Many schools are having trouble finding enough speech language pathologists to work with their students. The increased demand for these professionals is not only within schools, but also to work with other populations. Many SLP candidates are opting to work with adults, such as those who have had strokes and veterans who may have had injuries that resulted in the loss of speech.
Troubles in Massachusetts
New Bedford, Massachusetts has been in the news because of a major shortage of individuals to provide speech services to students in their schools. Parents were often unaware that their children were not receiving therapy and had to contact the district to find out what was going on. New Bedford has approximately 1,300 children that are in need of speech therapy, but they still have four job vacancies. For the time being, the positions are being filled by outside contractors, but that is not the goal. The schools want consistent therapists to work with children to build relationships and work on their skills and IEP goals.
The school districts are not the only ones that are fighting for individuals to work with their clients. Professors at the local university have noted that there several reasons for the speech language pathologist hiring problem. First is the increase in people that require speech therapy within communities. As noted before, this is not just in schools, but also with adults that require assistance with speech therapy. In addition to this, there is a limited number of faculty members at most colleges who are able to teach new SLP students.
Spiraling Troubles All Around
This problem is not unique to New Bedford. Across the country, the demand for students in schools districts who need speech and language therapy is increasing. At the same time, special education budgets are decreasing, so speech language pathologists are being asked to do more during the school days. This means that case loads increase and so does the responsibilities for each SLP. They may need to work with students, track many more IEP goals, report to additional families, and document items according to more stringent state laws.
School districts need to be proactive with this growing problem. It may be wise to set up programs with local colleges to help train and then recruit new graduates. Emergency plans need to be set up ahead of time in case a therapist leaves and a temporary substitute needs to be brought in. The more you are prepared ahead of time, the better it will be for adults and children that are involved.