Never under estimate the power of a great cookie.
Thirty minutes of baking and bagging led to several months of attended IEP meetings, updates from the classrooms, and pullouts for testing. The moniker of “The Speech Lady,” which may have been developed to resemble a Saturday Night Live skit, was replaced by the honored title of “The Cookie Lady.” The tapping of heels in the empty halls had no longer become sighs of, “Oh great! Whose class will be disrupted now?” but one of musical tip tap merriment, “Will I be the one who receives the special delivery?”
I had become tired of the constant PR required for providing itinerant services in middle and high schools. It seemed that no matter how much honey I exuded through my smiles and pleasant tones, my well thought out suggestions would fall on hardened faces and deafened ears. I so loved the sessions with the students, assisting them not only with their speech and language development but also with the trials and triumphs of teenage angst. Kids were identifying their individual strategies, increasing self advocacy, and some were even passing their SOLs. Parental indifference was replaced with the excitement for dismissal from services that had lasted the majority of their child’s lifetime. The much needed teacher and administrator support, however, was not there.
I left the bait in the mail room, which was adjacent to my office. Leaving my door open in the early before school hours, I began to hear exclamations muffled by crumbs of “Who left these?” Gone in the 30 minutes it took to make them; the lasting impression was infinite! The next week would be the new block schedule, requiring new pullout and “push-in” times. The previous e-mail notifications were replaced with a handwritten note and a bag adorned with a ribbon in each teacher’s mailbox.
The cookie experiment yielded six dozen chocolate chips each trial, and a batch of teachers who were beginning to take notice of the necessity of speech therapy in the schools. Extra chairs were necessary for the IEP meetings, and e-mails with attachments on progress were rising in my inbox. My recipes were requested….on how to enhance the students’ communication skills in the classrooms.
Many speech language pathologists repel the thought of working in middle and high school education settings. Your own triumphant stories or commentary on working in the ovens will help foster the success of fellow therapists with the right ingredients to create a successful speech language program.
Susanne Gore, CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech pathologist at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond. She has enjoyed 16 years of laughing and learning during her experiences in private and public schools, health care facilities, and community colleges. Susanne has written articles and presented topics on creative therapy techniques to support individuals with maladaptive communication behaviors.