The Missing Link for SLPs Podcast Full Transcript
Mattie Murrey-Tegels 00:05
Hello, and welcome to this next episode of the Missing Link for SLPs podcast!
We are treading into the shallow waters of our new episodes, A Day in the Life of a School SLP. This episode is for all the students I work with, and all the SLPs that I know that are considering stepping into a school system or working with children who are school aged, whether that's in a school or private practice, or maybe a charter school, or anything like that. We're pulling on a whole bunch of guests and I'm really excited. A reminder, that I am not a school SLP and I have a very good friend who is. Her name is Katie Widestrom-Landgraf. She's going to be hosting our episode today.
And let me share with you who's going to be joining us. Her name is Katelyn Kelps. She is in her eighth year of being a speech language pathologist. She is passionate about student led and focused intervention, AAC, gestalt language development, and collaborating with other professionals. She feels she is lucky to serve in a variety of populations at both a high school setting and a self-contained elementary school. She absolutely loves her career, and she also enjoys reading, binging on Netflix, spending time with family and friends. And outside of work she also has a TPT, Teachers Pay Teacher's resource for other professionals, speech pathologists, special ed shirts on her Etsy, and she's always seeking to learn more from other professionals and the population she serves.
So, this is going to be a great episode! Please, at the end, go check out Katelyn Kelps’ TPT store, Teachers Pay Teachers, and yeah, she’s got a freebie. So, when you go to the show notes, you're going to find that there. Lots of things are happening with this episode. Really glad you're here, and sit back because we are going to have Katelyn and Katie join us very soon.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 02:04
Welcome back to A Day in the Life of a School-Based SLP. My name is Katie Widestrom-Landgraf and I am here with Katelyn Kelps. Hello, Katelyn!
Katelyn Kelps 02:16
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 02:18
Thank you so much for being here. We are so excited to have you.
Katelyn Kelps 02:23
I'm also very excited!
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 02:26
We have lots of things to talk about, and I think we are just going to jump right in. I'm so interested in hearing first just a little bit about you and your journey. What led you to becoming a school-based SLP? Let's start there.
Katelyn Kelps 02:43
Absolutely. The story always kind of cracks me up. Since about sixth or seventh grade, I was set on being an occupational therapist. And then I went to the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind to do a research project, my junior year of college, and I was looking at service providers and their impact on deaf and blind students, and I ended up watching the speech pathologists the whole time instead of the occupational therapists, and I made the switch.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 03:14
Wow, that is an amazing story! Okay.
Katelyn Kelps 03:17
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 03:10
So, it was like you met your destiny when you went to do that observation.
Katelyn Kelps 03:24
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 03:25
I always think that's amazing when that happens. So, we know you work in the schools, but we don't know much about what you do specifically in the schools. Do you think you could talk to us a little bit about that? Maybe about your specific setting, and some of those things.
Katelyn Kelps 03:41
I’d love to.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 03:40
A Day in the Life!
Katelyn Kelps 03:42
A Day in the Life of Katelyn Kelps!
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 03:43
Katelyn Kelps 03:42
I have a little bit of a weird split. So, I am at the high school in my school district, and I service complex language all the way to AAC and functional life skills. And then I also service a first and second grade classroom of functional life skills, AAC, gestalt language processing, at one of our elementary schools. So, like two total opposite ends of the spectrum.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 04:08
Wow. Okay, can you talk a little bit more about what that's like? Because I am imagining for our listeners out there, they might be thinking, wait a minute, what? She says she works in an elementary school and a high school?
Katelyn Kelps 04:23
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 04:24
So, can you maybe talk to us a little bit more about how that works for you in a given week, or maybe even within a single day?
Katelyn Kelps 04:30
Absolutely. It kind of changes year to year based on student need.
So, this year, I travel two days a week. I spend a whole day at the elementary school and then two afternoons – I think it's two hours one day, and one hour another day, just kind of on my way home, based on a student's attendance. So, there's that. So, even my start schedule changes. Some days, it's I'm at work at 7:00. Some days, I don't have to be there until 8:15. And then my end changes. So, it's a little bit of flexibility. A little bit more I make my own schedule, on like those travel days and things, which is kind of nice. For me, that's nice. I like to change it up and stay on my toes. I think I'd get a little bored in one school, so.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 05:17
Sure. So, when you talk about traveling, could you explain a little bit more about what you mean by a travel day, or what it means to travel within your schedule?
