A reminder to SLPs during back-to-school in 2020 (The covid-19 year)

This is a call out to all my SPEECH-Language-pathologist friends. I have many of you in my social networks. If you are in my network, you and I have a very long relationship of trust and respect. I wanted to speak out and ask you to look after the children you serve. These are difficult times. Both my children have been supported by my colleagues over the years, and it has truly been an honor to watch them help my children grow over the years. This year, all the professionals from my children’s school reached out (even the school nurse has called us), stepped up, all but the one I share a degree with. Where there is frustration, there is an opportunity for learning and growing, I know we can do better. 

I know you are doing better! 

I also know you are as overwhelmed as everyone is, you have your own family and you are also trying to find the best way to make this whole virtual therapy world work. But, if you would take a few minutes, let me remind you about how important you are and how you can impact the lives of so many families.

First, as the new year start, contact the families. I mean: truly reach out. Don’t become just one more mass email on their inbox. Special education is a big mystery to families. Parents may not know where to start, who to contact. Be proactive! Reach out, call, write a personal email, be present despite the coldness of screens. For those of you who already got a couple weeks of virtual speech under your belt on this new school year, if you have not yet heard from that parent, please don’t make any assumptions- continue to find ways in. That child needs you!

In the middle of this life changing times, children with speech and communication disorders are being pushed to join in groups with new kids they don’t know and who may never have met them pre-covid. Those kids will judge how they talk, how they behave and how the interact. 

The children you serve may have new teachers, who may not know how to support students with communication disorders. The teacher may not even know that little face on that small screen on the google meets has a communication disorder to begin with. They will judge those children( and maybe the parents as well). Please continue to bridge this gap- even if virtually. 

If you were doing in classroom therapy pre-covid, have you considered how this will look or if it would even work in a group with 22 children virtually?  
My personal opinion: I can’t see how this won’t lead to stigmatization. Is this a time for you to take the lead and find better ways to support that child? Be the leader, don’t wait for someone else to find better ways. Don’t wait for things to get bad. 

Also based on personal experience, don’t forget that social communication is part of our scope of practice. Knowing when to mute, when to unmute, when to interact, when to refrain, all these are skills that we are now asking of very young children. Please make me proud and don’t forget social communication. 

Children with communication disorders are now pushed to figure things out in ways that many adults have never done. 

Last but not least, remember that for some families Covid brought a lot of pain and suffering. That child’s family may have lost the means of income or worse, a loved one. That child or their family or both may be struggling with their mental health and those 30 minutes can seem unimportant or they could be the beacon of light in their day. Be kind.

Your words matter, the services you provide matter, no other professional in a school is trained like you to support children’s communication skills. Be present, Innovate, be creative, and communicate! Families are ready to welcome you into their homes, you just need to know how to knock. 

I am sure the families you serve will be lucky to have you on their side this school year. I love you and I love that you have chosen to make a difference in a family’s life. Stay healthy and may the tech be on your side.

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