There are some days I felt like this day would never come, yet other days I look back at the past two years as the quickest of my life.
After six years of schooling, attending two universities, completing seven grad school applications, earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, passing dozens of classes, completing six clinical placements and two full-time internships, gaining 600+ clinical hours, and building relationships with over 200 clients, patients, and students…
I AM OFFICIALLY A SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST
Oh my goodness that feels good to say!
The weeks following graduation, I immediately jumped into starting my career and it’s been nothing short of a rollercoaster. But before I talk about what’s next for me as an SLP, let me tell you all about my fifth and final semester as a graduate student.
On January 14th, I began the last step in completing my graduate school experience with my pediatric internship in the Clarkston School District at Independence Elementary. The previous semester, I completed my adult internship placement at Canterbury-on-the-Lake and I couldn’t wait to get back to where my heart belongs… WITH THE KIDS!
Independence Elementary is home to Clarkston’s specialized program for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and those that know me know that for the past two years I have become exceptionally passionate about working with the autism population. For about nine months I counted down the days to this internship beginning; after dreaming for so long about working in a school, it was finally happening!
Prior to this internship, I had very little experience working with the challenging behaviors and needs that can be seen in students with ASD. The best part of jumping right into this program in the middle of the school year was that I had no choice but to learn very quickly. Flashback to when I was at CMU during undergrad, I had a class that focused strictly speech and language therapy for children with Autism. During this class, I remember my professor telling us how emotionally and mentally taxing a job like this can be. After my experience in the ASD program, I have a much greater appreciation and understanding of what she had told us and I have an even bigger appreciation for what special education teachers do every single day; it’s truly remarkable!
This. Job. Is. TOUGH!
This job was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have encountered thus far as an SLP. This job could make you feel fulfilled, heartbroken, motivated, frustrated, and inspired all in one day. And if I’m being completely honest, some days it made me feel completely defeated. But the days that I got to watch them reach a new goal or accomplish a new task (like completing a new recipe in our weekly cooking class with the Occupational Therapist) made every second more than worth it! Without these kids and this experience, I wouldn’t be half the therapist I am today.
Not only did I provide treatment to the students in the ASD program, I also worked with students preschool through fifth grade. My caseload consisted of students with a variety of other diagnoses such as early childhood developmental delay, Down Syndrome, cleft lip and palate, dysphagia (feeding and swallowing disorders), cerebral palsy, learning disorders, cognitive impairments, articulation and phonological disorders, and language disorders. A caseload of 60+ kids kept me super busy this semester!
For me, this internship solidified my passion for this job. It made everything I’ve worked for these past six years more than worth it. That “ah ha” moment when a child finally articulates a sound they’ve been working on for months, or when a student’s confidence skyrockets because they are finally able to retell an entire story on their own, or when a parent thanks you at an IEP meeting… those are the moments that make me think “how lucky am I to call this my job?” A school environment is exactly where I want to be.
The best part of every day, hands down, was the comments, responses, and questions from the kids! Here are a few of my favorites…
“Your name is Miss Kissick? You mean like an actual kiss?”
“You have beautiful hair, I like you”
“Can we call you Miss Kiss? That just sounds better.”
“Does your college have a gym?” “We have a gym that the basketball team plays in” “Is it big?” “Its huge!” “Well how many meters is it?” “Ummm, I’m not sure” “Okay, I’m gonna need you to measure it then”
Me: “Are you okay?” “No, I’m feeling a little barfy”
Me: “Did you watch the Super Bowl last night?” Student: “No, my mom doesn’t believe in football, we’re soccer people”
“Hiiiiii Miss Kissick” *walks up and touches my dress* “You’re so soft today”
*On Friday* Me: “I’ll see you Monday” Student: “No you won’t, I’m gonna be sick that day”
“What’s up with all of the bunnies on Easter? Easter’s about God, not bunnies. Wait, does that mean God’s favorite animal is a bunny?”
Me: *finds student all alone laying in the middle of the hall in front of his locker with coat, hat, gloves, and backpack still on 15 minutes after school has already started* “What’s going on buddy? Why aren’t you unpacked?” Student: “I just CANT do it! It’s too much work!” (…and that sums up just about everyone on a Monday morning)
Student: “You look different today” Me: “Really? How come?” Student: “It’s the lipstick”
Student: “I need a snack” “We just walked into school. Snack is at 10:30” *lifts up shirt, sticks out belly, looks down at belly* “But IT’S GETTING BIGGER* “If your belly is getting bigger, that means you’re full, not hungry” “Oh yeah”
*student while I’m walking him out to the bus* “We could work on some speech right now since you seem to like speech so much”
*teaching student how to make the S sound* Me: “That one sounded a little slushy, let’s try it again” Student: “Yeah, I could feel all the spit in my mouth that time”
“But what are we gonna do when you leave? I’m really gonna miss you”
And to top it all off, I received the sweetest message on the board my very last day…
I never imagined I would develop such close relationships with my students in just 4 short months, but I was heartbroken saying goodbye to them on my very last day. These kids will never know the impact they had on my heart and future career.
Over Christmas break, prior to beginning my last internship, I dedicated every free minute I had to studying for the Praxis — the national board certification exam for speech-langauge pathologists. At the same time, I was also studying for The University of Toledo’s comprehensive exam that’s required to graduate from the SLP program. I officially passed the Praxis on February 16th and three weeks later, I passed the competency exam! I was just a little ecstatic 😉 I’ve never felt such a weight lifted off my shoulders.
Bring on SLP certification and licensure!
On May 4th, 2019 I graduated with my Master of Arts degree in Speech-Language Pathology and officially became Lauren Kissick, M.A., CF-SLP
There’s no way I would be where I am today without my incredible support system…
I began job hunting back in February, right after passing the Praxis, and after months of writing cover letters, updating my resume, attending job fairs, and receiving job interviews, it feels so good to finally start what I’ve worked so long and hard for! Back in March, I accepted two substitute positions immediately following graduation.
Getting paid to do what I love?
I must be dreaming!
The first job was for two weeks working at Clarkston’s Early Childhood Center in their special education preschool classrooms. Oh. My. Goodness. I was instantly HOOKED! I’ve always known that I love working with the preschool age, but getting the chance to work directly in the preschool classrooms alongside the special ed teachers was an entirely different ballgame. Working on speech and language with 3-4 year olds during story, art, music, play, and snack times? It simply doesn’t get much better than that.
The second substitute position I accepted was at an elementary school in Waterford for an SLP going on maternity leave. (Fun fact: The position is actually at the elementary I went to! It’s been so crazy to work alongside my former teachers as co-workers.) I will be covering this position until the school year ends this coming Friday. Working at Schoolcraft for the past month has been great, but I’m even more excited for what’s next…
On May 31st, I officially accepted a full-time position as the SLP at both Hugger Elementary and the Early Childhood Center in the Rochester Community School District and I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER!! This is a district and a setting that I’ve always dreamt of working in one day. After receiving job offers from a few incredible districts, I ultimately chose Rochester for the positions they offered me. There’s no way I could’ve passed up the opportunity to receive my dream job immediately after graduation. I have the best of both worlds: an elementary and a preschool!!
Now excuse me while I go crazy buying all of the fun therapy materials for my future students…
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