Featured CAS – Kathleen Larkin

Kathleen E. Larkin MS, CCC-SLP, CAS

City/State: Coventry, Rhode Island

School/ Organizations: Burrillville School Department


I Graduated with Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Rhode Island. This is my 7th year working as a Speech-Language Pathologist in the public schools. I am currently working for the Burrillville School Department in an early childhood school with Kindergarteners and First Graders with a variety of speech-language needs, including several students on the Autism Spectrum. I hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence, and I am also a member of the Rhode Island Speech-Language Hearing Association (RISHA).

1) How has earning the Certified Autism Specialist been meaningful and satisfying?

Students with autism are definitely one of my favorite populations to work with. I find them both interesting and fascinating. The continuing education that is required to maintain the CAS ensures that I am up to date on the latest knowledge and research so that I can provide the most effective therapy to my students. All speech-language pathologists have some basic knowledge of autism; however, since I’ve always been interested in learning more about autism, I have always gone above and beyond to attend workshops/conferences to increase my knowledge. Earning the Certified Autism Specialist designation sets me apart and lets people know that I do possess a more in depth understanding of autism.

2) How has the CAS credential effected your professional growth?

I am an added resource for my school district when planning for students with autism. Teachers are able to ask me for suggestions for their students with autism if they notice a particular issue happening during the school day.

3) What changes need to be made in your work environment?

As in all schools, more time for collaboration would be ideal. Students with autism require collaborative approach in order to be the most successful across settings throughout their school day. In the busy school day, there just never seems to be enough time to comprehensively discuss students as much as we would like. Along the same lines, it would be great to provide all adults in the school (specialists, paraprofessionals, cafeteria staff, custodians, etc) with the same basic knowledge of autism so that they can better understand these students and why they sometimes do the things they do. Everyone that I work with does everything they can to help students to be successful on a daily basis, but it would be nice for everyone to understand these kids a little better. It would be great if there was a certificate available for paraprofessionals who will be working 1:1 with a student with autism. As they will be spending the most time with these student, it is imperative that they possess, at the very least, a basic understanding of autism in order to most successfully support these students.

4) How do you like to be recognized, acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done?

Seeing my students succeed is the best reward. If I can play a role in creating a successful environment for a student who was once struggling with getting through the day, or create some sort of communication system for a nonverbal student and reduce frustrations, that is a reward in itself. The CAS identifies me as someone who is able to help these students to be successful. Any other recognition or acknowledgment is icing on the cake.

5) What is your greatest challenge or roadblock?

Scheduling! There are so many times when I have had several students that could benefit from a therapy group together and they are in different classes which all have different schedules. Sometimes, students have to be paired together in groups simply because of who they happen to be in class with, rather than pairing them with other students who have similar needs.

6) What makes you feel like a valuable contributor?

I feel like a valuable contributor when teachers ask for my advice/suggestions about their students. I also feel like a valuable contributor when students’ home clinicians attend IEP meetings and thank me for painting a clear, comprehensive picture of their student’s days at school.

7) What support, tools/resources, skills or empowerment do you need to be more effective?

Having the support of my colleagues and administrators allows me to be most effective. Opportunities to attend conferences/workshops to keep up to date on the latest developments in autism ensure that I am providing the most successful therapy.

8) What strengths or talents do you possess that aren’t being used?

I have a background in dance, and I would love to be able to figure out a way to use this more in my therapy. There is research out there about music and autism, and many of the kids with autism that I have worked with have loved music and movement. I feel as though there is a way that I could piggy back on that and incorporate dance as well.

9) What de-motivates you?

I can’t say that there is anything that de-motivates me. I try to look at obstacles in a positive way. I live by this quote: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” ~ Charles R. Swindoll

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