Is an interest in Special Ed and Geriatrics absolutely necessary in this field?

Hi everyone-need help!

One reason I am interested in this field is because I love working one on one with mostly teenagers, older kids, and young adults in their twenties. At this point, I'm not so interested in little kids, special needs kids, or the geriatric population. I thought about guidance counseling, but when introduced to a speech pathologist, I saw her working with the same kids I knew and loved, but in a more specific capacity, and that drew me in. She was helping one kid who had a lisp and another with accent reduction. She was having normal, even funny conversations with her clients and I liked the natural rapport and that the clients were able to bring something to the table too. I figured that surely there would be an opportunity out there for a speech pathologist who was interested in working with teens/adults. However, now after completing and acing 7 prerequisite classes and looking forward to graduate applications-I'm wondering if I should even move forward if I don't have experience with those in the special ed. community or geriatric population and am not even sure I'd want to work with either. I've enjoyed my classes-love the science and language acquisition stuff, probably wouldn't mind a school job one day working with kids-but I'd love it more if I could just work with young people/adults on accent reduction, dialect issues, stuttering, lisps...things like that. Recently, I looked into becoming an ABA tutor to get some experience, and was completing freaked out (by all the behavior issues that the child displayed and the home setting wasn't very conducive to learning/tutoring) and unfortunately the same thing happened when I volunteered at a skilled nursing facility. (I was just not used to seeing people in that state) Will I become more comfortable with these populations once I'm in grad school or do I even have an option to avoid them all together if I'm in this field? More importantly, are these red flags that I chose the wrong field???
  • Current Mood: confused confused
I don't know a lot about it, but I've heard from several people that there is "lots of money" in accent reduction, which makes me think you could do that alone, though I might be wrong.

Even if you did that though, you'd have to be able to work with kids and older adults in your grad school clinical and internship experiences. In my program, work with clients either in the clinic or internships makes up all but one semester of the two year program, so you should at least be ready to do your best during that time.

I do understand where you're coming from a little bit, because my interest is with young children, and a part of me wishes I could just work with that population during all my internships and clinical experiences!
You don't have an option of avoiding them all together. However, you do have the option once you've graduated, of specializing in certain populations.

However, the things you said: behavior issues, non-conducive home setting, etc. is going to be there no matter what age you work with.

There is nothing saying you have to work with little kids or work with geriatrics to be a speech path. However, unless you enter into private practice, chances are you won't be able to be as picky. If you work in a school, you will have to deal with the little kids as well as the older kids.
Well, like someone already posted you can do the corporate thing. Although, what this will really amount to since you'll be fresh out of school, etc. will be helping people from India and other places lose their accents for call centers. You may be able to do some private practice accent reduction with the population you want on the side, but you may have a hard time keeping the "doors open". Fact of the matter is insurance doesn't pay for the population you are describing with the problems you are describing. Insurance (and increasingly only the families themselves) are much more likely to pay for your services to help the kid talk, eat, etc. and to help the geriatric population swallow, etc. So, if you really like the science aspect of things, I would honestly encourage you to switch to becoming a high school science teacher. I think you would be much happier. Really.
SLP has such a broad range of people we can work with.

In Grad School, you probably can't escape the special needs population as well as the children and the geriatrics. However, once you escape from Grad School, you can choose what you'd like to specialize in.

Even if you go into the schools and work with older children, you'll still be working with some special needs kiddos.

The big push now is towards early intervention, thus why we see so many little children.

You might look into something like a TBI hospital. A good many TBIs are males between 20-30.

Otherwise, you might be able to work with the accent reduction, stuttering, etc populations in a private practice type of setting.
I'm kind of like you. Except I totally admit that I'm scared to death to work with really low functioning special needs folks and I'm wondering if this will hold me back too, but I love the old folks, so hoping I'll be ok. I'm hoping I just need more experience and my comfort level will get better!
I want to add that you do get more "used to" certain populations even if you may never grow to love them. I am pretty staunchly against working with children--give me some TBI/dementia/aphasia/dysarthria in an adult container please--but my practicum this semester has been exclusively children with autism who are pretty low functioning. My first session, I thought I was going to die. I hadn't been around kids since I was a kid myself, let alone one with special needs. Since then I've gotten a lot more comfortable around kiddos and I've have picked up some good behavior modification strategies along the way. So yeah, it might seem overwhelming and even disturbing right now, but more exposure can definitely change your views. I know I am still a lot more interested in adults than peds but I wouldn't die if I had to take a job with kids which is a really big shift from how I was feeling earlier.

I wanted to add that I sense SLPs who offer accent mod tend to have to aggressively market themselves more than others simply because there are no real job postings for SLPs who exclusively work with that population. By that I mean, a lot of SLPs who do accent mod usually perform these services with private clients part-time in addition to more steady work through a school or hospital. I had a friend who was similar to you, who only wanted to do accent mod and she decided not to go forward with graduate school even though she took all the prerequisites. It's really up to you and what you feel is right. Good luck.
I think everyone starts grad school with ideas in mind about populations they want to work with and others they are absolutely not interested in/scared to work with. A good program will help you to build your confidence to treat any type of client and you might discover that your opinions about certain populations changes over the course of the two years of grad school. My classmates and I have definitely found this to be the case. For me, grad school was all about gaining confidence and expanding my views of individuals with communication/swallowing disorders. Though I have a special population I want to work with, as I'm about to graduate in 2 weeks, I would be happy to work with any population. It's okay to have some ideas about what you might want to do when you graduate, but it's really important to go into it with an open mind. The only thing that will make your fears go away is to dive in and gain more experience.

Working as a student clinician is different than volunteering with people with disabilities in a few crucial ways. You enter every treatment session with a carefully written plan, you're in constant contact with your supervisors to discuss your clients, and you always have a sense of your client's goals and progress. That lost/scared feeling one has sometimes when working with someone with severe impairments fades quickly because you'll have all the tools and support you need to provide intervention.
Look into TBI rehabilitation. The most at-risk group is young men in their teens, 20's, and 30's. They can be a lot of fun to work with if you enjoy cognitive rehab.

You'll have to gain clinical experience in all areas and age groups, and it's scary at first but it's worth it. I had to work in a preschool two days a week, which is the *last* thing I ever want to do again. I've also worked with elderly aphasia clients, autistics elementary students, home-bound ALS patients, toddlers with language delays, and I've even done hearing evaluations that took two hours each. None of it really changed who I want to work with (autistic people from all age groups) but it made the idea of working with other populations a lot less scary.