Coffee Talks with the Speech-Language Pathologists

Coffee Talks with the Speech-Language Pathologists

What They Are and How They Add Value for Parents and Students

By Sarah Burden M.A., CCC-SLP, Rachel Gerke M.A., CCC-SLP, Meredith Kaylor M.A., CCC-SLP, Alli Newton M.A., CCC-SLP

Our speech-language team serves a very important role at The Joy School supporting teachers and leading specials classes for students called Language and Cognitive Development classes. To help build relationships with parents and provide strategies for parents to use at home that complement strategies that they're teaching in their specials classes, our speech-language team hosts coffee talks for parents. Read on to learn more!

1. What is the purpose of your coffee talks?

During our coffee talks, we work on building community and connection, providing clarity of what happens in our LCD (Language and Cognitive Development) groups, and we answer any questions parents have and provide in-person examples of strategies and tools that we use with the kids in the classroom. We also provide parents an opportunity to share with us, and with each other, about the specific struggles and concerns that they are witnessing at home.

2. What kind of topics do you discuss?

We typically let the parents lead the conversation. We share based on their questions, concerns and needs.

3. What topics did you discuss at your most recent coffee talk in December?

During this most recent coffee talk, our conversation was centered around addressing some social concerns, executive function struggles (i.e. organization, planning, problem solving and time management) and the anxiety that sometimes stems from those particular struggles.

4. How can parents benefit from attending these coffee talks?

The coffee talks with parents help build relationships and community, not just between us and the parents, but they help parents build relationships among themselves as well. Many parents end up sharing with each other, validating each other's experiences and encouraging each other.

Another benefit of the coffee talks is that we are able to show, explain and model specific strategies and resources that we use in the classroom and provide specific examples of how parents could support their children in utilizing the same strategies and resources at home.

5. Is this your first coffee talk? If not, how many have you held over the years?

This was our first coffee talk this year. We have hosted the coffee talks off and on for years. Originally, we called them "brown bag lunches," and the first one was held in a temporary building behind the original Joy School house.

We host them off and on, more frequently when there appears to be a greater interest and or desire for more information from the parents.

6. How did the idea for the coffee talks come around?

The idea for the coffee talks originally stemmed from brainstorming ways to better connect with and communicate with parents in a meaningful way. As speech-language pathologists at The Joy School, our role is primarily a support role, and we work with so many students each year that it is difficult for us to attend every parent conference. Initially, we thought about the idea of office hours for the parents who were interested in talking to us more in depth about their child's language, cognitive and social needs. Ultimately, we wanted the parents to feel like they had direct access to us in an informal, welcoming and positive manner, so we came up with "brown bag lunches" with the SLPs. But as our school has grown and our schedules have changed, we rarely all have time to eat together, so that evolved into "coffee talks" with the SLPs, since we all have morning planning time together and that seems to be the best time for parents to attend as well.

7. What plans do you have for future coffee talks?

We would like to offer two more coffee talks during the spring semester - one specifically for kindergarten through third grade parents and a separate one for fourth and fifth grade parents. These will most likely occur just before and after spring break, and we will alert parents to them via The Joy School weekly email and our individual class updates. Ideally, we would like to continue offering at least one or two a semester based on the interest and the needs of the parents.

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Rachel Crockford

About the Authors

Meredith Kaylor went to The University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Speech Pathology from the School of Communications. Meredith went on to earn her Master of Arts degree in Speech Pathology from the University of Houston in 2004. Meredith enjoyed teaching language arts at The Joy School for two years. However, she loves getting to work with a greater number of students in her speech and language development groups. She is very excited about helping students become successful communicators and more strategic learners. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family, reading and traveling.

Degrees Held
Bachelor of Science in Speech & Language from The University of Texas at Austin
Master of Education in Speech & Language from University of Houston

Rachel Crockford

Rachel Gerke joined the TJS team in the fall of 2014. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Louisiana State University and Master of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders from University of Houston. She loves being a Speech-Language Pathologist at The Joy School and cannot think of a more rewarding career. Rachel believes TJS is an extraordinary place for students to build confidence and social skills. In her free time Rachel enjoys spending time with her husband, Brad, and new little one, Greyson.

Degrees Held
Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Louisiana State University
Master of Arts in Communications from University of Houston


Rachel Crockford

Alli Newton was born in Lafayette, Louisiana and grew up in Houston. She attended the University of Houston where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders, and her Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology. Before arriving at TJS, she worked in Clear Creek ISD at an elementary school, where she worked with students from preschool-age to fifth grade. Alli loves spending time with her husband, family and friends, and doing arts and crafts.

Degrees Held
Bachelor of Arts in Communication Disorders from University of Houston
Master of Arts in Communication Disorders from University of Houston



Rachel Crockford

Sarah Burden attended the University of Alabama – ROLL TIDE! – where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Communicative Disorders in 2008. She continued her education at the University of Houston to earn a Master's in Speech-Language Pathology in May of 2010. Sarah first fell in love with TJS when completing her graduate school internship in fall of 2009 under the supervision of Meredith Kaylor, TJS Speech-Language Pathologist. After graduation, she had the privilege of completing her clinical fellowship at The Parish School, where she was a preschool Speech-Language Pathologist. Meanwhile, Sarah spent four summers working at Camp For All in Burton, TX, serving children and adults with special needs and chronic illnesses. Sarah eventually made her way back to The Joy School in 2011. In the summers of 2012 & 2014, she spent her time volunteering as a Speech-Language Therapist in Mombasa, Kenya, serving at Mombasa Children's Therapy Clinic and Tumaini Children's Home and Sirio School. Sarah loves spending time with her family and friends, reading, traveling, being outside and eating good food!

Degrees Held
Bachelor of Arts in Communicative Disorders from University of Alabama
Master of Arts in Communications Disorders from University of Houston

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