Recently I had the opportunity to visit a client in the Lonestar State. Since everything is bigger in Texas, my trip exceeded any expectations I could have possibly conjured. While meeting with Special Education Directors and Coordinators was a great learning experience, the real insight I gained was from shadowing my bilingual SLP, Gabriela, in special education classrooms.
I was so excited to meet with Gabriela, mainly because as a recruiter, you talk on the phone for months with professionals you place and have images of what you think they are like off the phone. Gabriela is a sweet precious soul and was exactly what I had imagined she would be in real life. Gabriela was formerly a special education teacher for almost a decade before returning to graduate school to pursue a career in Speech-Language Pathology.
Our tour began through the main building of the elementary school and proceeded down to the hallway with the self-contained special education classrooms of students with moderate-to-severe disorders/behavioral challenges. What happened next I could not have prepared for (cue: reach for tissues).
As we entered the 5-6 -year-old life skills classroom, the students were scared (albeit excited) to see new faces. Gabriela immediately put the students at ease. I rushed over and “got on their level” and sat on the floor and began coloring with Ricky and Alyssa. On the other side of the table were Daniel and Juan. Gabriela explained having these students identify pictures and letters is a big achievement, as was writing their name. Daniel was working on letters and coloring animals that matched with the letter (e.g. L for Lizard). While it took a few tries, Gabriela was able to work with Daniel to correctly identify the letter L, as well as correctly say Lizard (aka: fluency!). She also was able to help identify some articulation issues with Alyssa and Daniel. I perceived Ricky as more non-verbal, so when he was able to write the letter B on command, we all cheered at the table and gave high-fives! I wanted to immediately scoop up Ricky and take him back to Atlanta with me; however that idea was not well received (I wonder why?). I totally get what our school professionals mean when they say they become attached to students and from the bottom of their hearts truly care to see students achieve success. The beaming smiles I saw on the children’s faces when we cheered them or high-fived them was gut-wrenching.
These children emulate childhood innocence. They are precious souls that are genuinely being changed by special education teachers, paraprofessionals, speech-language pathologists, educational diagnosticians, teachers of the visually impaired, occupational therapists, and all other therapists/teachers/specialists Soliant Health connects to schools nationwide. When we mention our mission statement, “We make life better for those who make lives better,” we truly do just that! I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to not only visit with clients and learn more about each specific district, but to experience first-hand what it’s like to work with students. These travelers we staff in districts across the nation are sincerely changing others’ lives. I have never been more proud to be a part of such a wonderful organization that is Soliant Health after directly seeing the impact our service provides.