February 1, 2013 Departments

Overheard: Speech Community Rallies Around Sandy Hook’s SLP

Connie L. Malgrande lost students and adult friends the day of the horrific shootings on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. An outpouring of support followed her original message to friends and colleagues on the SIG 16 online community. The Leader listened in.


December 17, 2012

To My Dear SLP "family"

I work at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Ct. I was spared the horror of the events on Friday, Dec. 14, as I was not in the building that day. However, I was glued to the TV looking for my friends and students as they fled the building. I lost two students and six adult friends. Many of you from around the country have written me e-mails of support and I wanted to take a minute to thank everyone. I read this blog every day and have never posted a message. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I learn so much from all of you and share it with my "speechies" in Newtown all the time.



Connie, on behalf of the Missouri Speech-Language-Hearing Association, please know our prayers are with you and the families of all of your students and will be for a very long time.

Speech/Language Pathologist


From all of us in Santee, Calif., who, sadly, experienced the same type of tragedy at Santana High School, our hearts go out to you and all of the families and staff.

Marian Rashap
San Diego, Calif.


You and the people you have lost are in our thoughts and prayers here in Montana. We couldn't be more heartbroken for the loss of so many innocent lives. Be strong.

Kellie Troop
Hamilton, Mont.


St. Paul's Cathedral (Episcopal) held a prayer service last night. We hope and pray that our prayers were felt in Newtown.

Lucynda Olberding
Edmond, Okla.


I am the SLP at Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka, Ill. We are so mindful of the sorrow and loss for our colleagues at Sandy Hook School. My beautiful school was rocked in 1988 by the first shooting of this kind; how tragic to even write the word "first." Your staff and families are in our prayers. Every day.

Joann Decker
Winnetka (Ill.) Public Schools


May peace surround you at this most painful time. Please know that thoughts and prayers are with you to carry you through this difficult time. Know that your SLP family is with you as you reunite with the children you serve and help them communicate whatever their needs are. Hold these young ones close.

Susan K, Thompson
Chelmsford (Mass.) Public Schools


Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers as you go through this most difficult time. Words cannot express the sorrow so many feel over this tragedy and we cannot begin to fathom what you, the community of Sandy Hook, and all of those directly involved must be going through. May it be some small comfort to know prayers are being lifted on your behalf.

Carol Casserly, MA,CCC-SLP
Newton, N.J.


My thoughts and prayers are with you and all the families at Newtown, Conn.

Dawn Dougherty
Barnegat, N.J.


You and all the families in Newtown are in our thoughts and prayers.

Elaine Rau
Arlington Heights, Ill.


Right here in a neighboring district. If you should need anything to help get you back, please do not hesitate to contact me here in Weston.

P.S. My students worked all day making beautiful snowflakes for Chalk Hill!

Ellen Horowitz
Weston, Conn.


I'm one of the school-based bloggers for ADVANCE for SLPs. I had a blog this week and felt I had to write something about what happened at your school. I couldn't help but think about the SLP at that school and what he/she was going through. Please note this blog was inspired by you (indirectly as I had no idea who the SLP was at that school when I wrote this piece): http://community.advanceweb.com/blogs/sp_2/archive/2012/12/19/everyday-heroes.aspx.

Valerie Lill
Mechanicsburg, Pa.


I just read the blog you sent me. I don't know how to express to you how much this has helped me today. Just last week I sat with my principal, Dawn Hochsprung, and expressed how I didn't feel I was having an impact working with my students, and how ineffective I felt working with my most challenging students. Of course her first response was, "What do you need? What can I do to help you?" I didn't have a response for her as I honestly didn't have a good answer. She then proceeded to tell me how wonderful I was, and at the time I wasn't feeling like I was too wonderful. That was the last conversation I had with her.

After all that has happened, and losing my dear coworkers and a couple of my students last week, I have realized that being an SLP is what I do and a big part of who I am. I am going back to our new Sandy Hook School and look forward to welcoming my kids in my in my new speech room with a big Dawn Hochsprung smile, and helping them the best way I can. I know Dawn will be right there with me whispering in my ear to give me strength and courage.



