This is a heartfelt message to my Speech-Language Pathologist friends, many of whom are in my social networks. If you’re in my circle, we share a long-standing relationship built on trust and respect. I urge you to be vigilant in caring for the children you serve, especially in these trying times. My own children have benefited immensely from the support of my colleagues over the years. This year, every professional from their school has reached out—except, ironically, the one with whom I share a degree. While this is frustrating, it’s also an opportunity for growth. I know we can do better, and I know many of you already are.
I recognize that you’re overwhelmed, juggling family responsibilities and navigating the virtual therapy landscape. However, let’s not forget the significant impact you can have on families. At the start of the new school year, make a genuine effort to reach out to families. Avoid being just another mass email; special education is already a maze to many parents. If you haven’t yet heard from a parent, don’t make assumptions. Continue to find ways to connect. That child needs you.
During these unprecedented times, children with speech and communication disorders are joining groups with unfamiliar peers, leading to judgments about their speech and behavior. They may have new teachers unfamiliar with supporting students with communication disorders. As SLPs, it’s crucial to bridge this gap, even in a virtual setting.
If you previously conducted in-classroom therapy, consider how that translates to a virtual setting. From my perspective, group settings could lead to stigmatization. This is your moment to take the lead and find innovative ways to support these children.
Don’t overlook social communication skills. The remote environment requires children to understand when to mute or unmute themselves and how to engage appropriately—a skill set even many adults haven’t mastered.
Lastly, remember that the pandemic has inflicted pain and hardship on many families. For some, your 30-minute session might seem trivial; for others, it could be a beacon of light. Your role is invaluable; no other school professional is as equipped as you are to support children’s communication skills. Be present, be innovative, be creative, and above all, communicate! Families are eager to welcome you; you just need to know how to make your presence felt.
To all the families you’ll serve this school year, I say they’re lucky to have you. Stay healthy, and may technology be on your side.