Working across age ranges in a small bilingual school with Breeah Carey

Episode 122 December 20, 2022 00:28:26
Working across age ranges in a small bilingual school with Breeah Carey
The Missing Link for SLPs
Working across age ranges in a small bilingual school with Breeah Carey

Dec 20 2022 | 00:28:26


Show Notes

In this episode, we talk with Breeah Carey, an SLP truly loving her work as a contract school based therapist in a small bilingual school of 200 students. She talks about how she works with students from pre-K right through to eighth grade, their parents, and their teachers. 

Big on relationship building, Breeah speaks about,  especially after post-pandemic isolation, the importance of helping her little ones build relationships and communication skills with others to help improve overall quality of life. She also talks about how she had to learn additional skills to also work in private practice, and the benefits of social media for SLPS. 

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.
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Episode Transcript

The Missing Link for SLPs Podcast Full Transcript Mattie Murrey-Tegels 00:06 If you're like me, you are just getting so hooked on this series A Day in the Life of a School Based SLP, and I'm not even a school based SLP. I am a die-hard med-based SLP and I am thoroughly loving learning what my counterparts are doing in the school system. Every episode, I am coming away with something. So, meet our next guest. This is Breeah Carrie. She has her Master's in Science degree, and has CCCs as well. And she is a New Jersey native and the director of B.E. S. As the daughter of an educator, Breeah was always interested in serving her community, similar to her mother. Breeah graduated from Purdue University and received her undergraduate degree in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, with minors in Psychology and Spanish. As her passion grew, specifically around assisting individuals with speech language and cognitive impairments, she decided to further her education and she completed two years of comprehensive training in Purdue’s Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology. Now, this episode, I've already listened to it. I'm coming back and I'm recording this intro because I just want to give you a peek into what's coming. Breeah is a unicorn in our field. She is one of those rare SLPs who is just so happy in her dream job. So, listen to this episode. Grab some popcorn, grab a coffee, turn the volume up, chill, relax, do whatever you do when you listen to podcasts, and enjoy! Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 01:45 Welcome back to A Day in the life of a School Based Speech Language Pathologist. I am Katie Widestrom-Landgraf, and I am joined by Breeah Carey. Breeah, thank you for being here. Breeah Carey 01:59 Thank you so much for having me. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 02:01 Yes. Oh, I'm so looking forward to this conversation and learning about your day in the life of a school based SLP. So, let's get right into it. Can you start by telling us a little bit about your journey to becoming a speech language pathologist and how you ended up in the school based setting? Breeah Carey 02:22 Yes, of course. So, I – ever since I was young, I always knew I wanted to work in a school. My mom, she retired from being a teacher, she was a teacher for 27 years in the same district. So, ever since I was little she would pick me up, I would go back to school with her, just always in that kind of environment. So, when I got to high school, I ultimately thought I wanted to be a third grade teacher. But I was presented with different paths, such as speech therapy, occupational, developmental. So, I ultimately decided to shadow a speech therapist at my mom's school. I applied to 10 different undergrad programs. I actually flipped a coin to go to my university! It was between – Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 03:08 I like the decision making process! Breeah Carey 03:12 I know! The schools are very different. The five year master's program, versus like a big ten university, like very different. So, I flipped a coin. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 03:21 Where did you end up? Breeah Carey 03:23 I ended up at Purdue for undergrad. And that was like the last – I just threw that school on my list, actually – Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 03:30 Okay. Breeah Carey 03:30 – but it ended up being a really good choice for me, and I stayed there for grad school too. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 03:36 So, wonderful. So, that's how you got your degree. What led you specifically to the school that you're at now? Could you talk to us a little bit more about your school that you're in, and the specific setting you work in, a little bit about, like, the age range that you work with, could you tell us more about that? Breeah Carey 03:57 Yeah. So, I feel like it's kind of a full circle type of thing. When I was still an undergrad, I would still go – when I’d come back home from Indiana to New Jersey, I would still shadow SLPs here in the area in New Jersey. So, there was one at my mom's school. She did feeding and she worked with the medically fragile population. So, about a year or so ago, she called me and asked if I wanted a job somewhere, where she could get me in. And so, I accepted that position after visiting. I saw the kids. I saw how everyone interacted. It was such a tiny, tiny school. