Giving kids the opportunity to communicate is Kristian Taylor’s passion.
“It’s not just speaking,” says Taylor who has been a Speech-Language Pathologist since 2008 and working for Lufkin ISD for the past 10 years. “Students can have language disorders, problems with processing what they hear, dyslexia, hearing impairment, neurological issues. It’s not just difficulty pronouncing the letter ‘r’.”
All of these learning impairments and more can come under the Speech-Language Pathology umbrella, which keeps Taylor busy collaborating with other departments in the district to make sure the perfect plan is in place for each student. In an interview with Taylor, she explains what her job looks like and why communication is so important.
What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?
There are no longer ‘Speech Therapists’ says Taylor. There are either Speech-Language Pathology-Assistants who have Bachelor’s Degrees and are monitored by a Speech-Language Pathologist, and Speech-Language Pathologists who can make treatment plans, supervise, and diagnose. Although, Taylor works with a Speech-Language Pathologist-Assistant, she is responsible for all 112 cases that are currently in her care.
How did you get your start?
I’m a proud Lufkin ISD alumna from the graduating class of 1997. I was a member of JV Drill with Mrs. Debbie Hemphill and Panther Pride Drill Team under Mrs. Lisa Griffin. I received a Bachelor’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University and a Master’s Degree from Texas Woman’s University. I began my career in 2001 as a Speech-Language Pathology-Assistant. I worked in public schools in Leon County and Trinity County before moving to The Woodlands and working for Conroe ISD for 6 years. During that time, I went back to school for my Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. My husband and I returned home to Lufkin in 2008. Sadly, there were no school positions available, so I worked in the medical setting for 4 years. I jumped at the opportunity to apply in Lufkin ISD when an opening became available in 2012. Public school is where my heart is!
What is your favorite part of your job?
The best part of my job is working directly with the students. Speech pathology covers all areas of communication from learning how to speak to developing language to stuttering. We get to work with children from the general education setting who might need to learn how to say a certain sound and children with greater needs who need pictures, sign-language, or an augmentative communication device to communicate.
Imagine going to work without a voice. You can’t speak and there is no way of letting anyone know what you need. Communication is not just speaking. We start somewhere and build up from there. When a family member comes to me and says ‘I don’t know what my child wants.’ It’s heartbreaking.
What is the earliest age a child can be to receive services?
The earlier the better. I manage a caseload of students ages 3-11 on multiple campuses who have Speech Impairments and often other disabilities. I am also part of a multi-discipline evaluation team who evaluates incoming 3–5-year-old children eligible for services through Lufkin ISD.
Tell me what inspired you to go into speech therapy?
I always knew I wanted to work with children in the educational setting, but it took me a while to realize I wanted to work with children with special needs. I initially began my major in Elementary Education. I changed my major to Early Childhood and then again to Counseling. Halfway through my Junior year of college, I went to the introduction class for Speech-Pathology and knew after one class I had finally found my passion! My best childhood friend’s mother, Paula Monson, introduced me to the field growing up and I had the privilege of working with her later. I actually took her position when she left Lufkin ISD and then she continued doing contract work.
Who was one of your favorite teachers/mentors?
There are many! In Lufkin High School, I had Mr. Mitchell for English my senior year. He was an excellent teacher who encouraged students to work hard to succeed and always gave useful words of wisdom. I also loved having Ms. Brewer for Art. She showed me I had the ability to be artistic (with a lot of instruction) and I have never forgotten how proud and confident she made me feel!
I have worked with many seasoned and experienced speech-language pathologists over the years. In Lufkin ISD, I had the good fortune to work with Julie Copenhaver, Melinda Bowman, and Paula Monson who graciously accepted me and taught me more than any college course ever could. I aspire to be as knowledgeable and wise as those ladies one day!
Spouse, kids, pets?
I am married to my high-school sweetheart, Matt Taylor. We have two daughters, Peyton and Ella. We have two dogs, Otto and Pepper, and a cat named Ollie. In my spare time, I love to spend time with family and friends. My family and I enjoy being outdoors and especially love going to the beach!
What are your goals for kids you oversee in therapy?
We love to dismiss our students from the program. They’ve worked so hard and we’ve given them the skills they need. Success is when you would have never known they ever went to therapy. Our goal as speech-language pathologists in Lufkin ISD is to provide EVERY child a voice, because EVERY child has something to say!