Katelyn Kelps 05:30
Absolutely. So, since the schools are on different times for their start and things, I start – Mondays and Fridays, I'm at the high school all day. So, I go 7:00 until 2:30. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I go to both the high school and the elementary school. So, I don't get to the high school until 8:15. And then around lunchtime, 12:30-1:00, I get in my car. I take my lunch in my car as a nice little break. I wouldn't have to do that. My travel time is not my lunch time. That's built in separately. And then I end up at the elementary school, and then I go home from there. Wednesdays, I’m at the elementary school all day. So, just traveling two days a week. And it is on my way –
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 06:15
Wow! The variety sounds great.
Katelyn Kelps 06:18
It is. And it is on my way home. That's always my – because I have traveled for eight safe years in two different districts, and people always ask like, “Don't you hate it?” But I plan it, so that way I go to the school on my way home as my second.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 06:35
So, Katelyn, are you in a larger school district, a smaller school district? So, I think when I imagine travel, sometimes I imagine driving to a school within the district just a couple miles away. But I do know for some of our colleagues, travel can mean I'm going to a different small town near the town that I'm currently working in. So, for you personally, what are the demographics?
Katelyn Kelps 07:01
My schools are only about 10-15 minutes apart, depending on traffic. So, it's so nice.
Demographic wise, that's also quite diverse for my school. Not so much for my whole district, but my schools are quite diverse. And they – my elementary school feeds into my high school, which – I haven't worked in the district long enough but, eventually, I'll get to see some of my friends again!
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 07:23
That's always fun. It's pretty great to see your little people become teenagers. So, that is [crosstalk].
Katelyn Kelps 07:31
Aha. As adults!
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 07:34
Yeah, yeah. That's great.
So, when you think about your job, and its totality, what is your favorite part? And I'm going to say some of your favorite parts of your job, because I can't narrow it to one. I imagine that's hard to do for you too. Yeah.
Katelyn Kelps 07:49
It’s hard. I think connections with my students is always number one. That's probably the most fun. I think as speech pathologists we get the advantage of getting to play and do fun things, or very meaningful things with our older students. So, we have kind of a different connection with students than a lot of teachers, or other service providers even.
And then my absolute other favorite part is actually staff collaboration.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 08:15
You know, we have to talk more about that! Tell us more about staff collaboration. What do you love about it? How does it make your favorite part of the job list? Like, can you just talk more about all things staff collaboration based?
Katelyn Kelps 08:33
Absolutely. Mhm. It looks different at both levels.
So, at the elementary level, we are sitting down. I am in the classroom that day and a half that it totals up to be that I'm in there. I am in there that whole time. Unless, on Wednesdays, I'm leaving to go take a lunch or something. I take my contractual breaks. But – so I am training TAs in the morning, every single week. We do a 15 minute quick little collaboration. And one week I even leave it up to them of what questions do you have, what do you want to learn about? We bring in the teacher. The teacher and I co-treat, or co-plan literacy, two different activities a week. So, we do literacy centers. So, it's a book, it's some sort of toy with a core vocabulary, word sight, word letter, and then some sort of sensory activity, and then we kind of follow that up to the next day as well with some predictable chart writing and early literacy skills.
At the high school, it's helping plan community based instruction, going out into the community and working on some of those functional communication skills. We still work on literacy there. I'm pushing into – we have an executive functioning class. So, I sit down with the teacher once a month and we talk about here's how I would approach it from the speech and language point, how would you do that? Collaborating on goals, sitting down and co-treating with PT or OT?
So, there's a lot of different collaborating that happens, and it's just fun to learn from other people.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 10:01
Oh, I absolutely agree. And I think when you can build capacity with your colleagues, that feels really good too. Because I think sometimes what can plague us in the profession of speech language pathology is that our colleagues don't always know what we do, and they don't always understand how those underlying processes are so critical for what we ask kids to do with learning. And so, any opportunity for collaboration, I think, is a chance for magic to happen.
Katelyn Kelps 10:34
Absolutely. Yeah. When I started at my school, they said, “Well, it's just speech”, even at the high school, and they've had speech pathologists in and out for however long school has been there. And now, they're finally kind of coming along, and [thanking] me out, which is nice.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 10:50
And I think you make a great point, that concept of “It's just speech”. I had a principal that didn't realize that I treated language disorders, despite multiple conversations. Like, it just didn't click. And so, I think sometimes there can be a tendency to stop with the speech part of what we do. And yet so much of what we do is not speech in a school setting.
