Meet an SLP who has a passion for helping little ones from the get-go!

Episode 117 November 15, 2022 00:33:20
Meet an SLP who has a passion for helping little ones from the get-go!
The Missing Link for SLPs
Meet an SLP who has a passion for helping little ones from the get-go!

Nov 15 2022 | 00:33:20


Show Notes

Carol Terpstra, is an SLP who knows how to transition careers! In this episode, you’ll hear how she’s gone from an undergrad economics degree, to SLP for postgrad, then medical SLP to school based SLP, and now children’s book author. 

She talks about the differences between working on contract versus as an employee, why she loves working with pre-K through first grade, and the importance of identifying learning, literacy, and language needs early in a child’s life.

Visit for this episode's show notes, a full audio transcript and more great resources at the intersection of grad school and a successful SLP career.
Not a substitute for a formal SLP education or medical advice for patients/caregivers.
Fresh SLP is in no way affiliated with or representing any university.

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Episode Transcript

The Missing Link for SLPs Podcast Full Transcript Mattie Murrey-Tegels 00:04 Welcome to this episode of the Missing Link for SLPs podcast. This is episode 117 with Carol Terpstra. She is a very, very interesting SLP, and I want to tell you a little bit about her before her episode. She is a second generation, of parents who migrated from the Dominican Republic. She was born and mostly raised in Indiana, but for a period of about five years she lived in the Dominican Republic. And thanks to this, she became a bilingual Spanish speaker. She has lived in SouthEast Florida for 30 years, and she loves the weather and the multicultural aspects of the area. She has an undergraduate degree in economics from Indiana University, and she then went on and got her Master's in Science and speech and language pathology from Nova Southeastern University – interesting story in the podcast on why all that happened. She is married with two teenage children and they love spending time playing board games, visiting family in other parts of the country. She has spent the latter part of her career working as a school-based SLP, and recently became a children's book author. Because of this, she's working part time as a contractor in the schools so that she can give her business more attention. So, her story is really, really interesting. Her company is Sound Sprouts. It was born very organically through her experiences in the school. It began with her decision to write a book series that focused on the eight sets of cognates. She enlisted the help of her family, and her husband is helping to build an app series that will complement the books, and her 19 year old daughter is the illustrator and designer of the books and apps, and her recently graduated SLP niece is often her sounding board – she has been helping with the social media aspect as well. And she's just very fortunate to have been blessed to have all of these family members – blessed in supporting her with their knowledge and support. When she's not working or spending time with her family, she likes reading with a cup of coffee or tea, volunteering at church, exercising and finding treasures at antique shops or vintage clothing. So, I hope you enjoy this episode! Katie and Carol are just exploring and sharing stories with one another as they talk about a day in the life of their school based settings. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 02:29 Carol, thank you for being here. It's Carol Terpstra? Am I saying that correctly? Carol Terpstra 02:34 That is correct. Very good. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 02:35 Carol, thank you for talking to us and sharing a day in the life of a school based SLP. I'm Katie Wide-strom-Landgraf. I'm also a school based SLP. Carol Terpstra 02:45 Thanks for having me, Katie. I'm happy that you guys invited me in. I hope that I can share some good insight and stories as far as my day-to-day ins and outs at the school. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 02:55 Wonderful. So, let's start with just learning a little bit about you, Carol. Tell us about yourself and the journey that led you to becoming a school based SLP. Carol Terpstra 03:08 Well, it all started – I can't believe – almost 30 years ago now. I went to school at Nova Southeastern University for my graduate program. And when I graduated with my undergrad, I had no idea what I was going to do. I graduated with a degree in economics. I had thoughts that I was going to go into a business of some sort, possibly teaching economics at the higher education level. But, somehow, fate would have it that I looked into some programs and started thinking, some soul searching, and I read an article that talked about speech language pathology, and it really just interested me what it sounded – what it was about, and I thought this looks like an interesting career that I could possibly make something out of. And I called the university – the University that had the program at the time, Nova Southeastern, and I asked some questions about what the program entailed, etc. And I said, “Well, I'm going to take a few classes, see if I like it”, and the rest is history. I loved it. I love the scientific side of it. I love the creative side of it. And so, yeah, that's how I started my career. I started in that realm as far as my studies, and then once I graduated I went on to work in skilled nursing facilities. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 04:35 So, you started in the medical setting? Carol Terpstra 04:38 Mhm. [crosstalk] Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 04:38 And here we are, almost 30 years later, in the school setting. So, how did you make the leap from medical to school setting? Carol Terpstra 04:48 Yes. So, I basically – at the time, when I first started in the medical field, I thought that's for sure what I'm going to probably end up doing for the rest of my career. I loved working with adults in the geriatric population in the hospital setting and in skilled nursing facilities. But after a few years of doing that, I had a couple of kids, and the hours that would be a little bit – because with skilled nursing and hospital settings, anybody that does that, you do – you're pretty much rotating, even on weekends at times, and your hours can sometimes run a little bit later. And so, I felt like I needed a change in schedule. And I honestly – at the time, I did need to change in general, just that I felt like I needed to make a switch in what I was – what I felt like would be a good direction for me to go in. But I wasn't sure that I was necessarily going to go and work with children at the time at that – well, I’ll just maybe do home health. I can work – like that way I can do my own schedule. But when I made some phone calls round in the area where I was at. I spoke to a lady who actually had a clinic that did both youth and adults, and she said, “Would you be open to working with kids?” I said, yeah. I did a clinical, as we have to, to work with kids. So, I'm open to the idea. And I started taking more kids on my caseload, and I really enjoyed it – much to my surprise, a lot more than I thought that I would. And so, that segued into eventually me ending up in the school system because I'd worked for the private clinic for quite some time. I got a lot of good experience working with the kids, and in young children. And eventually, I applied for a school position because I thought, you know what, my kids at that time were starting school, we would be on the same schedule. So, I was like let me give this a try and see how I like it. I loved it! I loved it even more – Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 06:48 That’s wonderful! Carol Terpstra 06:52 Yes. Yeah. Even more than expected to. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 06:52 That's incredible. So, talk us through a typical day for you. So, tell us like what sort of population do you work with? When does your day start and end? Different places that you're at? Kind of take us through your actual “day in the life”. Carol Terpstra 07:08 Okay. So, my schedule – so, I just want to preface with saying that I am a contracted SLP, meaning that I don't work directly for the county, so that makes a little bit of a difference as far as how I set my schedule on a day to day basis, where as contracted SLPs we are hired to work a set amount of hours for the day. And so, I can have a little bit of flexibility in that I don't have to – I don't get pulled into doing certain things that a hire – as an SLP that’s hired directly by the county would have to do per se. So, when I get to school, I basically get there around eight o'clock, and I do my prep time for 30 minutes, which is basically an extension of some of what I do at home. But because I've been doing it for a while now, I have a lot of materials that have accumulated. So, my prep time is basically pulling out materials of things that I've accumulated throughout the years. And now, of course, with the plethora of things that we can find online, I do my research online. I have a plan as to what I'm going to do, or I would like to do, and I just kind of pull different resources from different places. And then I start seeing kids, right at nine o'clock. And I take a lunch, about a 30 minute lunch. And then I see kids all the way up until – at my current school, I see kids up until 2:30, which is when the students leave. So, I dismiss them from my session, essentially. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 08:37 So, I do want to get back to the student population, but could you clarify just a little bit of the difference between being a contract SLP that works in schools, versus an SLP that is hired by a school district or the county? Could you talk just a little bit more about what that means and how that might look? Carol Terpstra 09:00 Yeah. So, the job role, essentially a lot of things are the same, of course. But some of the things that are – the bigger things that are different, or that – for example, some of the SLPs that work for the county do get pulled to do certain duties around the school, like bus duty or cafeteria duty in the morning to assist with the children as they're coming off the bus, when they're eating breakfast, and things like that. They might be pulled into different meetings, staff meetings, and those are the types of things that as a contracted SOP, I will not be pulled into. I'm only required and expected to do things that are associated directly to the students. So, for example, meeting support in IEP meetings. If there's a meeting specific to that student that's on my caseload, I can obviously do that. Or that 30 minutes – an hour, actually, a day is allotted towards non-student activities – which would be, in my case, 30 minutes for material prep and 30 minutes for logging, which is what they call Medicaid logging. Which – Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 10:05 Sure. Carol Terpstra 10:05 – the other SLPs have to do as well, but we are actually allotted a certain amount of time to do that. