7 Biggest Challenges Speech-Language
Pathologists Face When Working with Kids

See also: Communication Skills

The people who choose a career as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) find their job to be rewarding. SLPs answer a critical need of both children and adults who wish to refine their speech skills and language processing. Considering that at least 1 in 12 kids have some kind of speech development disorder and could benefit from therapy, the demand for Pathologists is projected to rise 25% by the end of the decade.

Speech-Language Pathologists can expect to work in either the private or the public sector. For example, schools and hospitals or a private clinic. The sessions can be conducted in a clinical or a virtual setting. While SLP as a career has attractive prospects, you’ll want to prepare for the challenges that may accompany your choice. Here are some of the hurdles you may face when doing your job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines an SLP as professionals that “assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders in children and adults.”

1. You’ll Work with Kids Having Diverse Speech Problems.

If you choose to work in a public setting like a school, you’ll have group sessions for kids with diverse levels and abilities. Most schools and public institutions typically allocate limited time slots for kids needing special teaching and combine them into single classes.

The chances are that you’ll be simultaneously helping kids who stutter, kids who mispronounce certain words, or kids who have trouble understanding sentences spoken to them. SLPs must organize the class to include lessons that can benefit all the children.

2. You’ll Take Group Sessions.

Often, speech therapy for kids includes one-on-one lessons where the SLP works with the child to practice diction and speaking slowly. Designing customized material to help the child according to their specific needs is a part of effective therapy. However, when that is not possible, you’ll tap into the other positives of working in a group setting.

Focus on the fact that kids learn best from imitating their peers. For instance, singing songs and reciting poems like Betty Botter, integrating shared music into therapy. Older students in higher grades may learn by taking on a mentor role, helping younger students to practice. You can also give the more senior kids assignments to complete on their own while you help the younger ones with additional attention.

You may have to deal with classes that combine kids of diverse ages, abilities, and levels of speech deficits. Making do with group classes when one-on-one sessions are clearly more beneficial is one of the hurdles you’ll face.

3. You’ll Deal with Paperwork and Meetings.

Working in either schools or more public settings will require you to maintain detailed paperwork about all the aspects of each client. You’ll create case reports about how the child is progressing, their particular problems, and what you’re doing to help. You may also have to meet with school administrators and parents to provide updates about the additional strategies you hope to use.

All these tasks take up much of your time - the job requires a surprising amount of time away from children. It is not unusual for SLPs to bring some of the paperwork home so they can devote more hours to providing therapy. You'll have to work long hours that your wages are unlikely to cover.

4. You’ll Have to Cope with the Fallouts of Budget Constraints.

This is more specific to the many SLPs who work for schools. Districts have limited funding for educational institutions and many places where it must be spent. Although on paper, it is mandatory for the management to provide facilities to help children with speech difficulties, limited budgets make it hard for them to arrange for well-qualified personnel to work with the kids.

Since early intervention has become critical to ensure that children overcome their deficits, schools may hire therapists with a bachelor’s degree who have only the rudimentary training and know-how to manage speech problems. Even though you have the required master’s degree to work as an SLP, coordinating your efforts with less-qualified faculty members may present its own set of challenges.

The school management is doing the best they can to help. However, additional issues like the lack of adequate funding and improper insights into what speech therapy is all about can be problematic.

5. You’ll Work Your Way Around Bureaucracy.

School administrators typically lay down textbook rules and regulations that are sometimes hard to implement in real-life situations. Most school board members have various other facets to consider when creating programs for students with speech delays and disabilities. There is a good chance that they don’t have any hands-on experience with dealing with children.

You may find that complying with the rules while continuing to help the kids is confusing and that you have to create a fine-tuned balance between the two. Situations may arise where you need to get creative with solutions that prioritize the kids’ needs above school rules.

6. You’ll Cope with Parents Unable to Help at Home.

Although parents and caregivers do their best to help their kids, they deal with their own challenges, such as working long hours and not having the time to help with homework. A trained SLP’s informal job description may include explaining to the parents what they can do to supplement the kids’ classes in school: how to speak to the child, complete exercises and assignments, and offer unconditional patience, love, and support. Practicing these things at home can go a long way in helping the child.

SLPs often conduct introductory sessions where they interact with the parents to learn more about the child’s home environment and how the family functions. You may have to design your classes according to the cues you pick up about their lives at home. This facet is critical because the home is the child’s first exposure to speaking, learning the language, and communicating effectively. Expect to work harder than usual to motivate parents and push them into making an effort to support their child.

You’re dealing with small children who are possibly nervous and shy because of the pressures of not being able to express themselves. And, you’re dealing with worried parents who lack the time and in some cases the motivation to help their kids.

7. You’re Working with Kids

The most significant challenge of working with kids is just that - working with kids. They can be adorable and sweet and do everything you say. On some days, they may absolutely refuse to work and just sit back with a pout. You’ll have some good days; others will be spent just coaxing the child to say “hi” to their friends. Be prepared for unusual requests, tummy aches, weeping, and those sullen days where having the blue eraser instead of the green eraser means nothing can get accomplished. Unexplained meltdowns are also common. Your Speech and Language School training may not prepare you for the regular day-to-day hurdles of working with kids that are very real.

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Working as an SLP may push your skills and training further than you ever expected.

Interacting with kids and teaching them to speak and swallow properly involves a lot more practical challenges that your coursework will not train you to expect. But, the rewards are equally fulfilling, and you’ll have the satisfaction of doing your bit to support kids through their speech problems.

About the Author

Better Speech has helped thousands of children and families. We're committed to providing affordable, convenient, and effective online speech therapy for kids and adults. Our clients are matched with the best therapist for their needs and get affordable therapy at the comfort of their home, when it's convenient for them (even on weekends or evenings).