Speech Teachers are typically nationally board-certified clinicians with Master’s degrees in the development, diagnosis, and treatment of speech, hearing, and language disorders. They hold and maintain certification from the Department of Early and Secondary Education (DESE) and a state license to provide quality services in schools. Wearing many hats in a school system,they are also known as Speech & Language Pathologists or Therapists.
Speech teachers help students, including English Language Learners, of all ages with a variety of speech and language delays and disorders. Some include articulation, speech fluency, voice/resonance, phonological disorders, auditory processing, expressive language, and social language disorders. They administer standardized tests, develop educational and therapeutic goals and objectives, deliver specialized instruction both inside and outside of the classroom, and provide professional, family, and community support.
Helping to foster the development of clear and effective communication is the speech teacher’s ultimate goal. Treatment typically consists of routine, specialized instruction to individual students, small groups, or whole classrooms in periods ranging from as little as five minutes to an hour or more. There are many students who receive speech therapy and for a variety of reasons, including developmental delay, weak muscles around the mouth, a sensory integration disorder, cleft lip/palate, a breathing or swallowing disorder, a stuttering disability, a hearing impairment, pervasive developmental disorder, and autism. Therapy can last from a few weeks or months to a few years, depending on the student’s needs. It is designed to maximize effectiveness, efficiency, and naturalness of communication, so that students can establish and maintain meaningful relationships with others and be able to feel successful in school.
Speech teachers also routinely communicate with parents, colleagues, other therapists, and administrators to provide education about how speech and language skills are linked to the Common Core State Standards. Sharing research and information with parents, other specialists, and teachers, they talk about speech and language goals in relation to the classroom curriculum. Examining the standards, developmental expectations, and the connections between language and learning, they discuss the potential barriers for children with speech or language challenges to mastering the standards. They discuss data about student learning, provide teacher support, examine the fidelity of interventions, and study students’ responses to intervention.
The Speech teacher is not the man or lady “down the hall”, but the colleague who works with students that have been tested and qualified for speech and language therapeutic services under current Special Education laws. Similar to certified classroom teachers, they have to implement multiple learning strategies and techniques to meet the needs of their vast and diverse caseload. Just like in the classroom, speech teachers are constantly adjusting and learning new ways to assist their students in becoming more effective learners and better communicators. These specialists welcome the opportunity to consult and share strategies and techniques to better assist the needs of students in all settings. They are not simply the teachers who help children who do not “talk correctly.” In essence, speech teachers are invaluable specialists not only as instructors, but also as master collaborators and licensed clinicians, who help bring unique solutions to classroom teachers that are challenged with meeting the tough, current educational standards in language and literacy. Once known as the “Speech Teacher”, now s/he is the multi-faceted speech and language specialist who is ready and willing to be part of the whole community that is called Education.
Miriam Rodriguez-Fusco is a 17-year, ASHA certified, bilingual SLP veteran of the Lynn Public Schools.
Anna M.L. Williams is a 32-year, ASHA certified SLP veteran with the Lynn Public Schools.