Hey guys! I'm so happy to introduce a dear friend, Lauren Carpenter. She's been one of my closest friends for years, and we lived together for most of our time at OU! I'm so glad she agreed to be a part of this series because I didn't really know how exactly she came to be a speech pathologist, other than the fact that she studied way more than I did in college and then when she went on to grad school! Lauren now lives in our hometown with her husband and adorable son.
As a child, I wanted to be a ______ when I grew up. Either a teacher or a pediatrician
How close (or far) is your current career from that dream? I would say that my current career is sort of a combination of a teacher and a pediatrician.
What is your official job title? Speech-Language Pathologist
Ok, now what does that really mean? I help people with communication disorders. I specifically work with elementary students a public school. I work on articulation (how you say sounds), language (vocabulary, grammar, etc.), fluency (stuttering) and social communication (how people use language socially). Though I work at an elementary school, there are many different settings that a Speech-Language Pathologist can work in, including Schools, Hospitals, Home Health, Nursing Homes, Private Practice and many more.
What is a typical day like? I arrive at work at 8:00 a.m. I have therapy sessions with my students all morning. Each therapy session lasts 30 minutes and usually has 2-4 students in each group. We work on whatever speech or language goals they have while doing crafts, games and various other activities. I have a lunch break from 11-12 which usually involves me doing some planning or paperwork while eating. Then I have more therapy groups from 12-3:00 p.m. I have plan time from 3-3:30 and then I am done for the day. Aside from therapy sessions, I also hold meetings with parents with of my students and with other teachers. I also test my students to measure their progress in therapy. I used to work Monday through Friday, but as I had a child last February, I now only work Tuesday through Thursday.
How did you end up in this career? When I was a junior in high school, I participated in “Teacher For a Day.” Our school allowed members of the National Honor Society to become teacher for a day in whatever grade or subject they chose. I knew that I was interested in possibly becoming a teacher so I signed up for kindergarten. I was so excited to see how a kindergarten classroom functioned. When I arrived at the school I found out that they placed me in Developmentally Delayed room. I was terrified. I had never worked with special education students before and this WAS NOT the classroom that I had signed up for. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. While in the classroom, the speech therapists came in to do their speech session. I loved watching them interact with the students and I immediately wanted to know more about this profession. A family friend happened to be a Speech-Language Pathologist for a school system and was able to answer all of my questions and that is how I chose my major in college and ended up in this career.
What kind of education or training did you complete for this career? I received my bachelors degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders in May of 2008 from the University of Oklahoma. I then went to graduate school at the University of Oklahoma and received my Master’s of Arts in Speech Language Pathology in May of 2010. Prior to graduation, I took the PRAXIS exam, which is our national board exam, in order to obtain my Oklahoma License. I started working for a public school in August 2010. My first year of work was considered my CFY (clinical fellowship year). I had another Speech Language Pathologist that I worked with who acted as my Supervisor and had to oversee some of my therapy sessions and paperwork. At the end of that year, I was able to apply for my Certificate of Clinical Competancy (CCCs) for the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA). I am now a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist for the State of Oklahoma.
What advice would you give to someone who wants a similar career? Try to observe Speech-Language Pathologists in various fields. My work in a school is very different than that of an SLP in a hospital or home health. You may not like one particular setting, but that doesn’t mean the career is not for you. You may just need to look at a different setting. Also, study study study. Graduate school is very intense and requires a lot of studying, but it is definitely worth it in the end.
Do you have any other career dreams? What do you want to be when you grow up? The career I have is my dream career. I know that sounds cliche and cheesy but it is true. I have thought about what I would do if I wasn’t an SLP. One other career path I have considered is becoming a behavior therapist. Working with my students who have challenging behaviors is one of my favorite parts of my job. If I were to choose a different career path, I think it would be to become a behavior therapy who does ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, most likely with children with autism.
Any last thoughts or encouragement for others trying to decide what they want to do “when they grow up”? My biggest words of encouragement would be to do whatever makes you happy and definitely try to shadow and observe others. That’s what sold me!
Thank you so much for being a part of this series, Lauren! It's been great to see how much you love your job, and I know you are making a huge difference in the lives of those kiddos.