Katelyn Kelps 11:20
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 11:21
And so, I agree with you that it's an opportunity to engage and to learn from each other.
Katelyn Kelps 11:29
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 11:30
So, I have to ask you the flip side. The question, what is your favorite part? The flip side is – what is the most challenging part of your job?
Katelyn Kelps 11:43
Oh, that’s – scheduling in the school, I think, it's everybody's worst nightmare. The high school, their schedules switch at the semester, and you have to start from scratch.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 11:56
Katelyn Kelps 11:43
As much as I love collaboration, it can also be the worst part, if I'm being honest. Because you meet those teachers, or other service providers, who don't want to collaborate, don't want to incorporate the speech and language, and that, for me, is extremely frustrating. I pride myself on being student led and student centered. So, then when that happens, it doesn't feel great.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 12:23
Mm. Yeah! And I appreciate you talking about that. Because I think that there can be – as many different staff members as there are in a school, you could have as many different experiences with collaboration.
Katelyn Kelps 12:37
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 12:38
And it doesn't mean that it will always stay that way.
Katelyn Kelps 12:42
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 12:42
But I do agree with you that it can swing wildly, and it can change depending upon the person that we're working with.
Katelyn Kelps 12:49
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 12:53
So, when you think about what you do, and why you do it, I always say there's this – sometimes it's an unspoken driver, there's a big “why?”. What is your big “why”? Why do you keep coming back after day, year after year?
Katelyn Kelps 13:13
We have this joke at school, actually, that goes around, that everyone at the end of the day always asks me specifically if I feel like I made a difference that day. And it's a joke, because I always say, yes, and I mean it. And, again, that relationship that we as speech pathologists get to have with kids is very different from teachers. So, teachers, if one kid is kind of acting out, then the lesson for the whole day might go awry. Whereas in our smaller setting, it truly – like kids are coming down and saying, “I know that we work on reading comprehension, but I had a fight with my best friend and I need to problem solve it”. And then we switch gears to more of that pragmatically, which side. And so, every single day, I feel like I made a difference to at least one kid.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 13:58
I think you bring up a really great example of how what we do can be so flexible, and so immediately useful to the students we serve. And I think that flexibility is so important, because if a kid's distracted by that fight, they are not going to be able to do comprehension anyway.
Katelyn Kelps 14:22
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 14:23
And the beauty of language is that we use language all the time for everything. We're using it to mediate our thinking. We're using it to communicate with others. So, pretty much anything can be fodder for language intervention, and –
Katelyn Kelps 14:37
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 14:40
Yeah, yeah. So, when I think about some of the folks who are listening to this podcast, I think about what I might like to know if I were brand new, and I was just starting in the world of communication sciences and disorders.
Is there a piece of advice or something you would want a person to know who is considering working in the school setting?
Katelyn Kelps 15:09
Absolutely.you are going into the school setting, I always advise, when I have student servers or things like that, prioritize those first couple of weeks to make connections with teachers. Your connections with students will come because you're doing fun things, motivating things, meaningful things. But if you want that buy in for collaboration and to make your life easier for scheduling, writing, IEP goals, etc. That relationship with teachers is key.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 15:40
So, Katelyn, I do want to take some time to talk about some of your passions and your interests that relate to what you do for your job, but that maybe not everyone knows about. Based on what I read, I saw you have a TPT store.
Katelyn Kelps 15:57
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 16:00
An Etsy store. Can you talk to us about some of these things, too?
Katelyn Kelps 16:03
Yeah. I always joke that my hobby is speech pathology which, you know, it isn’t totally healthy to be work all the time!
So, the Teachers Pay Teachers and Etsy is a creative outlet for me, but also related to speech, where I'm getting to provide resources, or shirts, or things for people that also love AAC or gestalt language processing, executive functioning, neurodiversity. And so, that's just kind of a nice little outlet. Sometimes after a stressful day, I want to come home and create a new project product on Teachers Pay Teachers because I know that it's going to help somebody. I get to kind of mess around with graphic design type things, so.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 16:50
That sounds amazing. Now, you listed a lot of things when you were talking about like student-led interventions, gestalt language processing, executive function. I know we maybe won't have time to go into all of those things, but can you talk a little bit about some of those passions? Because even as you're speaking to us about it, I can see you lighting up. I wish our listeners can see you, but I'm sure they can hear you lighting up about these different topics. So, could you talk a little bit about – in whatever order you'd like to tackle – some of those things?