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 10:11 Okay, that's helpful. So, when you think about your student population, what would be the age range of students that you work with? Carol Terpstra 10:22 So, I'm currently lucky enough to – I am working with my most preferred. I have been working for many years, with pre-K to fifth. But in the last – in this current school year, I'm working with pre-Ks through first. So, it is my preferred age group, being that I get to enter their little lives at the earliest space that we can get them in the schools, which is at three. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 10:46 Sure. Carol Terpstra 10:47 Obviously we can see them before that outside the school system. But in the school system, they can start at three years of age. So, that's the student population that I currently work with. [crosstalk] Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 10:58 Okay. And so, when you're thinking about the student population that you work with, you mentioned that pre-K through first is your preferred population because you get to intervene when they're so young. So, could you expand upon some of your favorite things about the job? Like, what do you like best about working with that population? What are some things that delight you, or some of your favorite aspects? Carol Terpstra 11:27 Well, I just love the fact that I can just intervene at that very important – obviously, it's important to intervene whenever possible. But, for me, it's a joy to see, to work with the young kids, because I do get to do a lot of the fun stuff. But also at the same time – they see it as fun, but I know I'm giving them a lot of tools that they hopefully will be able to use as they move on to older grades, such as, obviously, building vocabulary, and if we're working on speech, sound development. Working on those things in a very play based manner, which is something I love to do, that you can do much better at a younger – with a younger population, of course. So, I can do those types of things, and they think it's great! They think they're having a good time, which they are. But I'm also, obviously, doing a lot of important preemptive types of activities and things that – targeting goals that are very important for them in the future when it comes to their speech and sound development, language, and, eventually, their literacy skills, which is an area that I'm very passionate about. Because we can – obviously, we know that at a very young age it’s something that we could and should be doing, especially with kids that are having speech disorders, or – and I’m talking the more significant speech sound disorders, and/or language disorders that we know they're at higher risk for developing literacy problems later on. So, the earlier we can even intervene in that realm, obviously, by building their speech sounds, repertoire, and their language, but also doing specific activities that increase their phonemic awareness and understanding of sounds, and how sounds work to make words, etc., and things like that. So, really, it's just a unique position to be in when you are working with the younger kids in that way, and I feel very fortunate to be able to do that every single day. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 13:27 That's great. So, when you think about the flip side of the coin, of course, what are some of the challenges you experience working in this setting as a school based SLP? What are some things that you find challenging, or difficult, or unexpected? Carol Terpstra 13:47 So, in general, with the school based SLPs, we have to be that child's advocate as much as possible. Because a lot of times they come to us with the more obvious concerns, which, a lot of it's speech sounds, or they are having trouble articulating sounds or language, they're not talking as much as we think they should be. But oftentimes, not all the time, of course, but there are other sometimes things that are going on with that child. So, it becomes challenging to navigate the different avenues that we have to go through to help this child get all the services they may need. In other words, do we need to look at certain other areas that could be affecting their development? Because, as we often know, these kiddos do struggle with other things. And it's okay, we’ve got to give them as much as we can early on, but if we're suspecting other things, it's okay to also ask those questions to other professionals that you're working with. What do you think of this? What do you think of that? Speaking to the teachers regularly is really important, and other professionals who are working with that child. But it can be challenging, back to your point, that sometimes navigating those channels are not easy. In that I mean I would say that to any other professional, every job has its challenges. And I would say that's one of the things that you have to navigate different types of hoops to get certain things done. