Most people have to work at least part-time while in school. Luckily for Speech & Hearing Students, there are many jobs that directly relate to our field and will give you valuable experience, as well as a paycheck. You can start helping people who have communication differences and disorders now!
Speech-Language Pathology Assistants (SLP-A) work underneath a practicing SLP and carry out the treatment plan according to the SLP's directions. They can work with adults and children in many of setting that SLPs work.
Personal Support Workers (PSW) are independent caregivers who assist individuals with developmental disabilities, such as autism and intellectual disabilities. They help with daily living tasks according to the care plan created by the case manager.
Check out this Q & A with Alli Gordon, an SLP-A, and Teale Niles, a PSW, to get the inside scoop about these roles.
How did you find your job?
Alli: Emailing different clinics asking for the 100 hours of required training
Teale: I responded to job postings sent by the SPHR department.
What was your training like?
Alli: 100 hours of training in person- 80% needs to be direct care 20% is observation
Teale: I currently work both through a brokerage and an agency. With the brokerage I had to go through the full training to get certified as a PSW with the state and get a Medicaid provider number. I did several hours of online modules and one live half-day class over zoom. I got paid for completing the training. It took about 2 months to complete the whole thing. Through the agency all I had to do was watch a 30-minute intro video and the rest of the training was on-the-job with the family. It's faster to go through an agency because you work under their license instead of having to qualify for my own.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Alli: Three days a week, I go into the clinic and meet with the SLP I work with. We work with kids from ages 2-16 on language and feeding.
Teale: I'll take my client to the library, go for a walk, then maybe pick up some groceries or get some coffee. We'll play board games and watch movies at their house. If there are chores, like laundry, that we need to do, I'll intersperse those with games to keep it fun. I always ask them about their day and encourage them to share their thoughts. This is just one general example. All my clients are completely different. Which is awesome!
What is your favorite part of being a SLP-A or PSW?
Alli: Working directly with clients on feeding has been my favorite part.
Teale: I'm not sitting behind a desk! I love being active with my clients.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Alli: Articulating how to move your tongue for certain speech sounds.
Teale: Navigating family dynamics. Every family is different and has different expectations. It takes a few weeks to figure it out. Once you're familiar with the family though it can become a very special relationship.
How has this job enhanced your education in SPHR or vice versa?
Alli: My education has grown immensely through this position as I am able to work with clients directly and learn through the SLP I work with.
Teale: In class we learn theory - this is how to be a good advocate for a disabled client or a client with intellectual disabilities. This is great knowledge to have. What I love about being a PSW is I can immediately apply it. I've also learned so much from my clients. There is a lot that you can't learn from a book, you have to learn it directly from the people you serve.
What is something you wish someone had told you earlier in your career?
Alli: I wish someone had told me to begin working on these hours as soon as I started undergrad so that I could graduate and have a job in the field immediately.
Teale: Bring a snack. There is nothing more awkward that just sitting there while your client has snack time or lunch.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with your peers?
Alli: Go to ASHA and sign up for your SLPA license to begin the process.
Teale: The starting rate is $20/hour at many agencies. There are not enough PSWs! If you are flexible, can approach challenges with a sense of humor, and enjoy getting to know new people, I highly recommend you apply! It's also excellent preparation for being an SLP or AuD.
Feeling inspired? Here's how you can get started in these careers:
If you want to become an SLP-A go here to see the ASHA website and get started
You do not need any specific training or education to start working as a PSW. The fastest way to start is to apply at an agency such as Out of the Box or It Takes a Village. Sometimes at agencies the job title is Direct Support Professional, Skills Trainer, or something similar. These are just different terms for PSW. If you want to be able to work with clients outside of an agency, you'll have to complete the necessary steps to get a Medicaid ID. This is a long and complicated process, but you get paid for doing the training and you'll have a case manager who will walk you through it! You can start by getting hired by a family or individual and then working with their brokerage to complete the training. You can also contact a brokerage direct to get started. Here is a list of brokerages in Oregon.
We hope you've enjoyed learning about these awesome jobs. If you have any questions, please email email@example.com. You can also connect with your peers on Discord and discuss job opportunities.