Katelyn Kelps 17:33
Absolutely. I would say right now, the number one passion for me is making sure that I'm using that student-led, student motivated in a more affirming approach for students. So, that way, they're comfortable. They're willing to problem solve and open up with me, which then leads into – maybe a student is speaking, but we want to try AAC because they have meltdowns and can't access their language. Maybe a student prefers to use scripts that they learned from a TV show, and that gestalt language processing, and how are we going to make that more effective for them?
I love teaching staff about it and encouraging them to kind of acknowledge those differences as just differences and not deficits, and just watching even their relationship with kids grow because the trust is there. When we're constantly correcting kids about the way they use their device, about scripting, their social skills, you can just kind of see the defeat.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 18:34
Katelyn Kelps 18:34
And so, when we're a little bit more open about those things, they light up, which is awesome.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 18:39
Yeah, I think creating that environment that says it's okay to take this like learning risk, and to try something new, is so important for that larger goal of progress and therapy. And if it feels like a correction, it does take the wind out of your sails. And I think it limits the ability to make progress.
Katelyn Kelps 19:06
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 19:07
I like that idea of this shared collaboration where you're partnering with the student, versus “I'm the knower and the director”.
Katelyn Kelps 19:18
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 19:18
I think when we think about how that affects intervention over time, you get further faster if that trust is there.
Katelyn Kelps 19:27
Absolutely. Especially with those older kids.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 19:30
For sure, yeah.
Katelyn Kelps 19:32
Because a lot of them have been told what to do for years, and then they come to high school and they don't know how to advocate for their needs because they may not even know what their needs are.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 19:41
Katelyn Kelps 19:41
So, if we take a step back and kind of even ask, “Well, why did you do that? Rather than just, “You can't do that, that's inappropriate”.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 19:49
Katelyn Kelps 19:50
We get some insight then on how they can advocate, or ask for a break, and the reasoning behind some of those behaviors.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 19:59
So, I know that you said that speech language pathology is your hobby also, in addition to it being your job.
Katelyn Kelps 20:07
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 20:07
But we also know that we want Katelyn Kelps around for the next 20 years.
Katelyn Kelps 20:13
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 20:07
So, what are some things you do to recharge? I did hear you mention earlier in our conversation, where you said “I take – I am sure to take my contractual breaks”. So, can you talk a little bit about what you mean by contractual breaks, and other ways you might recharge or take care of yourself, knowing that you love what you do?
Katelyn Kelps 20:37
Absolutely. At work, I call it my protected time.
So, whether that's even – we get workdays two times a year, I think it is, and I make sure to tell people right on my door, “I'm in a workday. Do not come in”, and kind of setting that boundary. It's really hard for me, but it's something I've worked on. So, it’s really important. Even lunch. So, if people come in during my lunch, I'll say “Is this a social visit or a work visit?”, because it's my lunch. So, teachers kind of know at this point that I use the term protected time. And I pick – it's not even all of my lunches, because I'm really bad at saying no, but one or two a week where they know, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Katelyn's not available during her lunch because she's taking a breather, and that's what she needs to be able to help us later at her full capacity.
Outside of school, I go to therapy because I do have work stress, and that's helpful. I like to read. I binge watch TV! I don't do anything on Sundays. So, that way I'm recharged for the day, and that includes working. I don't even look at my schedule until Monday morning when I get to work, which is hard, but helpful.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 21:51
I really appreciate how you have those boundaries around your time, and how you normalize that for your colleagues. So, it's nothing personal. It's what I have to do to stay available and present, and connected with what we're ultimately doing for kids.
Katelyn Kelps 22:09
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 22:09
So, I think that's so important, especially when we are passionate about what we do, and we love what we do. It can sometimes be difficult to have those boundaries, and to have the off switch, and to have it not kind of end up being a source of stress or burnout.
Katelyn Kelps 22:32
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 22:33
So, the way that – I really appreciate that you have some ideas and thoughts for us about how to like take care of ourselves to keep doing what we love and keeping our love for it. I do think there can sometimes be a risk that with all the demands and pressures it can be a risk of maybe losing some of that passion. So, that's so helpful.