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 15:21 Sure, absolutely. So, when you think about our scope of practice as speech language pathologists, how do you help your colleagues in the school setting understand what you can contribute to support that student? Carol Terpstra 15:39 Well, I think when you are talking about the area of communication, there are lots of different markers that need to be checked. And I feel like we always get – a lot of times, get boxed in into where “they work with articulation”, or “they work with helping kids talk”. Which, yes, that's very true. But what I feel is very important is to really look outside of that. We really are honing in on those things. But we – it's really important to look at the child as a whole, and really understand how the pieces connect. And I feel like as speech language pathologists, because we are exposed to those types of things on a regular basis, we're able to kind of pinpoint them maybe a little bit quicker and easier than somebody else that maybe isn't used to doing it on a regular basis. For example, behaviors. What could they be attributed to? Something related to communication? Could it be attributed to sensory? Could it be attributed to executive functioning? So, I feel like – what – or for if they are struggling with their reading. Could it be something related to their comprehension? I mean, it depends on what part of it they’re struggling with. But I feel like there's a lot of different components that go under the umbrella of communication that gets overlooked, and how closely it's tied to so many of the other different things that we run into in the school systems. When you have a child with a learning disability, they're going to likely have a language disability with that. So, a lot of times when I see a child that has one or the other, I'm like, well, it's probably both, more than likely. Or some of the things that happen, especially with the earlier, like I said, the younger kids that we run into, is they – normally the speech and language are the areas that are identified sooner because they seem the more obvious. But as the child gets older, if we don't intervene and say, okay, there might be something else going on – because, again, our sensors go up because we know that if there's other components that are being affected there could possibly be some other reason for it, not just speech and/or language. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 17:53 I think you make a great point, Carol. I think sometimes what can happen too in the schools is that our colleagues are thinking about, and have been trained to consider, teachable skills. And we are trained to consider the infrastructure that supports and is a part of acquiring those teachable skills. So, sometimes I think what can happen is, teachers don't necessarily think about language as the thing that might be breaking down, or the phonological system as the issue that could be contributing or impacting this other area. So, I think your insight is spot on, where it can sometimes be really challenging to help folks understand those skill sets that are not explicitly taught if the system is developing as it should, right? So, when kids have their speech and language systems developing as expected, it kind of largely operates in the background. And I think sometimes teachers presume availability of that system, when that may not always be the case for a kid. Carol Terpstra 19:04 Mhm. Exactly. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 19:06 For sure, yeah. So, when – I'm thinking about your experience in school. I did learn that you had some additional passions and interests that kind of crosswalk into what you do with your students in the school setting. I was wondering if you could talk about some of the other things that you've been working on. Maybe you could talk to us a little bit about your books? Carol Terpstra 19:31 Sure. Thanks. So, along the way, and especially working with younger kids a lot throughout the years, and even with my older students when I've worked with them, I always hold books just to kind of start a conversation or talk about a certain concept that I'm teaching them. I like books because if you're teaching something like vocabulary, or a specific concept, or a specific idea that I might want to teach, like a lot of times we do themes or things like that. It's very difficult to, obviously, deal with without a context. So, you could pull a video, or you could play a game, but a book, it really just encompasses so many different things to me, that children that we work with in particular, really need to hone in on. So, those literacy, pre literacy skills, and being able to pick out initially, especially with the younger kids, pick out sounds and identify them eventually at what the sounds – or connecting those sounds to those letters, etc. So, I really was always drawn to books a lot, and I thought, well, you know what, why – especially, again, with our kids, too, we – they need something to help them kind of stay a little bit more focused and more engaged. So, I really wanted to – every time I pulled a book, it would be something that they had to do something with their hands, of course, because it just made it more – it made it easier for the child to stay focused, and more engaged, and enjoy it more, and we just had so much more fun that way. So, I thought, well yeah, what if I just come up with a set of books that focuses on the eight cognates that we have, and each book focuses on one set of cognates. And so, I started with the T/D book with Dede’s Pet Shop. So, that was my – that's my first book. It’s currently available. And it focuses on the T and D sound. But I was able to put in decodable words in there, so that younger kids can go in and – the ones that are learning some of those strategies, and learning some of those sounds, and making those connections between sounds of letters, that they're able to go ahead, start reading some of the words. And, of course, with really good illustrations to help with the comprehension part and just make it easy for the – for whoever picks it up, whether it's another SLP, or a parent, a caregiver, an educator. Just, you know what, I have the questions in the back. I have great vocabulary that we can maybe draw out and talk about a little bit. So, I call it the teachable moments. It's good to increase that vocabulary skill from early on. The more robust the vocabulary, the better it’s going to be for them. And so, yeah, that's how it started. The idea was with T/Ds and Dede’s Pet Shop. It's not the first one I wrote, but it's the first one I went with. And my daughter happens to be the illustrator, so that's been an interesting collaboration. Carol Terpstra 22:41 That’s wonderful! Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 22:41 Yeah. It's been fun, and frustrating at times. But in the end, I think it was worth it. And we're actually in the process of creating an app that goes along with the book. Because, as we know, repetition is key for our kids, and it's good to have something else that we can reinforce some of those concepts, and sounds that we worked on in the book. So, I thought, well, why don't we just do an app too. So, that's been – that's actually in the process, so. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 23:15 Wow, that's amazing. So, if folks wanted to find your books, how would they find them, Carol? Carol Terpstra 23:20 So, that – it's currently on Amazon. You can find it on Amazon. Just type in Dede’s Pet Shop. If you go to my website,, there's a link there as well to the book that takes you to Amazon. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 23:38 Okay, so is your website. Carol Terpstra 23:42 Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 23:44 Sound-sprouts, awesome. Carol Terpstra 23:46 But the book – Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 23:47 Yes. Carol Terpstra 23:48 – there are manipulatives that go with it. So, the manipulatives you can find on my website as well. And they are little parts of the story. So, one of the things, of course, that we teach our kids that are – when we're teaching them how to navigate different parts of language, is when they're telling a story, there's different parts to the story, and this is the who, the what, where, and why, and things like that. And I provided manipulatives for that, that go with the book that can be printed out. I'm working on something else to go along with it. But for now, that's what I have is printable manipulatives. I have them on TPT as well, and they're on my website. But again, like I said earlier, they love having those little manipulatives because it gives them ownership. You're letting them take over. They feel like they're able to tell a story because now that they have that visual that they may have not been able to do it without it. And then they can make up their own little stories. So, it’s [unintelligible 24:48] hearing. It's so funny, because they'll start telling me things like, “Well, I have a cat”, or “I have a dog”. I'm like, “Do you really? Because you never really mentioned that before!”. But it's cute, right? Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 24:59 Yeah. Carol Terpstra 25:00 Because they're telling you a little made up story, and that came just from – just holding the little dog or the cat that came from the book. So, I think that's wonderful. I think that they can reach out, and tell me their own story based on what they’re thinking. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 25:17 So, it sounds like they have lots of different options. So, it isn't just a book. They get to be a part of the story, and kind of make their stories themselves. Carol Terpstra 25:29 So, yeah. So, basically what I did with the story, and I probably didn't explain it as clearly, what I did –. So, when you're working on sound development and language development, sometimes we have students that have both. Sometimes we have students that have one. But even if they have the one, they usually can benefit from the other. They kind of work together, right? So, if you have the ability to have –. So, I created the names, where I have all the T/D names. So, there's Dede, there's Tommy, there's Daisy, there's Daddy. So, now you're practicing the names. You're practicing the sounds, and don't even realize it. Because the key is to make it so that they are feeling like they're a part of it, not just this extension of themselves. Like, oh, that's – okay, so I have a word with T or D, and that's great, but now I'm showing you a story that has sounds with T or D in it. So, now you can actually be more vested in it, so to speak. So, the little bit more vested because it's a story that they're listening to, and that they are into. So, now they’re going to start talking about it, and practicing their sounds and hearing the sound. And so, that was intentionally done in the book that those two sounds are the sounds that are more – there's a heavier focus on those two sounds throughout the book. Of course, like I said, the names, they even like some of the verbs. If I had different options, I went with the verb that had T or D in it, if I was able to. It rhymes. So, it increases their phonological awareness. You know, oh, what is that word? That rhymes. That's something you can start working on early on. So, again, you're building those literacy skills. Because that was – that's where I felt some level of frustration too when I was working with my older students, which they are at a higher risk. They are at a higher risk for developing literacy problems later on, our students – some of our students, but they’re more significant issues. So, I would be working with them and thinking, man, I wish we – a lot of things could be done early on, is what I'm thinking in my mind. Just promoting those skills. And that's just – that's just for our students. That's for every child, right? The more we promote those literacy components that are so closely tied to what we do. That's the other thing that I don't think people understand fully in the schools. Like they tell me, “Oh, so and so’s struggling with their reading:. I'm like, “Well, that's something that we can work with!”. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 28:18 Right. Carol Terpstra 28:18 We can help with that. I mean, yes, we have specific targets and specific goals that we have to address. But there is no reason we can't infuse some of those skills into our sessions very easily. So, that's something I'm very passionate about doing when – and it's – I think it's something that I've really focused more and more on in the last few years of working with my students. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 28:41 That's wonderful. So, thinking about our listeners, we know that we have a lot of newer speech language pathologists. We might have speech language pathologists that are considering a transition from one setting to potentially the school setting. What would be one piece of advice you would have for people who are looking at working in the schools either as their first job, or as a transition to the schools from another position? Carol Terpstra 29:14 I would say two things that I did – because it wasn't easy! That's a very good question. When I made that transition, I questioned it. I said have I done the right thing? This is a completely different world. But I found good people that helped mentor me throughout the process. I had been in the field for quite some time at the time, but it didn't mean that I knew the ins and outs of what was going on in the school system. So, I definitely found that person that I was able to pick their brain, ask questions, what do you think of this? Does this seem right? And things like that. And just continuing to learn. I think it's something that we do most of our careers, plug into different types of trainings, and continuing education. All those things have been very helpful in the transitioning process. And just know that it takes a little – it takes time to make that change. But I'm definitely glad that I pushed through that first year, because there were times that I was thinking, hmm, maybe this wasn't the right move. But once I got through that first year, it was fine. I never looked back. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 30:28 So, thinking about what you do, thinking about kind of getting up, going into your job day after day, what would you say is your big “why”? What is kind of a driver or a motivator that inspires you to keep doing this work? Carol Terpstra 30:45 I just love the fact that I get to make an impact every single day on a little person's life. And I know that sounds a little bit, I don't know, corny, maybe! I don’t know. Carol Terpstra 30:58 I think it's wonderful, Carol! Carol Terpstra 31:01 But I feel like it's – honestly, I look at those little faces – that's the other thing. That's why I just did – so, I’m so drawn to those little ones. Those little faces light up when you are telling a story and you've got them in that moment. Those six little kids, if I'm doing a whole group in the classroom. You've got them right there where you want them. And that's your moment to shine, to be the superstar of the day for them. I just love that. I love being able to do that, and I look forward to bringing things to them every day and hoping they'd love it. Of course, that's not always the case. You come in thinking, oh my gosh, this is the best thing ever, and they're like, no thanks. But that's fine. That's fine. They're the critics. So, I'm okay with that. So, yeah, that's – truthfully, I feel blessed to be able to do it every single day. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 31:55 Wow. Carol, this has been an amazing conversation. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and your insights, and your time. Carol Terpstra 32:06 Thank you so much, Katie. I really appreciate you guys having me and reaching out. I have enjoyed it so much. Thank you, thank you. Mattie Murrey-Tegels 32:20 Wow, what a great conversation! I don't know about you, but being a medical SLP I could almost envision myself in the steps of Carol as a school based SLP, and I know I have writing in common with her. I've never written a children's book. But go check out everything that she has on her TPT site, and everywhere else. Amazon, you can find her book on Amazon. She is an example of what we can do with our careers as an SLP. Also, be sure to visit us at Fresh SLP and Badass SLP. And there is where we offer coaching on how to step into being the SLP that you dreamed of being in grad school. And also, sometimes we don't have any idea of who likes and who shares these things because we just produce these episodes and we don't hear a ton from people. So, like, and share, and reach back to us and tell us what you like, what you don't like, what you want more of. We're so happy you're here. We are your Missing Link for SLPs!

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