School-Based SLP – An Ode to YOU

Recently released from the throngs of graduate school, I sprinted straight toward the public sector to gleefully earn my second-rate salary. Within days, I swallowed my mother’s accurate prophecy — my job as a school-based speech-language pathologist was hard. It’s been a decade and a half, and I have tirelessly existed at the front lines of many public schools. Under the glow of fluorescent lights, I have witnessed moments of a school day that rattle my core:

1. A SLP comes earlier than the start of the school day to have a social skills group with students—because it’s the only time it can happen.
2. A SLP changes the life of one student by giving him the confidence to speak up in class.
3. A SLP sits outside her campus at 9pm to complete a report because she needs access to the paperwork system that is only available on school grounds.
4. A SLP puts on a theatrical performance for his entire elementary campus because he knows no limit to his role.
5. A SLP helps a child say, “I love you,” to his mom for the first time.

The Facts.

There are approximately 82K speech-language pathologists working in the schools.  According to the U.S. Department of Education, 21% of children in special education receive speech/language/fluency support. That’s approximately 1.4 million children.  Public schools must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to every single student.

• One out of every four children lives in poverty (that’s making less than $24,250 for a family of four). School-based SLPs serve those students.
• About 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). School-based SLPs serve those students.
• Approximately 4.4 million children speak another language other than English in the home. These children attend public schools, and school-based SLPs serve them.

The Noise.

Now, let’s talk about the noise. A SLP told me once, “I thought the not-so-good SLPs worked in the schools.” Another time, an entire graduate program looked at me when I asked, “Who wants to go into the schools?” Not one graduate student raised her hand. When I questioned their response, they said, “There’s too much paperwork. I don’t want to work alongside other professionals. I won’t make as much money.”  I am not quite sure how this happened, but the current perspective regarding our school-based SLPs is inaccurate.

The Truth.

To work in the public sector is to support all children. School-based SLPs must possess the breadth and depth to serve children. Today, I want to honor our school-based speech-language pathologists. So, friends, I want to talk to you.

Please put a bubble in your mouth and listen.

I see you.
I see you getting to school at 6:45am to make sure you are set up for the 7:30am bell.
I see you working through your lunch to hold a Lunch Bunch group for your students.
I see you spending your salary on therapy tools because the school cannot afford more.
I see you drowning in paperwork to prepare for your IEP meeting.
I see you getting down to your student’s level and letting him know that he can do it.
I see you reaching out to your families from diverse backgrounds — and
I see you speaking to them in the language of kindness.
I see you staying after school to give additional support to your students.
I see you clapping the loudest as your students walk across that stage to get their diploma.
I see you championing your student with unique gifts and allowing him to be the best him.
I see you teaching about compassion.
I see you crying because, at times, it is too much.
I see you give and give and give some more.
I see them, too.
I see the students learning.
I see the students taking pride in their efforts.
I see the students living up to the high standards you set.
I see the students feeling safe when you enter a room.
I see the students believing in your proud words.
I see all of this because you are his speech-language pathologist.
I see all of this because you are her champion.
I see all of this because you made the right choice to work in the schools.
I see your awesomeness.
I see your love.
I see your meaningful work.
I see your great worth.
I see the IMPACT you make.
I see you, SLP.
I see you.
I thank you.

So, hail to our school-based SLPs. You have earned our respect, and it is the time for us to back you up. We will push harder to advocate for your needs. We will ensure that you have the resources needed to support young brains. We will shout your praises louder. It’s time. And, because I believe in the power of those who grace the laminate floors of our locker-lined hallways, I will be the last person standing and cheering for the greatness that public education yields.

Come join this party of almost 90K SLPs and students. It’s starts at 7:30am every weekday, and all are invited. Come dressed ready to work, ready to keep up and ready to make the biggest, most public, impact. Dear, SLPs, what is the best part of being a school-based SLP?

SLP Definition Art Work

Written by: phuonglienpalafox

14 Comments on “School-Based SLP – An Ode to YOU”

  1. April 6, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

    Getting to know my teachers and building a meaningful relationship with them!!! I’ve noticed crazy progress with me pushing in and my teachers using visuals/ supports and same “lingo” as I do in speech!

    • April 10, 2017 at 8:28 am #


      I love how you talk about pushing into the classroom!!! We are the language experts, and our teachers are the content experts. Together, we can do SO much for our students and our families. So, keep up with the “crazy progress” and the relationship building with your educational team. They are lucky to have you.


  2. April 7, 2017 at 6:49 am #

    THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!! As I took a break from the piles and piles of paperwork for CSE’s and evaluations not to mention actual therapy and the extra’s because the State was coming for three days to evaluate our school, I finally got to my email…..
    And promptly cried out loud! The exhaustion from staying up till 2am working only to have a teething toddler wake up at 3:38am crying and finally fall back to sleep for 45 mins. just compounds the crazy regular day schedule. Those little strings of LIGHT at the end of the tunnel like you mentioned, are some days, all that keep us going.
    So thank you for the ode and the recognition and spreading the word to the newbies that even if you reach one student, one teacher, one parent! It is all worth it!