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 04:36 Wow. Now when you say tiny, tiny school, I do have to tell you I actually work in a high school with 3,000 students. So, could you talk to us a little bit about what tiny means for you? Breeah Carey 04:46 Tiny is 200 students, total. So, from pre-K three, all the way through eighth grade. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 04:54 Oh, wow. Okay. Breeah Carey 04:57 So, I started off with a caseload of 20. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 05:00 So – and you're working pre-K, all the way through, you said eighth grade? Breeah Carey 05:05 Eighth grade. Yeah, they're all in one school. Mhm. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 05:06 Could you talk to us a little bit about how that works in terms of just therapy planning? Because I would imagine planning for that little person is going to feel different than planning for your eighth grader. Could you talk to us a little bit about how you work that age range and planning your therapies? Breeah Carey 05:27 Yeah, of course. So, I would say for my little ones, I'm really big on play based therapy. I've taken a lot of courses this past year about play based therapy, done a lot of research, and really familiarized myself with the benefits of it, and also how to explain that to parents. So, I like to do things like sensory bands, lots of pretend play. And then really getting the kids engaged with each other. Especially, the kids just came right out of COVID, so they're really learning how to socialize with other kids. Some of them are only children. So, it's really important for me that they form healthy connections early on, and I think that's really good for their language development. For my older kids, I like to focus a lot on reading and really functional skills. They're getting into state testing, and lots more writing prompts and things of that nature. So, I like to communicate with their teachers, like Google Classroom and get their assignments. One thing I did this past week was go over specific vocabulary. Some of the older kids don't necessarily explicitly know what a declarative sentence is, or X, Y and Z. That's something that we just naturally learn sometimes, and we don't really explicitly teach that to our students. So, that's one thing that I've been focusing on a lot too. So, not just this is what you need to do, but why you need to do it and what it is. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 06:57 I think, especially with the older students, kind of giving them the reason, giving them the why – Breeah Carey 07:03 Mm. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 07:03 – really creates buy-in, and keeps them coming back. Breeah Carey 07:03 [crosstalk] Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 07:08 I think it can help them understand sort of the bigger ideas and the larger purposes of why we're together. So, can you walk us through a typical day? Like, what time you get to school, and are you working with more groups or individuals, are you pushing into classrooms? Just kind of talk us through your typical day. Breeah Carey 07:29 So, fun fact is I'm a contract therapist. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 07:36 Wow! Breeah Carey 07:35 I love it. I love it, I love it! And, I mean, this is a district that I would commit to, but what they're really wanting is a contract therapist, so it varies on kids they have on their caseload. So, I get to choose what time I go in and what time I end, and it especially works well with my after school schedule for doing private practice work. So, I get to school around 9:00 a.m., and I always like to start my day with preschoolers because I feel like they're the most alert during that time. Nap time is around 1:00 o'clock, and I don't want to get them when they're groggy or cranky! So, I really try to prioritize having them in the morning, about like 30 minutes after they get to school. And then I work my way up through kindergarten, first, second. I only work four days a week, actually, at my school. So, Monday through Thursday. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 08:25 Wow! Okay. So, this is really interesting to me. So, when you say that you’re contract SLP, what I heard you say is that affords you some flexibility, even as you're plugging into kind of the structure of school. Breeah Carey 08:39 Exactly, exactly. Like, I get enough time to see all my kids. If I want to do individual sessions, I get enough time in my day, enough time in the week, to have individual sessions. There's never a time where I have to say, oh, I have to plug this child into a group when I know it's not going to be beneficial, because I have free periods built in. I have child study team IEP meeting time built in that's not always used. So, I have that availability. And then, teachers are very flexible in letting me move my schedule and kind of pull out whenever I need to. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 09:13 So, one of the things I heard you say – and this is where I sometimes wish we had video, because when you said, “I love being a contract SLP”, like your whole face smiled when you said that. And so, I mean, I'm hearing the schedule flexibility. That sounds delightful. What are other things you love about being a contract SLP and working in the school setting? It's kind of like you're merging, I think – I think when people think of that, they might think of those options separately, but it sounds like you're saying, no, we don't have to choose. So, could you talk a little bit more about what you love specifically about being a contract SLP? Breeah Carey 09:57 Yeah. I mean, before I became a contract therapist, I would always hear that contract therapists aren't really always accepted in their environment. