From my own personal experience I can tell you that SLPA’s are amazing. And not just because I am related to one!
I have met quite a few on this journey with both my boys getting the diagnosis of speech and language delay. You can read more about our story here.
I have so much appreciation for these amazing teachers and therapists.
I mean they are helping our children communicate with us!
Who exactly are SLPA’s?
I found the following information from www.asha.org
“The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant Scope of Practice document, and a Practice Portal page regarding the Professional Issues Related to Speech-Language Pathology Assistants (SLPAs). SLPAs are to be used only to supplement—not supplant—the services provided by ASHA-certified speech-language pathologists. SLPAs are not trained for independent practice.
Who are speech-language pathology assistants?
Speech-language pathology assistants are support personnel who, following academic coursework, fieldwork, and on-the-job training, perform tasks prescribed, directed, and supervised by ASHA-certified speech-language pathologists.”
Miracle of Speech
When I noticed a speech delay in my oldest son I was so worried. I though he would never speak in a full sentence. He began speech therapy at the age of two and a half.
I can tell you now that with the help of different speech therapists and speech therapy assistants he cannot stop talking!
I’ve written about ways you can help your autistic child with their speech and you can get a free printable with activities you can do at home.
I hope they are helpful to you on this special needs journey.
I’ve also interviewed my sister, and SLPA in hopes that this will give you an inside look at what their job is really like.
Interview with a Speech Language Pathology Assistant
Q: How long have you been an SLPA and where do you work now?
A: I have been an SLPA since August 2016, and I work for a school district in Northern California.
Q: Who do you work with?
A: I currently work with students at two locations:
- Kindergarten – Eighth grade students at an K-8 Charter school
- Kids around 3-4 years old at a preschool class in an K-8 school
Q: What is your main job description and what exactly do you do day to day?
A: I work with the Speech Pathologist to help students who have speech and/or language needs.
At the preschool class, it’s more of a relaxed, environment where we work on their speech goals during circle time and story time. We also use songs, crafts, and free play
Many times I pull the kids from the class activity and work with them at a table at the back of the classroom either one-on-one or with a group for around 15 minutes.
Some things the Speech Pathologist and I work on with the students are:
- Correct production of words
- Increasing length of phrases to 3-4 words that include (“He/She is verb+ing”, prepositions such as in, on, adjective+object)
- functions of objects
- 1-2 step directions
- WH questions
At the Charter
In this setting, I make sure I’m familiar with their goals. I work with the students to produce their sounds correctly.
I also assist the Speech Pathologist by making copies, preparing speech materials, shredding papers, and anything else the Speech Pathologist needs me to do that day.
Q: What kind of challenges do you see the kids face?
A: Something I come across at the charter school is when it comes to producing a sound correctly. These kids have always been producing certain sounds wrong, and I see them struggling to relearn how to produce the sound such as positioning their articulators (lips, tongue, teeth) a certain way and when they do produce the sound correctly during a session, they might not know how they did it.
Q: What kind of diagnoses have you encountered?
A: I’ve worked with or currently work with students with diagnoses such as:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Down Syndrome
- Cerebral Palsy
- Selective Mutism
Q: What has been the hardest part about your job?
A: In the preschool class the hardest part is time management. I see about 18 kids throughout the day in the preschool class and I need to see each one for about 15 minutes in 5.5 hour day.
I also need to make sure the materials I use to work on the goals are fun and engaging.
In both the preschool class and charter school another challenge is behavior. You cannot work on any speech and language goals with a student unless they are calm, focused and ready to work.
And since I’m still learning how to teach students how to produce certain sounds, sometimes it can be trial and error to find what techniques and tools work the best.
Q: What has been the most rewarding/favorite part?
A: My favorite part is making a difference in the childs life. Being able to communicate is a huge ability in life. So helping these kids have a voice, is super rewarding.
I also love that in speech therapy I can incorporate all kids of games and materials and the kids have fun while also working on their goals!
Q: What kind of strategies have you used to help theses kids?
A: I have noticed visuals help.
To produce every single word in a sentence it’s helpful to have tokens, blocks, or play dough to symbolize each word.
For example: if you would like the child to produce a three-word sentence have 3 blocks to represent, SHE, IS, PLAYING. That way the child can point or touch each token, block, or piece that is right in front of them and make sure they produce each word in that sentence.
Also working toward a reward such as a game or candy at the end of the session helps. At the charter school speech classroom, we have something called “Hi-5” hands. There are velcro circles attached to each finger of a hand. If they get to 5 for waiting their turn and working on their goals, and staying on task throughout the session they earn a game such as “Jumping Jack” or “Uno”.
If they need to produce a sound such as “k” or “g” we might model the sound with hand gestures and have the students copy us.
Q: What do you wish parents knew about their kids?
A: Your kids have so much to say and offer. Just take one day at a time Practice and pretty soon, you’ll see the progress. The best thing you can do is believe in them.
That will give them the confidence that they can do it.
Q: What can parents do at home to help their kids be successful in developing their speech?
A: Practice, practice, practice!
If you want your kids to truly be successful with their speech, you won’t see much progress from a 20-minute session, once a week. But incorporating and practicing the goals at home- that is key!
Q: Is there an activity or activities/ exercises you can share that parents can do at home?
A: If your child is younger make sure you take the time to read with them.
Something elseI’ve learned from my first SLPA job is ABC’s
B– Be quiet and wait 3-5 seconds
C– Create an opportunity and say the word one more time and give the child the object.
When you’re working with young children around toddler age, never force your child to say a word. Instead hold up that object or a picture of the object next to your face, name the object in a question, wait 3-5 seconds while looking at them, then name the object one more time and give them that object.
DON’T SAY “SAY …”.
Example: “boat?” (hold up to your face and wait 3-5 seconds), “boat” (give child object). This can be anything the child wants-snacks, toys, playing outside, etc.
Speech and language should be voluntary and the more you force them to say something, the more they’ll want to shut down.
So by asking them, waiting, then naming and releasing the object to them, this will encourage their speech and language skills.
Just be patient and don’t give up! Your child will amaze you ♥️
Q: Anything else you can share with parents about speech development?
A: Progress takes time. Make sure you encourage and praise even the smallest victories.
I’m so grateful for my sister taking the time to answer these questions. I hope her answers gave you a little insight into the work SLPA’s put in.
Don’t forget to grab your free speech printables by signing up above.
Do you have some favorite way’s you encourage your child’s speech?
You go this, mama!