    • April 10, 2017 at 8:26 am #

      Oh, Christa. I understand the life of a working SLP-mama. The days are surely hard, and everything you do is so worthwhile. I am sending you positive vibes as you conquer your heart-work at school and at home. And, it is definitely all worth it, dear. Take care, Phuong.

  3. April 7, 2017 at 6:59 am #

    I love being a part of the IEP team and I feel valued for my expertise/professional judgment. If I don’t have an answer for the team, then I will do some research and get back to them asap. I love to see my students make progress and have a rapport with some of my parents. This is why I love being a school-based SLP!

    • April 10, 2017 at 8:24 am #


      Thank you for your sentiments! Being a part of an interdisciplinary team is key, and our valuable SLP-brain adds so much value. Thank you for your contributions to our students and our families. Take care, Phuong.

  4. April 8, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

    This is the most appreciated and well-written piece for public school SLPs. You ask about the best part and I can think of too many things to list here. Children spend a huge majority of their day in school and I am there with them. I see them anytime I want in an environment where they need me most. I have complete control over how long I see them and am not limited to whatever insurance companies say. Reimbursement issues are not a factor in my services. When students are dismissed, I can still check in on them by walking to their classroom. I can still be a support as long as they are in my school. And while salaries for all SLPs should be higher, my salary is relatively nice considering I only have to work 187 days a year. I began my career in the same elementary I will retire from some day. It’s that important to me.

    • April 10, 2017 at 8:22 am #


      Your first sentence means so much. Thank you. “Children spend a huge majority of their day in school, and I am there with them.” Yes. YES! I also appreciate you bringing up the daily rate of pay. Truth be told, SLPs do not go into the field thinking about money; however, once you do the arithmetic, having two months off in the summer to recoup, reconnect and rejuvinate is lovely. Thanks, Gina.

  5. April 10, 2017 at 9:48 pm #

    This is certainly an accurate reflection of what we do. When I graduated and later saw our department chair, she asked “Why are you wasting yourself in the public schools?” She meant that as a compliment as I was a good student. After 38 years I have no regrets. PS. I love working with kids and one of my best areas is curriculum.

    • April 17, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

      Daphne, I love that your superpower is Curriculum!! Thank you for being a part of the schools for almost four decades. Your students are lucky to have you!

  6. June 21, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

    Oh, this is wonderful! Thank you so much for these sentiments, Phuong. Might have brought a tear to my eye. 🙂
    I just finished my CFY in the public schools and it was one of the most challenging and rewarding years of my life! There are so many great parts…I think I would have to say that being part of a school community is the best! By being in a school community, I have the privilege of being in my kids’ corner to help, love, support, and build relationships with them during formative years of their lives…alongside teachers, diagnosticians, administration, etc. I consider that to be pretty special! -Kara

    • June 21, 2017 at 11:03 pm #

      Kara, you are so right–a school’s superpower is the community and team sentiments. Together and collectively, so much can be done for our students. More importantly, I love how you emphasize relationship building. To make the most impact in speech-language therapy, our students first need trust and love. Once that foundation is built, it’s amazing what happens. Congratulations on completing your internship year, welcome to the best profession and thank you for empowering our children. Take care, Phuong.

  7. May 4, 2019 at 9:17 am #

    I love this! My favorite part of working in schools is seeing my kids be successful. I help with the morning show and have been a part of helping with the drama production, and I love seeing my former and even current kiddos shine because they are now confident communicators. I also love being a part of my school family – I can’t imagine being anywhere else than in the trenches with those people. We now have a second SLP at my school and even though she’s 11 years younger, she’s become one of my best friends, and our whole district SLP team is truly that, a team. I am thankful! Thank you for this post – it brought a good deep breath as I try to enjoy the weekend with state testing looming next week (which I have to help give) and 15 IEPs coming up in the last 20 school days. I love my job, but I love summer!

    • May 4, 2019 at 9:32 pm #

      Corrie, thank you for your message–there are so many wonderful layers to it. I love that you are such an integrated part of your campus! I’ve always thought that our speechy skills align beautifully with theatre and musical productions. We can surely give our SLP input, and it’s so much fun! I’m also a big believe that having the luxury of another SLP on your campus is a dream. There’s someone who understands, someone you can talk SLP-shop to and someone to help with all of our responsibilities. It’s icing on the cake that y’all are friends, as well. Here’s to the last month. I know it’s a crazy time. Until the well-earned days of summer, Corrie!

      Take care,

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