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 10:06 Hmm. Breeah Carey 10:07 I was definitely very fortunate, where everyone had open arms when I came into the school. So, I really don't feel like a contract therapist. I had like four different rooms to choose from when I first got there. I got to decorate my room, order whatever materials I wanted. So, usually when you’re a contract therapist, they make you come with your own things – Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 10:29 Oh. Breeah Carey 10:29 – but my school is very amazing in getting me to really integrate and feel like I'm a part of the team there. I got my own school email right from the beginning. So, in terms of being a contract therapist it's, I think, the schedule and the flexibility is the greatest benefit, but it's just a lovely balance. I don't know how else to describe it. It's just a lovely balance. And I think for people my age, and this newer generation, we really like having control over what we're able to do and when we're able to go into work, and when we're able to have meetings, things of that nature. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 11:09 I think a lovely balance, it sounds lovely. Now, I do want to ask you, and I know this is about being a school based SLP, but you mentioned having time for private practice work as well. And I do think we can talk about how this – how these work opportunities can look all different ways. So, could you talk a little bit about the private practice aspect of what you do? Breeah Carey 11:33 Yes. So, I work private practice three days after school. So, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 3:30 to 6:00 pm. I have about five clients per day and they range from ages one through 14. So, it's very different from the school where I have preschoolers, and then going to an environment where I have early intervention, where that wasn't necessarily my specialty, but really made me have to put in the work to learn so much more about a specific area. So, I think it's nice because some of the kids already receive services in school. So, they know the drill, know what the routine is. And then it's also interesting, because some of them are so young. Some of them are just coming out of the pandemic. So, it's just been a big, big learning curve. But like I said, because my school has been very gracious, and then my private practice supervisors are very open, and just supportive, it's been a really nice balance, and I think it hasn't led me to become burned out. I know, that's a big thing right now in the field. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 12:48 It sure is. Breeah Carey 12:51 Mhm. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 12:51 So, what would you say is one of your favorite things about your job right now? Breeah Carey 13:02 I would say I have two. I have two. I really love the parent interaction. Especially because we only see our students or clients for a small portion of the day. So, parents are with them a lot. And I also love teacher interaction. Teachers provide lots of valuable information about the students. So, I just love being able to share my observations and knowledge with the teachers and parents, and they've all been very receptive. They'll send me emails, asking for specific information or the different strategies they can use. I know one mom last week, we were discussing toys. So, I told her to send me pictures of the toys that she has at home and text them to me, and then I will give you recommendations for how to use each toy, or why I think it's a good toy to use for specific goals. So, just establishing those relationships, because they’re – they are like superheroes too. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 14:05 So, do you have some advice or thoughts for either folks who are new to working with different interdisciplinary teams, working with parents, working with families, working with teachers? Do you have some advice or some tips to help people feel more comfortable or confident with that aspect of their jobs? Breeah Carey 14:28 Yeah, I would definitely say be open to learning about the other disciplines and how you guys can collaborate. Recently, ASHA, the American Speech and Language Hearing Association and the Physical Therapy Association and Occupational Therapy Association, all came out with a collaborative type of framework for how we can all practice interdisciplinary practices. So, I definitely think that reading those things, learning how you guys can write collaborative goals, and then also being able to explain your discipline in a way that's easy for them to understand as well. And I think the big thing with speech, and it’s the hot topic right now, is bilingualism. That is not something that the other professionals may not know about in terms of speaking multiple languages. So, that's a big area that we can educate other people on. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 15:29 So, do you have some thoughts or things that you might discuss with team members regarding students who are bilingual or ELL? Breeah Carey 15:40 Yes, absolutely. So, particularly in my school, the majority language is Spanish. Another language we are commonly exposed to is Portuguese. So, a lot of times within the meetings, we have to explain a language difference versus a language disorder. Sometimes with the testing, it may not be – we can use the standardized scores, but we have to use some more descriptive information. And then, also encouraging parents to really still continue using their home native language. So, that can be a big concern when they come in. “My – we're exposing our child to this at home. I think they're getting kind of confused”. And then, also, sometimes we will receive referrals from pediatricians that also mention the child's speaking multiple languages, I think they're confused. So, making sure that we're educating them. I usually like to give handouts. So, they're myths versus facts, the type of handouts that I like to give out about bilingualism. It's been a little bit easier for me. I know, it's not like this in all places, but my entire child study team is bilingual Spanish-English. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 16:48 That's amazing! Breeah Carey 16:50 Yeah. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 16:49 And you are right, it is not like that just anywhere. So, I do think that is helpful. Wow! Okay. So, when you think about challenges, would you say you have some challenges at your current job? And if so, what would your challenges be? Breeah Carey 17:06 Hmm. I don't want to make it seem like everything is perfect and I'm living in la-la land, but it's just – I don't know. I do honestly feel like this is my dream job. Like every day I'm at school, I look forward to going to the school building, is usually what I say, is I know what to expect. I know I'm going to see my smiling preschoolers, and they're pointing to me, like, “Take me, take me!”, because they have so much fun learning in an environment that's not as restrictive, and where they get more one-on-one attention. So, I really think I overall love my job! [crosstalk] Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 17:46 I think that's wonderful. That’s not a bad thing! Breeah Carey 17:51 I know, I know. It's very weird to say but I, honestly, I can say like both – just the balance of school and private practice has been amazing. I know many school based therapists have challenges in terms of getting access to materials, and they're working in a closet, and – but right from the jump, I was offered everything I wanted and more, so. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 18:176 I think that's wonderful. And so, when you think about – I guess, let's talk a little bit about just logistics. So, how do you manage your workload? Are you somebody that documents as you go? Do you like to spread it out? Do you have a larger chunk of time built in each day? Or how do you manage some of the workload aspects of what you do? Breeah Carey 18:45 Mhm. So, I do the daily documentation for myself. I do not have to submit notes to anyone, which is also a plus of my job! But I do like to keep that information in terms of data so that when I go to write reports on the students, I like to have specific numbers, or more descriptive information about how they're performing, what types of content we're focusing on. But IEP meetings and paperwork times are also built into my day. So, Tuesdays and Thursdays from about 1:00, or like 12:45 to 2:30, I have IEP writing eval report time. So, everything is built in. I'm not scrambling to say, oh, I need to come in and actually – okay, I need to come in on Friday to fill in this time. I feel like I always have ample time to get everything done. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 19:45 That sounds great. Breeah Carey 19:46 Mhm. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 19:47 Yeah. What do you think has been, I guess, surprising or unexpected when you reflect upon your job thus far? Have you had anything that sort of you weren't expecting, is another way to think about this question. Breeah Carey 20:04 That's a hard one. I don't – I guess, maybe because I've just always been supervised or been in environments where there's usually been more than one speech therapist. I'm the only speech therapist at my school. And it was also very interesting, because when I was finishing up my clinical fellowship, I was kind of like alone in the environment. The therapist that was supervising me, she was in a whole nother district, and she had tons of speech therapists at her school, and I was this clinical fellow still trying to learn everything. So, I just think that is – I’m kind of rambling off and cut. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 20:46 Well, I think it is helpful for people to have kind of insight into all the different ways that they can kind of experience the profession. I do think you are right, that there is that experience, oftentimes, of being the only one in the building, and I think that's where it can be important to figure out other ways to have those connections. Which brings me to my next question. I believe you have an Instagram, is that correct? Breeah Carey 21:15 Yes. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 21:16 Okay. Can you talk to us a little bit about your Instagram? Breeah Carey 21:19 Yeah. So, my Instagram is @beautybreeslp. I usually like to go on Instagram to connect with other therapists, and post some of the activities that I'm doing. So, really creating activities that make it motivating for the children to learn. And I think Instagram also has really afforded me the opportunity to gain access to more information that I really wouldn't have known in the first place. Like, for example, learning more about the podcasts that you guys have, or other bilingual therapists in the area, or exposure to different languages, things of that nature. So, it's been a pro in that aspect. