Instead of retiring from our careers as speech-language pathologists, my friend Claire Gilgannon and I decided to look for volunteer positions incorporating our skills as SLPs. That’s how we met. And here’s how we went about volunteering.
For both of us, our love of New York City combined with our interest in art led us to volunteer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We took a chance and YES! We still could learn a new skill even after 30-odd years of being SLPs!
Volunteer training at The Met is intense, but over about 18 months we successfully transitioned, almost without even being aware, into our new roles as tour guides for school groups with special needs. We had been in the speech biz so long that those skills were reflexive, and we naturally integrated them into our new roles.
Two experienced SLPs use their skills at promoting inclusion to lead tours for special education students at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
So don’t be afraid to try your hand at something new. Museums love volunteers, and if you like children of any age then you, too, can be a volunteer and pair your love of speech-language pathology with your interest in art, history, science or just about anything. We’ve made a new group of good friends and realize that we can still have teachable moments and continue to be lifelong learners. If your interests lie more with performing arts, theaters also look for dedicated volunteers, and our skills as SLPs parlay into many different communication formats.
The following is a sampling—and by no means a comprehensive list—of museums and theaters offering training to become a volunteer guide. Many also offer programs for visitors with special needs and would appreciate your skills even more.
- The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) looks for volunteers to work with visitors at the information desk, and to help with family tours and workshops.
- Volunteers can work with the public or behind-the-scenes at the American Museum of Natural History. Have you wanted to spend a night at the museum? Volunteers can do that, too!
- At the Brooklyn Museum’s Art, Research, and Teaching Program, volunteers can research and develop tours based on the museum’s archives.
- Volunteering at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum can include leading school tours, interacting with visitors in the galleries, helping museum staff with projects, and more.
- Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry lets volunteers give 3D printing workshops, facilitate hands-on labs for student groups, work special events, and help visitors with the numerous interactive exhibits.
- If space exploration is more your passion, you can volunteer at the Space Center Houston either on the museum floor or behind the scenes.
- Encourage your teenage clients to volunteer at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
Do you volunteer or know of organizations looking for volunteers that you think fit the skills of audiologists or SLPs? Please share in the comment section below!
Heidi Katz, MA, CCC-SLP, is a co-captain with Claire Gilgannon, MS, CCC-SLP, of the Special Education Services School Groups, Metropolitan Museum of Art. firstname.lastname@example.org