Bertram Elementary School speech pathologist Lisa Woodruff is one of a team of specialists who helps students struggling with communication. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
Walking into Lisa Woodruff’s room in Bertram Elementary School, students are greeted by bright colors, a campground setting on one wall, and lots of space and games. It’s all to create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere, said the speech pathologist.
“The kids don’t even really know they’re actually in therapy,” Woodruff said. “I try to make it fun.”
Woodruff is one of four speech pathologists in the Burnet Consolidated Independent School District and works with campus and homeschooled students.
“We’re definitely a team,” Woodruff said. “If one of us has a question or comes across a problem we need some help in, we know we can turn to each other. It’s all about helping the kids.”
Speech pathologists work with students on:
speech sound errors;
receptive language (how a child understands language);
expressive language (how a child uses words to express themselves);
pragmatic language (use of appropriate communication in social situations);
and fluency disorders such as stuttering.
“We also evaluate and create goals based on a student’s individual needs, and then we document the progress each student makes,” said Jennifer Miller, the speech pathologist at Shady Grove Elementary.
“Speech therapy is a big umbrella,” Woodruff added.
BCISD offers speech pathology services to qualifying children and young adults ages 3 to 21.
Erin Neely has two children who went to Woodruff for speech therapy.
“We’re so fortunate to have that service available to us because private speech therapy would probably be pretty expensive,” she said. “Being able to communicate is important to kids. Their ability to communicate with people, it helps them make friends, it helps them stand up for themselves and speak up. We’ve been so happy with the service and especially Lisa. We think of her as part of the family.”
Miller typically meets with eight to nine groups of students a day, all with varying needs.
“Some of my students are not talking yet, so we are working to build imitation skills through play or book tasks, point to or exchange pictures, or share items,” she said. “Some of my students just need specialized instruction on how to make specific sounds, and others are working to improve grammar and comprehension questions.”
Communication is key in students being successful at school and beyond, Woodruff said.
“Communication is something we all need, and with kids, it’s so important, not just for their ability to communicate but also for their confidence,” she said. “When they make progress in their communication abilities, you can just see them become more confident.”
Getting kids help is the first step, Woodruff added.
“I want parents to know that we’re here,” she said. “It’s a good service, and it’s OK if your child needs help. That’s what we’re here to do: help. And I want parents to know we’re going to love their kids like they’re our own.”