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Speech in the Schools

Interview with a Private Clinician: Part 1

Published September 5, 2011 9:00 AM by Alexandra Streeter

In my last post, I talked about how I did a little bit of work in private practice and what I see as the advantages to keeping my day job in the schools! I wanted to share the expertise of Christopher Heistand, the SLP who started the clinic where I work over the summer. There are now three SLPs and three OTs who work together at this clinic. I have nothing but admiration for all of them, and the other SLPs in my town who work in private practice.

AS: What is your background in speech pathology?

CH: I have a master's degree in speech-language pathology from Western Washington University. I became interested in the field by way of a suggestion from my mother when I was in the ninth grade. She suggested to my siblings and me that we should pursue careers where we have had real life experience.

As was the case with me, speech therapy was an area that I had had exposure. I have now been practicing for 14 years and for the most part, been enjoying my chosen profession every day; where else do you get paid to play with kids all day?

AS: What settings have you worked in?

CH:  I have been fortunate to have worked in most settings that are associated with our field. These include the hospital medical inpatient setting (the primary focus being swallowing/feeding post trauma), the hospital outpatient setting (Children's therapy and post stroke/Aphasia), hospital transitional care unit, pediatric private practice and three different school districts.

AS: What did you like most about the schools? The least?

CH: For me, the best part of the schools was all of the kids that I got to interact with on a daily basis. I made a point to get to know not only my kids, but also many of their peers. I believe in many situations, I was the primary bridge between my kids' general education program and their specially designed program.

Often, my interaction with peers paved the way for more naturally occurring interactions between my kids and other students. My least favorite aspect of the schools model is very easy for me to identify. Most will say the paper work.

Albeit, there is way too much paper work, but I feel that my least favorite would be the lack of time. The paper work wouldn't be so bad, given we had ample time to complete it. As a result, I always felt like we were providing "fast food therapy" as opposed to "fine dining therapy." This is not to say that there isn't some fine dining in the schools; rather, it's to say that there are fewer opportunities for it to occur.

In my opinion, it is a reflection of all the things that we understand as being wrong with the system (e.g., large case-loads, limited budgets, understaffed departments and massive amounts of paperwork).

I must say that working in the schools provided me with a very important aspect of my practice today; that is, an understanding of the IEP process and the realities of the school system. This allows for me to assist parents with their understanding of the process when they enter into the schools system.

Please stay tuned for my next blog entry in which I will share the rest of Christopher's thoughts regarding private practice vs. school based therapy!


The lack of time is a huge issue for those of us (SLPs and OTs)working in school settings. In the past, I have found that networking with other therapists who face our same issues really helps me to prioritize and plan my work day. A course that I really like to attend yearly is the "Therapies in the School Conference" which I believe is Nov 17-18 in Massachusetts. They often have sessions addressing how recent Mandates and regulations affect school practice, and other school based issues.  Google it and see if you can attend!

Joan , , speech language pathologist Lowell School September 8, 2011 2:01 PM
South Bend IN

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About this Blog

    Speech in the Schools
    Occupation: School-based speech-language pathologists
    Setting: Traditional and specialized K-12 classrooms
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