In celebration of Better Hearing and Speech Month, ACPS is raising awareness of communication disorders by shining a light on speech and language services available through ACPS with a profile of school speech-language pathologist Cindy Johnson.
The theme this year is ‘Communication Takes Care’, and care is ever present with the 28 speech-language pathologists (SLPs) that provide services at all grade levels in ACPS schools.
Speech-language pathologists, also known as speech therapists, are licensed health care providers who assess, diagnose, treat and help to prevent disorders related to speech, language, communication, voice, swallowing and fluency.
In schools, these providers:
- Screen students to find out if they need further speech and language testing
- Evaluate speech and language skills
- Determine if a child needs specialized instruction
- Work with children who are at risk for communication and learning problems
SLPs perform screenings, evaluations, provide therapy in their rooms and in classrooms, consult with teachers, staff and parents, create materials, provide alternative/augmentative communication systems and attend professional development throughout the year.
Students with issues that have a significant impact on their academic performance are eligible for services through their school. For issues that do not significantly impact academic performance, referrals are made for services through private practice.
If a student eligible for school services attends Francis C. Hammond Middle School, they might get their services through Cindy Johnson. Johnson has been an SLP for 34 years, the last 23 years of which have been at Hammond.
Johnson was inspired to become an SLP after her father suffered a massive stroke at the age of 47, shortly after she graduated from high school. In part because of where they lived in rural Georgia and because the field of speech-language pathology was still emerging, very limited services were available to her dad, who had lost his ability to speak. Johnson decided to become part of the solution. She began doing home health work after school hours and worked with stroke victims like her father.
It felt good to help others who were in the same predicament as my father,” said Johnson.
After completing her education, she worked in preschool and elementary school settings. She landed at Hammond after relocating to the area for love and marriage.
Johnson really loves working with middle school children.
Middle school students can be goofy and silly. I can join in the silliness with them, which makes it all more fun,” said Johnson.
Johnson loves to watch the kids grow. They enter the school as recent elementary school graduates and leave as promising high school students. There is tremendous evolution that takes place in those three short middle school years.
Children are typically screened in elementary school and upon transferring into a new school in older grades. The articulation issues that are often present in students receiving services in elementary school are often resolved by middle school. During the middle school years, typical issues include language processing, fluency, non-verbal communication, autism and other intellectual disabilities.
Her typical day involves meeting with students, attending meetings, performing evaluations and consulting with and coordinating services with teachers.
Amid the administrative tasks and paperwork, there are also many bright spots. Johnson shared the story of students whose lives were dramatically changed as a result of referrals. In one case, a teacher came to Johnson for help after she was unable to identify the issue with a student with whom something did not seem quite right. Upon hearing his speech, Johnson recognized that his speech pattern was the result of a significant undiagnosed hearing impairment. Johnson was able to quickly connect his family with the resources needed to get him into the best learning environment to meet his needs.
It is hard work and there is a lot to keep up with. The field is constantly changing with new policies, new ways of working and the integration of new technologies. But, it is also very rewarding. The goal is to help students improve to the highest level that they can achieve. It is so rewarding when you can dismiss a child from speech because it means you have reached that goal,” said Johnson.
Please thank your school’s speech-language pathologist(s) today.
Learn more about speech and language services available through ACPS, which ensures every student succeeds.