August 1, 2013 Columns

First Person on the Last Page: Never Say Never

This SLP said the schools just weren't for her. But her sister knew better.

Sara Blitman, MS, CCC-SLP

Sara Blitman, MS, CCC-SLP

When I completed my master's degree in speech-language pathology in 2001, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would never, ever work in the schools. Being a language specialist was the domain of my older and wiser sister, Rivka. And because she truly excelled at it, I thought I'd be better off finding my own niche.

After completing my clinical fellowship in a rehabilitation center, I joined my husband, a fellow speech-language pathologist, in private practice. I spent the next eight years assessing and treating voice, resonance, fluency and articulation disorders. I really loved this setting, and felt as though I had, indeed, found my place.

Over the years my sister mentioned several times, ever so gently, that she thought I would do well as a school-based SLP. She gave such great advice in her logic-driven, methodical way, that for almost all matters she was my very own "Dear Abby." However, I shrugged off her career advice, thinking that this time she was definitely mistaken.

In November 2009, my sister lost her 20-year, on-and-off battle with cancer. After grieving this tremendous loss, I reflected on my own life. I thought about my family, which had grown to include my three beautiful young children. I considered that my kids were getting bigger day by day, and I wanted to enjoy and take part in every precious minute of their lives. The problem was, in my private practice the clients preferred appointments in the afternoon and evening—the time my children would arrive home from school needing dinner, help with homework, and a kind ear to listen to their troubles.

I remembered my sister's advice that I should work as a school-based SLP. I began to realize that in a school-based position I could have the best of both worlds, the career I wanted and evenings with my family. I decided to give it a try, accepting a position at a junior high school in Queens, N.Y.

The last three years have been an amazing transformation for me. With the adoption of Common Core State Standards this year, the higher-level language skills that SLPs have always targeted have come to the forefront as an important educational objective for every student's overall success. When I focus on syntax, upper-level vocabulary and critical thinking skills with my students, I feel a sense of pride. I truly believe the skills I am teaching will help them do well in high school and beyond. No one is more surprised than I at how much I love working on my students' language needs. I look forward to going to work each day, and I feel like the best is yet to come. I guess it just goes to show—you should never say never!

Sara Blitman, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist working with middle and high school students for the New York City Department of Education. sblitman@ewsis.or

cite as: Blitman, S. (2013, August 01). First Person on the Last Page: Never Say Never. The ASHA Leader.


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