I do want to circle back a little bit. I realized that when we talked about your Etsy store, and we talked about your Teachers Pay Teacher's store, we don't know the names of any of your things –
Katelyn Kelps 23:10
Oh, my goodness.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 23:11
– or where we can find you, Katelyn. Can you talk a little bit about where we can find all of this great stuff?
Katelyn Kelps 23:17
Absolutely. My Instagram and Teachers Pay Teachers are both The Communication Classroom.
Katelyn Kelps 23:24
Katelyn Kelps 23:24
And then my Etsy store is Communication Class, I think, because it wouldn't all fit!
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 23:30
Katelyn Kelps 23:31
And kind of driven by that idea that I love collaboration, and I love getting into classrooms and working with them on that key communication and how to incorporate it. Very cool.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 23:42
Very cool. So, as I'm thinking about this whole experience, I'm curious to know how long you've worked in the school so far?
Katelyn Kelps 23:52
This is my eighth year.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 23:56
Do you imagine yourself in another setting, or does this just feel right for you? Or can you not say because you're so present in the moment?
Katelyn Kelps 24:09
It’s really hard. The affirming piece that I give to students isn't quite a school model yet, teachers want students to use intonation in their voice. And we know that we shouldn't really tone police students.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 24:27
Katelyn Kelps 24:27
If they use a monotone voice, it doesn't make them less effective as a communicator. If they use decreased eye contact, it doesn't make them less of a communicator. And that's kind of hard for me to match, right now. So, I have been joking, but not really joking, with my coworkers that in two years I will no longer be in schools, and hopefully I will have a private practice of my own. But we'll see. I think I would really miss the collaboration piece, but who knows!
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 24:57
And so, based on what you're saying, what I'm hearing is that that affirming piece, and finding or creating a space, maybe, where the approach is one of accentuating the strengths and differences versus correcting the issues and disorders, is kind of that larger long range focus?
Katelyn Kelps 25:20
Yes. It’s kind of meeting students where they're at.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 25:23
Katelyn Kelps 25:23
Because they are who they are, and there's really great things about who they are.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 25:29
Absolutely. Katelyn, I could talk to you all night. This is wonderful. As we start to wrap up here, I'm curious to know are there any, I guess, unsaids, or takeaways, or things that we should really talk about that we've missed?
Katelyn Kelps 25:55
Oh, I don't know. I would say, for me, I actually am neurodivergent. I do have ADHD. So, I guess another tip that I have for those that struggle with executive functioning, or even just getting into the field right away, it's overwhelming, is also don't feel pressured to organize yourself the way that people want you. This year, after seven years, and everybody is saying “You need a Google calendar so we can see where you're at”. I tried it, and I missed a meeting. So, I went back to my paper calendar because I know that that works. And I think sometimes schools want us, even as grownups, to do things in a way that makes sense to them. But if it makes sense for you, whether it's how you take data, or organize your meetings, or anything like that, do what works best for you and makes you the more effective speech path.
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 26:55
Wow. That's amazing and inspiring, and I'm writing down what you say as you say it. Thank you so much for your time, Katelyn.
Katelyn Kelps 27:05
Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 26:55
We appreciate it so much.
Katelyn Kelps 27:05
Absolutely. It was wonderful chatting.
Mattie Murrey-Tegels 27:14
That was a fun episode! I am so glad you listened all the way through to the end of that. I am in the background, and I'm not saying anything, and I’m just laughing and I want to put things in the chat to contribute to the conversation, but I didn't because the two of them were just pinging off of each other and really having a great conversation. I hope you enjoy that as much as I did. I hope you had a lot of takeaways from there. Please go check out Katelyn's TPT store and everything else that she has to offer, Etsy, and all of that.
Also, we are working hard here at Fresh SLP really making something for new and transitioning SLPs. Drop us a line! Tell us what you like what you like, what you don't like. Join in our community on Facebook, Fresh SLP. Gosh, we’ve got a membership site on our websites freshslp.com and badassslp.com. We just have some really fun things that we're working on, and making the world, making our profession better for all of us – all of us involved. We look at the negative. We look at the positive. And whatever we do, we are learning. So, like us, follow us, share us, help boost us. Help support us in any way you can. Have a great night, and we'll see you on our next episode!