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 22:05 That’s awesome. I do think that is one of the things that is so different. When I think about when I came out of graduate school, quite a while ago (!), I think that some of those feelings of being the only one or being isolated were still there, and it was maybe a little bit trickier to find folks to connect with. And so, I think one of the benefits of social media, and having your presence on social media, some TPT stores, Instagram accounts, it's a way to find your people. It's a way to connect with folks who understand what you're doing, where you're at, even if you're not in close proximity with each other. And so, I do think that’s a huge benefit of social media. Social media is not always great. But in this case, I think it can be really helpful, so. Breeah Carey 23:03 Yeah, I love it. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 23:04 Yeah. So, when you think about your big “why”, what keeps you coming back day after day to do this job? Breeah Carey 23:16 I honestly think it's the connection. I think human connection is just a very, very beautiful thing, and the relationships that we have with people are one of the most valuable things. There are studies about if you have more positive relationships you live longer, a happier, healthier life. So, right from when I get the little ones, the one and two and three year old’s, I want them to be able to form healthy relationships, not just with me, but with their peers, with their parents, really be able to express themselves. Because we are communicating our feelings right now, I want them to be able to communicate that as well. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 24:00 That's amazing. Yeah. I mean, when you put it in – when you put it in the context of improving quality of life, and literally extending life expectancy, it’s kind of a big deal. Breeah Carey 23:16 Mhm. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 24:00 Yeah. Wow. So, if you had one piece of advice for people looking at working in the schools, or working with a school based population, what would you most want them to know? We have a lot of listeners that are either new to the profession, or they might be considering switching from a different setting to working with school aged children. So, what would you most like them to know? Breeah Carey 24:45 I think I would want people to know, or like you said in the previous question, remember your “why”. So, working in the school is definitely not an easy thing, by no means. So, remember – while you're there, remember, your focus is on helping the students improve. Remember that you may be one of the only people who they feel like cares about them at that certain point in time. So, just remember that you have a bigger impact than just being a speech language pathologist there, but you're really an important figure in their lives. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 25:27 Yes! Oh, Breeah, this is a wonderful conversation. Breeah Carey 25:33 Mhm. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 25:27 Do you have some things you're thinking about that we've forgotten to talk about? Is there anything that you wish we had mentioned or discussed, or that as we've been talking kind of came to mind for you? Breeah Carey 25:47 I think everything has been amazing so far. It’s just that this field is a very like tight knit community, and it’s just very intimate because there's not a lot of us. So, I just love that we're able to have these conversations and bring awareness to more topics such as diversity, bilingualism, and then also, really discuss how we're not just a speech therapist, or a speech teacher how they want to call us, but really even standing in our title, knowing the roles and responsibilities and how important our work is, but then also knowing that we are like vessels for connection. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 26:35 Wow! So, standing in our title. Remembering what we bring, and also knowing that we're vessels for connection. Breeah Carey 26:43 Mhm. Katie Widestrom-Landgraf 26:43 I think I may remember that for a long, long time. Amazing! Thank you so much for spending this time with us tonight. We really appreciate it. I said “tonight”, but who knows when people will be listening to this podcast. Maybe they’ll be listening to it at 6:00 am. So, whenever they listen to it, they will know that they've had the opportunity to learn so many amazing things from you. Thank you so much, Breeah. Breeah Carey 27:10 Thank you. Mattie Murrey-Tegels 27:14 So, thanks for listening to this episode of the Missing Link for SLPs podcast, and this was one of our A Day in the Life of a School Based SLP series. Check out Breeah’s Instagram @beautybreeSLP. That’s spelled B-E-A-U-T-Y-B-R-E-E-S-L-P, and check out her website at, B-R-E-E-Z-E-E-D-U-C-A-R-E dot com. So, so exciting. I hope you enjoyed her podcast episode as much as I did. Visit and you will find her show notes there. In her show notes you'll find her picture, her bio, her links all of those things so you can easily click. And help us out really also by sharing this podcast, going to Apple, and clicking follow and like and subscribe, and all of those buttons. We are working hard extending these conversations for SLPs as we learn and collaborate on what we all do in our field.

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