Speech therapists in big demand
TEMPE - Jeaneen Duensing's voice is crisp and clear as she questions her
preschoolers at Tempe's Getz School. She enunciates each new sound.
"Can you find something white?" she asks one boy, emphasizing the "wh"
sound. He stands and points to snowfall on the cover of a book.
Duensing's job is to help children articulate their sounds and communicate
As a speech-language therapist - and a bilingual one - Duensing is a highly
desired employee at schools across metro Phoenix, and the nation.
Speech-language pathology is one of the fastest-growing career fields with
schools, nursing homes, hospitals and private companies all competing to stay
Experts say that more frequent identification of speech problems among
school-age children, a higher incidence of autism, as well as an increased
number of older adults, has created a growing need for speech and language
And the baby boomers who currently make up much of the field are expected to
start retiring shortly, leaving schools in even more of a crunch.
The demand is even more pronounced for bilingual therapists, especially in
places like Arizona. It is sometimes necessary to assess the children in their
native language, because it can be difficult to tell if a struggling child is
not speaking well because of a language disorder or simply because they have not
yet mastered English.
The federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act requires school
districts to have enough speech-language pathologists to meet the needs of every
special-education student requiring speech therapy. Therapists work with
students - both in groups and one-on-one - to overcome
communication problems, either in making sounds or in language
comprehension, said Karen Palmer, a speech therapist who works for the Chandler
Unified School District.
Often, they serve children with disorders such as autism, Down syndrome and
attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder, plus those who have suffered
traumatic brain injury or are mentally disabled.