Speech Language Pathologists: Serving the Need

At Lincoln Public Schools, school-based speech language pathologists specialize in prevention, assessment and treatment of students with communication disorders. They help students with an array of language skills including articulation, reading comprehension, writing and executive function - just to name a few. 

LPS employs more than 70 speech language pathologists, serving all children in Lincoln from birth to age 21 in all school buildings, as well as the Independence Academy and all specialized programs. With SLP’s in every school building, the need for collaboration is crucial to ensure each student’s needs are met.

Daniel Navas, speech language pathologist at Lincoln North Star High School, said having a good relationship with staff is especially important when he goes into the classroom to work with students.

 “It should be that you're on the same page of what they're doing, not coming in and doing your own thing,” Navas said. “It's important because you're sharing that student.”

For Laura Haberacker, speech language pathologist at McPhee Elementary School, that relationship also builds confidence in teachers when their concerns about a student are affirmed. 

“Most of the time, the teachers are really good about coming to me and saying, ‘Hey, I have this kid, what are some things I can do?’” Haberacker said. “The teachers, they are the ones that are with them all day, so I really trust their instincts if they don't think something's right.”

Teachers and staff within schools are not the only ones SLP’s at LPS are collaborating with. Once a month, all of the speech language pathologists come together for professional development. This is a time they can spend getting advice from and leaning on one another. 

“We're all in it together, traveling together, and we all reach out to one another for support, which is good,” said Navas.

Haberacker said the SLP leadership team is also a great source to utilize for specific issues.

“I know if I'm having an issue with a student with articulation, I know exactly which SLP I can go to,” Haberacker said. “We all have little silly tricks and tips that work. You wouldn't know that unless you have that support.”

Of course, the most important part of a school-based speech language pathologist’s job is their work with students.  For Haberacker, celebrating her student’s accomplishments is just as important to her as it is to them.

“I'm pretty loud about it. I share a classroom, so usually my outside classroom knows when something's really good,” Haberacker said. “I feel just as invested as they do because I've been working with them. I've been trying all these different techniques, and I want them to know how proud I am of them.”

Navas said that at the high school level, the bonds that can form are an added bonus to the successes of his students.

“One of the things that I like the most about my job is forging relationships with students,” Navas said. “Of course, providing that support and watching them succeed academically is super rewarding, because you're seeing your therapy in action have results. I love working in the high schools because they're young adults, and you can sort of forge mentor/mentee relationships with them.”

Both Haberacker and Navas acknowledge the importance of having speech therapy services available to students and families within LPS. Outside therapy can be cost prohibitive for some families. 

“Think about it from the perspective of ease of access, by having a speech pathologist in the schools we provide that ease of access towards therapy and support for them to succeed academically,” Navas said. “Every student comes from a different background socioeconomically, and sometimes that's just not a feasible option for students to pursue outside of school. Having those needs and being able to have those needs met via a service provided by the school district is really important.”

Haberacker added that having a “home school” as an SLP makes collaborating with staff and parents so much easier.

“Being able to have those conversations between classes or those times after school where you're just able to say, ‘Hey, this is what happened with us today, your kid was really excited about this’, I think you lose that if you're not in a building, or in that place that you get to call home,” Haberacker said.

Overall, the support from teachers, staff and the entire team of speech language pathologists help both Navas and Haberacker feel like they are able to serve students to the best of their abilities.

“I'm lucky to be working in LPS as a speech pathologist because there's a lot of support and resources and opportunities for professional development for us to make sure that we're always providing current and research based therapy. I think it's really beneficial that the district supports us in that,” Navas said.

If you would like to learn more about the supports offered by the LPS Speech Language Pathologists team, please contact your child's school. 

Published: March 8, 2023, Updated: March 9, 2023