Establishing Rapport with School Staff, Parents, and Students

Greetings! My name is Kie'rra Tyndall. I've been working as a school-based Speech Language Pathologist for 11 years. I currently work for a system in Eastern Virginia. Naturally, I'm an introvert. So now I bet you are wondering, how can an introvert work in such an extroverted profession? Trust me. It's been a challenge. The majority of the itinerant staff work at multiple sites, so we may not be as visible and available as a full time staff member would be.  Throughout the course of my career, I've learned the importance of building interpersonal relationships within the workplace. I hated the feeling of being in a building where no one knew who I was. Or sometimes being mistaken for a student while working in the high school setting. It was very helpful having a support system. 
During my collegiate years, I was taught to always introduce myself to the administration and the office staff. It's been helpful to provide contact information and a tentative schedule of what days you will be in their building. That comes in handy when planning therapy and it helps you stay aware of what's going on in the building. Occasionally, you'll cross paths with the custodial staff, so I have learned to say hello so they will get used to seeing me around the school. I've been able to get supplies and/or furniture for my workplace as needed. 
Once I've gathered my student information, and located their classrooms, I introduce myself to their teachers. After I have completed a schedule, I let the teachers know their student's therapy schedule. I also communicate with them when there is any changes to the schedule and let them know that additional support is available if needed. Establishing rapport with the teachers has helped me transition my students easier when its time to go the therapy room, and plan for IEP meetings. Which leads me to my next topic, establishing rapport with the students. 
The first meeting with any student sets the tone. I've worked with prek-12th grade and each age group has responded differently. Working with younger students, I introduced myself, and I had to pull out my magic therapy bag of tricks to grab their attention. Most of the preschool sessions, ended with an instant reward. Working with older students, I would establish rules and explain the expectations in the therapy room. Most students confuse their speech time with recess or play time. I've sometimes had to remind them that they should treat me with the same amount of respect as their teachers, and I always use a positive reinforcement system  based on the student's individual needs. On some occasions, a phone call or note home to their parents have been effective, if it is necessary. 
At the beginning of the school year, I always send an introductory letter home to parents. It helps establish an open line of communication and it allows the parent to be a part of their child's learning. When the parent is involved, it's builds the child's confidence and self- esteem, therefore enabling them to meet their goals. 
I'm writing all of this to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, establish a relationship with your colleagues, students, and parents. When everyone works together as a team, it improves your work environment and allows you to provide the best level of therapy to your students. 
Author: Kie'rra L. Tyndall, MA. CCC-SLP
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