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In this episode, Zach talks with Carrie Clark, a speech-language pathologist and founder of They discuss the importance of education, the connection between support and therapy and how the coronavirus will lead to positive structural changes in the industry. Carrie also shares what bugs her about her job and what we can all do to make a difference.

Episode Notes

Communication Leads to Success

  • Speech and Language Kids was born out of a desire to help others
    • (1:56) “I started off just kind of blogging about what I was doing in my therapy room, and I specifically made the resources so that they were parent-friendly. So that if a parent was wondering how to teach a specific skill, that they could follow along and see how I teach it when I’m in the therapy room.”- Carrie
  • Clarity is essential for effective education
    • (2:25) “What I came to realize is that I seemed to have a very natural ability to take a complex skill and break it down into a step-by-step plan.”- Carrie
    • (3:48) “There’s a saying that goes if you can’t explain it to a five year old, then you have to work on explaining it better to yourself.”- Zach
  • There’s a tangible need for additional collaboration in the field
  • Large caseloads sometimes contribute to an unhealthy work environment
    • (3:09) “I’ve heard that if you’re not eating lunch in your car while crying at the same time, you’re not really a speech pathologist.”- Zach

The Coronavirus Has Exposed a Need for Change

  • The current online learning structure is not ideal
    • (5:30) “When we look at our children with speech and language needs, if their school is being shut down, a lot of these schools are transitioning to online learning. Which sounds great in theory, but when you think about what that means for our children with communication problems, some of those children may not be able to benefit from the learning that’s happening online because of their communication disorders.”- Carrie
  • There are many barriers to change at the state, district and client level
  • Parents are underequipped for teletherapy
    • (6:46) We go to school for years to learn how to do all of these strategies. And now, all of a sudden, we’re going to say ‘okay, well. You guys get to do the speech therapy at home so good luck with that.”- Carrie
  • Ineffective strategies can hinder future development
    • (6:58) “What we as a profession are feeling is this intense need of ‘hey, we’ve got to help these kids so they don’t fall farther behind their peers during this break, but we don’t know how. And so we are all scrambling and trying to figure this out together. And figure it out as quickly as we can.”- Carrie

Support is More Important than Ever

  • Therapy must take a backseat to real world problems
    • (8:38) “This child might have an IEP goal that says he needs to work on past-tense verbs, but if that family isn’t even sure that they’re going to have enough food to get through the week, then we don’t need to be working on past-tense verbs. That’s not the biggest concern right now. We need to be working on connecting that family with the resources that they need to be able to feed their children and have shelter and feel safe. Then, we can start working on some of these other things.”- Carrie
    • (9:04) “I think a lot of it needs to be stopping and thinking about where is this child and this family in real life? Where are they struggling and helping them with that.”- Carrie
  • Emotional needs carry significant weight
    • (8:16) “Instead of focusing on ‘okay, how can we do the best therapy possible and how can we take this child from where he is to completely caught up using teletherapy,’ we need to say ‘how can we get through this crisis?’”- Carrie
    • (12:39) “Past tense verbs, not our biggest problem. Your child will get caught up. We can get them caught up once we get through this. The most important thing is that you are safe, you are healthy and that your child feels safe and healthy.”- Carrie
    • (13:26) “If doing your speech work is causing that extra amount of stress then it’s not worth it right now. We can always come back to these things later.”- Carrie
  • Teletherapy is limited by non-specific platforms
  • Creativity is required during unprecedented times
    • (11:29) “We can train those parents on how to use some strategies at home that will help their child even if we can’t get that child to sit down at a screen and drill and practice words with us.”- Carrie
    • (14:13) “Using language the best we can. That’s enough right now. So, don’t feel like you have to go do all of these crazy fun speech language activities you find on Pinterest. Just prioritize connecting with your family, read some books, talk, sing songs, that kind of stuff.”- Carrie

Bureaucracy Creates a Limiting Environment

  • Inadequate funding is a fundamental problem
    • (16:55) “There’s a lot of challenges in working in a school setting because there is a very limited budget and there are very few of us to go around.”- Carrie
  • The entire industry needs to be restructured
  • Speech Pathologists are asked to do too  much
    • (17:20) “Some of our members over there have more than 100 kids that they see on a weekly basis and that is insane. It’s insane to even keep track of 100 different kids and what they’re all working on, let alone to see all of them.”- Carrie
    • (17:54) “There’s all of these areas that we’re expected to be experts in. And then when you have these high caseloads, you don’t have enough time to plan, you don’t have enough time for your continuing ed.”- Carrie
  • Red tape prevents early intervention
    • (18:53) “I understand that there has to be cut-offs, but it is an awkward, kind of backwards thing to say ‘okay, you’re kid is delayed, but you know, he’s going to need to get a little bit more delayed before he gets services. You’re going to have to hold him back a little bit more.”- Zach

How Adaptation and Effort are Essential

  • Success begins with the first step
    • (21:00) “The important thing is just to try and to let our families know that we’re trying. Because the last thing we want is for our families to feel like they’re not supported during this.”- Carrie
  • Compliance and security are still important
  • The basics of therapy have not changed
    • (23:05) “We know what to do. We know how to do therapy. You just have to tweak things a little bit to make them online.”- Carrie

Uncertainty Promotes Innovation

  • There is still a great need for additional services
    • (26:10) “If every speech language pathologist that had a job in the United States had to see all 40 million of those people, our case loads would be like 260 people per SLP. That basically just means that there’s a lot of people not getting support and services.”- Carrie
  • Support for professionals, parental resources and increased awareness are areas ripe for change
    • (27:44) “It’s super important that we work together as a community to fix this problem and not just accept the fact that there are so many people in our country, and around the world, who struggle everyday just with basic communication.”- Carrie
  • Social media and the web have helped us interact in different ways
    • (28:45) “If there’s a silver lining, I guess, it’s that with the internet and social media, people are finding ways to sort of mimic the in-person interactions even if we’re not able to fully replicate them and stay connected somehow.”- Zach
  • The pandemic will open doors to new populations
    • (29:22) “If this forces us to figure out how to do teletherapy better, there’s going to be more opportunities and services available to the people in rural America and some of those areas who may not have access to therapists otherwise.”- Carrie


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