Interview with Barbara Helms on School Versus Clinic Based Speech Therapy
Interview with Barbara Helms, M.Ed., CCC-SLP
Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L
Krista: What brought you to Lowcountry Therapy Center?
Barbara: I was looking for a change of environment, stability – working in one place, not traveling, working with an interdisciplinary team under one roof.
K: Where did you work before this?
B: I started out working in the Beaufort County School District, I worked there for 3 years, then I heard of a greater need in the Hampton County School District so I contracted for a position to work for them and I was ere for 3 years. I had also done nursing home work, home health briefly, and my internship was in a hospital doing outpatient and I liked it a lot. I always wanted to get back to that, so I decided to go ahead and go for it.
K: How do you feel like the transition went? Was there anything that was hard to get used to?
B: We’re led to believe in grad school that it’s really hard to make the change between schools and clinic but I didn’t find it hard at all. In fact, it was pretty seamless moving from one environment to another.
K: What would you say are some of the biggest differences between working in the schools and working in the clinic? What do you feel like we can provide in the clinic that can’t be provided in the school?
B: Your team is different between school and here. You don’t always have OTs and PTs around you all the time, your support system in mainly your teaches, your guidance counselors, the faculty and staff at school. The one-on-one attention that is available here is not always possible there. Not to say that it wasn’t done, because I definitely had children that I saw one-on-one. When you’re going from Pre-K all the way to high school, you have to serve all those kids in the amount of time you have to be there. And you always felt really bad when you did miss kids, whether you were out, or they were out, testing; there was always something going on in the schools. Parents are not there, that’s another huge thing. There are some families you only see once a year for an annual review. Whereas here, [families are] bringing them. I like the parental involvement. I feel like it’s better for generalized carryover because you can talk to the families face-to-face on a weekly basis as opposed to an annual basis.
K: What would you recommend for parents that have kids getting school services but maybe aren’t seeing the progress they want?
B: I would tell them that ASHA totally advocates both clinical and school. The more support you can give your kid, the better off they’re going to be. Also, the reality in school is that you’re seeing two, three, possibly four children in a group at the same time; not that they’re not getting what they need, but that one-on-one is just really so much better.
K: Any other comments or advice for parents?
B: I’m glad I got the chance to do both and see both sides, because when a parent does come in and asks me “Oh you used to work in the school, let me ask you some questions.” I’m happy to help as much as I can. Things change drastically from year-to-year, not only on a county level but state and federal levels, too. I would definitely encourage parents to go online, do the research. The South Carolina Department of Education has any information that you could need. There’s also the Office of Special Education Programs and the United States Department of Education. I encourage parents to read up on what IDEA is and what a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) entails. If you’re going to be an advocate for your child, it’s really important that you’re on top of it, because you’re not there all the time.