Today's guest post is written by Jill. She identifies herself as a former Sp Ed Director, but by former, she means a job change as of just a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to Jill for this post!
As a former special education director, I have some strong opinions about the current state of speech/language therapy delivery. We are a mid-sized district with just over 10,000 students. We have just over 1,000 students who qualify for services through the Special Programs Department. Of those students, 415 are served as students with a speech impairment.
Correcting the problem seems simple enough. Hire speech pathologists and serve kids. I have determined that simple is simply impossible. Early on, I knew that there was debate over the speech pathologists who have their CCCs as opposed to those who are certified by the Texas state board of education. I also knew that licensed speech assistants were often creative and helpful but unable to perform all duties required to case manage students in the school setting. All in all, I knew that this was a very difficult situation.
As the years have flown by, I have worked diligently to recruit great people and keep the wonderful professionals who are on our team. My staff say that they know they are supported. I try really hard to ensure that they are treated as professionals. I tell campus administrators all of the time that there are two kinds of people in the world - SLPs and the rest of us. SLPs are special. SLPs are valuable, and we will be nice to them because we want them to stay!
I wish that I had a magic trick to fix the speech shortage. If I did, I would certainly use it in my own district. The only trick that I have is to be cognizant of the fact that there is a shortage. There are many more positions than SLPs. They can go to the clinical setting or home health and make much more than they can working in the school setting. Even if they choose to work in the schools, districts are often forced to compete with each other to attract the best applicants.
Some day, I will figure out how to provide all of the services that my students need with limited SLPs because I have a feeling that they will continue to be the "special ones" who we want them to stay!