Speech Pathology: An interview with Tara Scoggins

Speech Pathology: An interview with Tara Scoggins

Anetra Witherspoon, Writer

Speech pathology is the study and treatment of speech and language issues. They work with people of all ages and people with a wide range of issues. These include issues with articulation, fluency, resonance, understanding language, putting words together, and swallowing. Speech and language disorders are caused by an array of things that include developmental disorders, genetic disorders or damage to the brain. Due to the number of differing problems that they can work with, Speech and language pathologist work in many different settings. Some work in medical settings such as hospitals and rehabilitation facilities while others work in schools or nursing homes. I interviewed a speech Pathologist to get a more extensive look into the world of speech pathology.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Well, my name is Tara Scoggins, and I am a graduate of this high school. I graduated in the year 2000, I’ve been here [at Cartersville high school] for 17 years. I’ve served every school in this system, but I’ve always been the one who served high school students.

Which school do you think is the hardest to serve? Really, they all have their own easy and hard aspects. They are just very different because doing speech therapy with younger kids looks completely different than when you’re doing it with older students. [with younger student] there’s a lot of game playing and theatrical acts and a lot of attention seeking. Where middle school and high school are more based on academics and socialization. I mean, of course you work on those things at the lower grades too, but it’s[more] about them acquiring language or learning proper speech sounds. Once they get to middle and high school, they’ve kind of gotten the basis of those things and we’re building on that.

When did you know you wanted to become a speech pathologist? I thought starting out, I wanted to be a child psychologist, and went to college and started that career path. I realized that there were a lot of things that were in that career path that I just didn’t really want to take home with me every day. I had a distant family member who did speech pathology and they told me that I should check into this Because there is a lot of psychology in it. I shadowed her for a little bit and then I liked it. So, it was probably my sophomore year of college when I changed my path of what I was going to do

Do you think this job has any of the same aspects of heavy stuff going home you? The thing that you don’t realize when you take a career path that has a therapeutic aspect is that you learn things about people, about their lives, that you wouldn’t normally come across. And so, to be an effective therapist, you have to get to know your clients and your students. A lot of times that stuff’s really heavy. We [therapists] have to check ourselves and realize that we can’t fix all the problems, but we can fix some of them to make their lives easier. When I started out, I thought I was going to be just fixing problems like with speech sounds, but when you are dealing with somebody who’s went through trauma, in a moment’s time, their whole world turns. It weighs on your heart because you knew them before, then suddenly you’re working with them in a completely different aspect. I’ve had students who have had success stories on the opposite end of that, where they’ve had a traumatic brain injury and I get to see the success of our work together. So, there’s positives and negatives to all of it.

What does the job entail?  It depends on where you want to work Because with this degree, you can work in so many different places. You can do what I do, like in the school system, and [help] with, remediation of language and acquisition of sounds, [and other] kinds of things [that] make their academic and social world easier. There’s a wide variety and you would never get bored because you can always change it up.

Do you think you’ll ever change? No, I absolutely love what I do. The fact of the matter is with being in a school, I know that I am helping students who may not otherwise get any help. If you’re working in a hospital setting, a clinical setting, or a private type of situation, you know that those kids have parents that care. That’s not always the case with kids at school. Their parents may care, but don’t have the money, because it’s not cheap to get speech therapy for a child. Minimally you’re going to pay at least $50 for one session and that’s before insurance. I definitely don’t see myself doing anything else.

How do you become a speech pathologist? There’s a couple of different routes. I attended west Georgia and they have an undergraduate program, for speech pathology. Then I went from that into a master’s program. You have to have your master’s to be able to practice. So, a lot of people will get speech pathology and then decide, this isn’t it for me and go into a different program later. That is the beautiful part, and the difficult part of getting into this career: it’s hard. They make it that way on purpose because they don’t want there to be a saturation of us, in the field where people don’t get quality care, kind of like doctors [and] psychiatrist. We’re all kind of in the same umbrella of, licensure with the state. So, we all have to take certain board exams to be able be licensed.

Do you have to go to student’s homes? I do it’s interesting, students who have injuries or hospital home bound, (what it’s called through the school system). So, people who are really sick, have had surgery, or things of that nature. [It could be students] that were already on my caseload, meaning they were already receiving speech services [that] then have to be served in their homes while they are recovering. They also could have had an injury that has caused them to need my services [if that’s the case] I will go and do assessment pieces to see if I can actually be of service while they’re at home, or how I can help them transition back into the school system. So yeah, every year I’m going into people’s homes and sometimes it’s a great thing.

Does it feel bad to have to let students go? Yea I cry every year, these are my babies. A lot of these kids refer to me as their mom, because I’ve had them since they were super young. I love them up really big and so, I kind of become a secondary parent here at the school.