September 30, 2018
As kids we tend to believe that we will have our lives figured out by the time we attend college. We believe that school, degree and career path will align later in life. In reality, many people are currently struggling with these questions and the decision gets more difficult with each passing day, semester and year.
For Sandra Lucas, it was during her senior year at the University of Washington that she discovered her purpose and was introduced to a career path that had never crossed her mind. She accepted a position as student research assistant at the Autism Lab, supporting families affected by autism spectrum disorders through innovative services, scientific research and training.
“The opportunity allowed me to observe highly-skilled SLPs in action and witness the profound influence they had on the children and families they served. I will forever cherish and appreciate that invaluable experience,” adds Lucas.
SLPs can help children with autism improve their verbal, nonverbal and social communication. The overall goal is to help the child communicate in more useful and functional ways. Some children on the autism spectrum are not able to speak, while others love to talk, but have difficulty holding a conversation or understanding body language and facial expressions when talking with others.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Sandra immediately applied to the University of Washington’s post-baccalaureate speech and hearing sciences program that started the following year. She spent her gap year working as a technical recruiter.
A Rewarding Career With THF
Sandra learned about Care Options for Kids, formerly The Hello Foundation (THF) through one of her graduate program clinical practicum placements. After spending one term at the Hello Clinic, she was hooked. Her first contract was with a local district, and she switched to hybrid roles the following year which worked better for her family. The clinicians at THF specialize in speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, school psychology, assistive technology, autism support and early intervention.
“I fully experienced the culture and level of expertise of their clinicians through this practicum. As an aside, Bob Buckendorf was working at the clinic at the time and he is/was a BIG deal in our field and area. I admired him greatly and wanted to be a part of a reputable organization that valued such high standards of care,” added Lucas.
Currently, Sandra is beginning her third year with THF as a SLP for the Aberdeen School District, serving an elementary and high school. She conducts teletherapy sessions with all of her students with the help of her speech technician.
“I love the relationships I've made with staff and families. Serving this community through the pandemic has given me the opportunity to form very strong bonds with families and staff that wouldn't otherwise have been possible.”
“I also love that I'm at a point in my career where I feel confident in my ability to serve a diverse school caseload and can also specialize in my area of passion, which is orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs),” said Lucas.
In addition to her role as a SLP, Lucas serves as school marketing manager for THF. This position has allowed her to learn many new programs and platforms, while integrating her clinical knowledge and background. She manages all social media platforms to promote recruitment and retention, as well as highlighting our culture and core values.
A typical work day for Sandra includes waking up around 6 a.m. and starting the day by tackling all marketing-related tasks. By 7 a.m. her kids are waking up and she’s getting breakfasts and lunches ready for her four and six-year-old children before she drops them off at school/preschool. By 9 a.m. all is calm and she’s ready for work.
“The people, first and foremost, is what makes THF a unique place to work. The level of skill and expertise within THF has always amazed me. Beyond that, the hybrid service delivery model is unique and districts really love it. It adds the human element, which is so necessary for establishing relationships among colleagues and fostering collaboration.”
Mandatory Work-Life Balance
At THF, a work-life balance is essential. Staff is supported both professionally and personally, at work and at play. This simple concept guides everything clinicians do on a daily basis, and it proves beneficial for the kids and families THF serves.
The flexibility and work-life balance Sandra has achieved through her position is another huge reason she chose to stay with THF and in this position. Working from home allows for more time with family, and when working on site, she typically stays in a cabin on the beach.
This past year has been big in terms of career growth for Sandra. She became specialty-trained and is now able to assess and treat OMD's.
“I took a leap of faith and signed up for a very expensive three-month training program earlier this year and have started to see patients, as well as develop and sell treatment materials."
Sandra’s three tips for new clinicians include:
- Prioritize self-care and work-life balance! Don't tolerate high caseloads.
- This field often feels like the more you know, the less you know. Roll with it and ask all the questions.
- You're better than no one!
Note: “The last tip was something one of my grad school professors said to us and honestly, it's my favorite. It's applicable in all aspects of life, but especially true when you come out of grad school and feel like you know nothing!”
Care Options for Kids, formerly The Hello Foundation is proud to be a part of the Care Options for Kids Community. At Care Options for Kids, we are committed to making a difference for our people through empowerment and encouragement to be there for themselves and their own families. We provide the choices and opportunities our people need to enhance their lives and grow their careers so they can provide better care for others. We believe in making a difference in every way, every day.
With locations in Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Oregon, Washington, California, and Wyoming, the Care Options for Kids Community offers a wide range of pediatric health services, including pediatric therapies, ABA therapy, nursing, Family Caregiver Services, and school-based services.
At THF, we hire speech-language pathologists, speech-language pathology assistants, school psychologists, and occupational therapists. Our community of professionals fosters growth for one another and for the kids we serve. Join our team!