Written by Jessica Lewandoski, MS, CCC-SLP, for GradSchools.com
About a year ago I believed that I had defined my career as a speech language pathologist (SLP) as one that worked in a school with students and provided therapy to clients after school hours. I always knew that when choosing my field that I had many options and choices, but had no idea the types of opportunities that were about to come my way.
My friend who is the psychologist in my school was set to go on a trip with a group of school psychologists to St. Maarten to work with the Ministry of Education. She broached the idea to bring a SLP on the trip to further assess students on the island not only from a cognitive standpoint, but a speech and language standpoint as well. She asked me if I would be interested to accompany the group of psychologists and work with the Ministry of Education to understand the speech and language needs of the students. I couldn’t believe my ears. A fabulous opportunity stood before me and I felt so fortunate to be able to join in this adventure.
So, the next week we embarked on what came to be a year-long collaboration with the Ministry of Education in St. Maarten. Our first trip consisted of evaluating and observing the students of the special education school on the island. When we left we wrote up our observations and findings that could be used to both understand the student’s needs and develop and implement programming to help facilitate their learning. About four months later we were set to make another trip. Again, the group was comprised of psychologists and myself. This time we evaluated a random sampling of students from all schools on the island. The ministry wanted to get a sense of the island as a whole as far as the students’ strengths and weaknesses. Again, we wrote up reports, summarized our findings, and presented them to the Ministry of Education. The last and most recent trip that I took to the island took a different form. I traveled with three psychologists and we presented to all teachers on the island, the board of education, and the government. I was able to make a presentation to teachers giving them an overview of communication disorders, warning signs, and strategies that they could use in the classroom to help these students.
If you told me a year ago that my field would have provided me with this opportunity I would not have believed you. This has opened up my mind to many possibilities that the career of a speech and language pathologist can offer. I have learned so much from the school psychologists I have had the privilege of working with, the ministry of education, as well as the teachers and students of St. Maarten. This process was a fulfilling one and allowed me to realize that I can do so much in my field that I never even thought was an option.
About the Author: Jessica Lewandowski,MS, CCC-SLP is a certified speech pathologist living in New York State.