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Thursday, August 16, 2012

If You're a School Speech Pathologist....and Children

But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children." ~Matthew 19:14 ESV

This was the first week of school.  The first week of school can be frantic for therapists and educators!  There are new children to meet, a room to have prepared, ...and for special education providers, stacks of Individual Education Plans to read.  It's difficult just determining who is on the caseload at each school, since families tend to move during the summer.  It's even more daunting developing programs for 75 different children with 75 different service plans at lightening speed. Every special education provider is painfully aware of the attorneys and professional advocates hiding around the corner, ready to pounce.  We struggle to do our jobs well, but the legal fears are crippling.

You can bet that we all lose sleep.

...But then, the children arrive.

They walk through your therapy room door, with precious faces and priceless personalities and timid shyness and quirky silliness, and you have met Jesus in them.  Then, you know that you will serve them and love them and struggle to meet their needs, even though there will be thirty, or forty, more of them than Ed Code allows on your caseload.

Face paint girls
By InPhonic Customer Service / InPhonic [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

You will do it because you are blessed to be graced by their presence.  Blessed to hear first words spoken and "R" sounds discovered and stutters smoothed out and tentative hand movements that look something like the sign for "bathroom", and maybe someone's diaper will be dry when he goes home today because you were blessed to serve.

You'll still lose sleep over the advocates and attorneys who don't seem to understand that you love those kids and really do give everything you have in you, to do what you feel they need, and pray for them by name and lose sleep over their progress. And you'll probably miss some days because the stress of it is too great and migraines force their way through and break you.  Even  so, you'll understand the parents who hire them, because you're a parent too, and it's hard to trust, when your child is the world.

By the end of the school year, if you're a school speech pathologist, you'll be certain that it is too much and that it's time to switch to hospital based practice.  You'll even scan the jobs classifieds and wonder if this year, you will make the change. You'll think of those tense and tortuous school meetings with attorneys and professional advocates who are certain that public school personnel don't care about kids and that your recommendations are driven by money.  You'll remember going home from those meetings and turning out the lights and covering your eyes with a towel and surrounding your head and neck with ice packs... and the way that your tummy doesn't like migraines one bit.

But then, as the school year draws to a close, the contract from your school district for next year will arrive in your mailbox, and you'll stare at that blank signature line and think of precious faces and priceless personalities and timid shyness and quirky silliness....and first words spoken and "R" sounds discovered and stutters smoothed out and tentative hand movements that look something like the sign for "bathroom", and the fact that someone is going to the first grade special-day-class with a dry diaper because you were blessed to serve...and you'll sign.

You know you will.

Best wishes for the coming school year to public school teachers and private school teachers and homeschoolers and unschoolers and folks who aren't educators in a formal sense at all, but get to see little faces at the grocery store, and smile.

Pax Christi Dear Ones,

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  1. Noble work! My son had a speech delay and had to go to speech and occupational therapy for several years through the public school when he was little. His only vocabularly was through signing until he was 4 and said his first word.

    Now he is ten and those days are long behind us but he still has issue with people understanding him because sometimes it sounds like he is mumbling...advanced reader but has a hard time with oral reading because he reads really fast and almost inarticulate sometimes, don't know if you have any suggestions for that.

  2. Thank God for people like you.

  3. Thank you for all you do. I am a high school English teacher and understand. We started school on August 14th--so far so good. We actually had a meeting where no one mentioned one piece of data for our review! Thank you for the reminder of what is really important.
    Dawn T

  4. In the 5th and 6th grade, I went to see a speech pathologist with two other kids who had difficulties pronouncing their "R's". I know I was diagnosed with asperger's syndrome when I was young but later they just started calling it autism. I also know that I'm seeing a psychiatrist this Wednesday hopefully to get help about my depression (I tend to struggle with pragmatics and semantics).

    Any way, I really can't say enough good things about you speech pathologists. I don't think I've ever had a really bad one (I've been bad to numerous that I have had). In 8th grade, I saw a pathologist who was a huge fan of the Indianapolis Colts--that was also the year they won the super bowl (I've been a fan of them since the 5th grade). You speech pathologists go through so much stress on a daily basis that I'm almost certain it becomes hard to even enjoy your job.


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