write down subjective notes and observations initially and add objective data as you become familiar with each student’s goals.

  • Know your role: Ask your district for guidelines about your state’s eligibility criteria for speech-language services. ASHA’s statement on school-based SLPs’ roles and responsibilities gives detailed descriptions.

  • Show your confidence: Remember, you are qualified. Let your knowledge of evidence-based practice inform your clinical decision-making. Trust your background and be proud of your CCCs!

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October 2016
Volume 21, Issue 10