Tell me about working in the public school system.
June 21, 2009 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Speech Pathology Filter: Thinking about making a transition from a multidisciplinary diagnostic facility to a school setting. More specifically, a placement with residential/day treatment or functional living skills populations ... am I out of my mind?

I currently work in a large, regional outpatient rehabilitative facility where our focus is on multidisciplinary assessment of children with multiple and severe disabilities. What this means in practice is that we get a lot of "difficult to test" kiddos where nobody has yet been able to figure out what's going on with them. I love the collaboration with other disciplines, and I love the variety in the children and families I see; I see things every week that some clinicians may go their whole careers and not encounter. I love diagnostic work; testing and numbers and quantifying data. I also love the challenge of working with children who are supposedly too oppositional to assess. I am constantly learning, be it through my kids, or my families, or from other disciplines. Most of all, I have always been able to go home at the end of the day feeling that I have "done good"; that I have made a positive impact on somebody's life. It's a prestigious placement, in a renowned facility, and one that I feel truly blessed to have. And honestly, it's the only placement I have known, having started as a practicum student, through my CFY, and now as a practicing SLP.

My facility is going through some restructuring due to economic circumstances, and several of the changes run counter to what I love about this place. Not only have many of our multidisciplinary teams been fragmented (if not disabled), but we are shifting to a "birth to five" focus. I completely understand the need for Early Intervention services and would be the last person to argue that these needs are already completely met elsewhere in the community. However, the kids that I see the most of, and love to see the most, are those middle to high school children who seems to have been written off by the system. Kids who have no transition plans in place even though they're 17 years old. Kids who are working on /r/ even though what they really need is job skills and training. It seems fewer private SLP want these kids on caseload (compared to the under 10 set), and the school system seems to be limited in the amount of services they can provide. I see a huge need to serve these children, but my guess is that it's just not cost effective. I would love to be able to collaborate with families and educators to find effective post-educational placements for these kids based on their abilities and family plans for long-term care. In daydreams, I see myself collaborating with school based OTs and psychologists, making home visits, and coordinating care with community providers. Is this realistic?

I guess my question is: I want to go to where I can make the biggest difference, still working with the population I love. It's difficult for me to figure out where that might be since I haven't ever done anything different from my current placement. I know that there are a host of challenges that come along with school services that I can't even know about. Can someone out there enlighten me? Are my expectations realistic, or do shrinking budgets and out of control caseloads severely limit what I think may be possible? On a more generalized angst level:
what if I leave my current job and hate working in the school system, and can't ever go back?
posted by lilnublet to Work & Money (1 answer total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm a school-based SLP. I actually had some of the experiences you say you want by working in a large urban district at the high school level. Not only did they have a huge population of severely disabled kids, they were also so short-staffed that I could dive in and do as much of the collaborating as I could handle - the other teachers were glad to let me take on some of the responsibilities for their students. I think that the new Response to Intervention programs will offer even more opportunities for collaboration. Basically, as long as I got my stuff done, I could take on as much more as I wanted. It often meant spending my own personal time and sometimes my own personal cash, but it was worth it!

Of course, the schools are a lot different than diagnostic-land. The worst part for me was the apathy and neglect we saw from the families. I imagine the parents you see are motivated to get their kids tested. Dealing with parents who don't care at best and who are abusive at worst was the hardest part for me as I came out of the university clinic setting. That might be a hurdle for you too. Keep that in mind before you make the leap.

Me-mail me if you want more information. Good luck!
posted by christinetheslp at 1:21 PM on June 21, 2009

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