For Megan Lancaster, her work with high-needs students is “more than just a job.”
There was never question for Megan Lancaster that she wanted to work with children. As a high schooler, she interned in a kindergarten classroom, thinking it was her start to becoming an elementary school teacher.
Yet, during that experience in a classroom, she found herself seeking a more personal connection with the kids. She began noticing how one student with significant communication needs worked with the school’s speech-language pathologist on an individual basis in and outside of the classroom. One day, Megan decided to tag along for one of those sessions.
“I was like, ‘This is it,’” Megan recalls. “It was a more intimate setting and there was more focused attention on the student. I wanted to be that person who believed in her and saw her year after year throughout that relationship.”
Megan never looked back, knowing that she had found her passion. Not only did it provide her a chance to work with kids, but it also gave her the opportunity to instill confidence in students who lack it as a result of their communication needs and disorders. She’s now an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist at a high-needs Title 1 school with a high ESL population.
“The vulnerable children, the unseen children have always been my heartbeat,” she says. “Kids that don’t have communication skills can sometimes look at life and think, ‘Shoot, I don’t have a place here,’ but I want to tell them, ‘Yes, you do.’”
One way she deepens her bond with her students is through “lunch bunch,” a reward option she offers where they can invite two friends to her classroom for lunch. While sometimes it’s simply an opportunity for kids to spend time together, Megan finds that her students often take pride in showing their peers where they go for speech and what they do. In these cases, she helps this side of their lives go from “unseen” to seen, while also giving the chance to know their friends.
Megan credits her ASHA certification for her ability to reach and support these students. When she got her certification after her fellowship year, it just felt like the “natural next step” given how much she had poured into her career at that point.
“Knowing that you’re going to have the latest research, therapy ideas, and programs is pretty huge in terms of being the best pathologist that we can be,” she says. “The continuing education aspect is important, because it’s all constantly changing.”
Also, as the speech pathology field becomes “more and more competitive,” having one’s CCCs opens them up to professional opportunities that might not be there without them. Additionally, by having her CCCs, it has also helped her connect with her peers in her field, particularly through ASHA conventions.
“It’s a neat community of people,” she says. “I’m blown away by how many people are there every year – it’s great knowing that there are that many people in this together.”
Whether it’s supporting her students or living out the principles of her CCCs, Megan says she believes being a speech-language pathologist is a higher calling unlike any other.
“We have this really awesome opportunity to play a role in a kid’s life,” she says. “It’s more than just a job – it’s way more than that.”