Speech Language Pathologist Kimberly Scanlon is self employed and works in private practice at Scanlon Speech Therapy in New Jersey. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and her master’s degree in communication disorders from Montclair State University.
Prior to private practice, Scanlon worked at Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, where she assessed and treated inpatients and outpatients from preschoolers to geriatric adults with speech, language, voice, fluency, swallowing and cognitive disorders. She then worked at Alpine Public School in New Jersey, where she designed therapy programs and treated students from kindergarten to eighth grade.
Currently, in addition to private practice, she serves as an early intervention provider for the State of New Jersey and used to work per diem at various skilled nursing facilities and other local private practices. Scanlon is nationally certified by the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA). She is also a member of the New Jersey Speech and Hearing Association; The Hanen Centre, where she is certified in It Takes Two to Talk®; and the Institute of Language and Phonology, where she is certified in Compton P-ESL accent modification program. In addition, Scanlon is a feature blogger of ASHAsphere, the official blog of the ASHA.
When did you first decide to become a speech-language pathologist? Why?
After graduating from Rutgers University in 2002, I worked two years for a finance firm. While this was a good experience, it wasn’t my passion. I knew I wanted to work in a service-oriented industry where I could use my people skills and compassion to help others. My mother, who had worked as a learning disability consultant for close to 40 years, and my brother, an assistant vice principle, introduced the idea of exploring the field of speech language pathology. After doing some research and finding the profession interesting, I enrolled in pre-requisite night classes at Seton Hall University. This is when I fell in love with the profession. I was attracted to the science and research aspect, as well as the potential to make a real difference in people’s lives.
How/why did you choose the school you went to?
I selected Montclair State University for several reasons. First, it is a well-established program with a great reputation and accredited by the ASHA. The program’s professors are also well-published and recognized in the field. Second, they have an on-site clinic, which provides clinical training in various disorders and populations. Lastly, I wanted to practice in the area once I graduated, so attending Montclair State enabled me to make connections and contacts while attending the program.
What surprised you the most about your speech-language pathology studies?
The intensity of the program. It’s a combination of science and language arts. Having strong written and oral communication skills, as well as solid analytical reasoning ability are essential to success. If you are not interested in neurology, human development, or grammar, then it will be challenging to finish a program. In addition to needing a degree of natural aptitude, dedication, time, and research are required. Spending time in the library or clinic is a must if you want to graduate.
If you had it to do all over again, would you still become speech-language pathologist? (Why or why not? What would you have done instead?)
Yes. Without a doubt, I would still become a speech-language pathologist because it’s a wonderful profession. In addition to being rewarding, it is autonomous, flexible, and diverse as there are many specialties within the field.
Has being a speech-language pathologist met your expectations? Why?
It has exceeded my expectations because it is always interesting and far from boring. The field evolves through research, so there are constantly new techniques and approaches to learn. Additionally, the treatment sessions must be personalized to ensure success, because each individual is unique and has his or her own interests as well as strengths and weaknesses.
What do you like most about being a speech-language pathologist?
The sense of satisfaction I feel when I successfully treat and discharge a client is indescribable. Knowing that I have made a difference in someone’s life is very rewarding.
What do you like least about being a speech-language pathologist?
As a speech language pathologist, you need to constantly engage the client and try to relate to him or her. To be most effective during therapy sessions, high energy and stamina are required. If you are tired or not feeling well, then it will negatively impact your day. Paperwork can also be daunting, because report writing and documentation of progress is necessary.
What was it like finding a job in your chosen career field?
I have never had difficulty finding a job, and in many cases had to consider multiple offers at once. However, recent graduates may have difficulty finding an ideal match because supervision to earn their certification through ASHA (CCC-SLP) is needed. My final decisions were never determined by the amount of compensation. My motivation in accepting a job was based on the level of training I would receive and the experience I would gain from working in a certain setting with various disorders and populations.
Do you work with mid-level providers, and if so, what kind(s)?
On average: How many hours a week do you work? How many hours do you sleep per night? How many weeks of vacation do you take?
I work 40 to 50 hours a week. As a self-employed professional, my work week includes: 20 to 25 hours of treatment and evaluation time; 10 to 15 hours of paperwork, blog writing, research, and preparation for sessions; six to eight hours of commute, since I perform home-based therapy; and two to three hours of communicating with clients, insurance companies, and other professionals outside of treatment time.
I sleep seven hours a night. Typically, I take four weeks of vacation a year.
Are you satisfied with your income?
Earnings fluctuate depending on cancellations and time of the year.
If you took out educational loans, is/was paying them back a financial strain?
In your position now, knowing what you do – what would you say to yourself 10 years ago?
Ask other seasoned professionals for guidance when you have questions, and take advantage of the vast information available through ASHA.
What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were beginning your speech-language pathology studies?
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in healthcare today?
The lack of insurance coverage and reimbursement for speech and language related developmental delays and disorders such as stuttering.
Where do you see speech-language pathology in 10 years?
The use of apps (for smart phones and tablets) and other technology will become more common in treatment sessions. I also believe telepractice will gain popularity, because more people are becoming tech savvy.
Do you have any family, and if so, do you have enough time to spend with them?
Yes, I try to make that a priority, which is why time management is so important.
What types of outreach/volunteer work do you do, if any?
I share my knowledge with other professionals and parents by writing a blog and contributing articles and posts to professional communities. I also mentor individuals who have just graduated and or are pursing this field and invite them to observe my sessions, provided I have my client’s consent.
How do you spend your free time? Any hobbies?
Reading speech and language journals and trade magazines! Sometimes it’s hard for me to separate myself from my profession because it’s such a strong part of my identity. However, when I do, I enjoy walking and hiking with my husband and dog, reading novels, traveling and sitting on the beach.
Do you have any final piece of advice for students interested in pursuing SLP as a career?
Always be ethical and honest with your clients and refer to another professional when necessary. Our field is small, so it is important to maintain a good reputation. Don’t burn bridges and treat others fairly.