Mrs. Hochsprung sounds like she was an amazing principal and a wonderful person. Her heroic acts are inspiring and we should all aspire to be more like her. Your words are a beautiful tribute to this very special woman. She will be missed...by all of us.

Susan Smith
Carefree, Ariz.


Our hearts go out to you from Washington. I am in the Bellevue School District, though I live in Seattle. Please don't hesitate to let us know if there is anything we can gather for you.

Please have a peaceful break and Christmas/Solstice/Holiday.

Sandra Hirsch
Seattle, Wash.


During our District 60 (Illinois) speech-language department meeting yesterday, we held a moment of silence for Sandy Hook's students, staff and families. We are keeping all of you and every one of your angels in our thoughts and prayers. God bless all of you in Newtown, Conn.

Mary Henke
Hainesville, Ill.


A member of our Tucson Unified School District Exceptional Ed Department has a contact with the PTSO of the new school your children will be attending. For the past couple of days, the employees in Central Office have stopped by to create snowflakes for the new school. We will also send a "flurry" of positive energy, hope and renewal as you all endure this difficult transition.

Lori Taniguchi
Tucson, Ariz.


I just want you to know that the entire country, and especially our community of speech-language pathologists, is holding you up in our prayers and thoughts this week, sending you every ounce of our strength. Wonderful that your old principal is returning as interim-she sounds like a terrific choice for leader. And I must say that I am relieved that someone like you will be leading the students with speech-language needs.

As the parent of a child who died as an infant 16 years ago, my best advice would be to know that grief is not a straight-line experience, even for adults and most especially for children.  Know that there will be amazing moments of love and gratitude, sometimes simultaneously with deep sadness. Softly, gently, ride the waves with your kids and your adult friends. The most amazing, most helpful thing that people said and say to me, no matter what the time or circumstance, is "tell me about her."  It gives me the freedom to laugh/cry/celebrate/remember/be angry or whatever else I need at that moment. Four words. Extremely powerful.

Virtual hugs,
Louise Valente
Irvine, Calif.


You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Tammy Jean Flynn
Raleigh, N.C.


Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

Carla Mahan
Lubbock, Texas


I am in an elementary school in Wake County, N.C. Most parents protected their kids from TV information. Teachers talked about the tragedy at appropriate levels for the age group. Our older kids wanted to do something, so the students also made snowflakes to send to the students at Newtown. Staff was given ACA Trauma Resources and ASCA School Crisis resources. I have only glanced through the information but, depending on the student (or parent), the information may help. The tragedy is so horrible people are going to need to talk about it for a long, long time. A lot like Columbine, where my niece and nephew attended.

Kathleen Borkowski
Raleigh, N.C.


To all the staff at Sandy Hook and surrounding schools in Connecticut, our district's thoughts and prayers are with all of you, the victims and the victims' loved ones. Your teachers are heroes, every one of them. God bless. -

Mary Henke
District 60, Hainesville, Ill.


Our thoughts and prayers go out to you and the families and friends in your community. Some things are too deep for words. Please know that we are thinking of you at this incredibly difficult time.

Shirley Brummett
Raytown, Mo.


Thoughts of healing~~

Terri Tobias Mathis
Brownwood, Texas


I work at University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. We send our thoughts and prayers to you and everyone in your community at this time of intense sorrow and loss.

Patricia Schraeder, MS
Barneveld, Wis.


Please know that we, too, have been praying for your school and your community. Our hearts are broken for the children and their families. No one knows just what we can do for you all, but perhaps knowing the entire country is praying for you might help just a little. May you be surrounded by peace and love this Christmas season.

Emily Trujillo
Casper, Wyo.


I, too, have had the families and school community of Sandy Hook School in my thoughts and prayers. The community is a wonderful one, and I know they are helping each other through this awful tragedy.

Please let us know if the school needs anything. I know there are donation collections being done through the PTA. Unfortunately, I don't have the link to that information to post here.

Shelley Lloyd
New Hartford, Conn.


Your beautiful niece is a wonderful second-grade teacher, with whom I have the honor and pleasure to work. Amy has talked about what a great role model you have been to her for years. Please know that you are in my thoughts as I work with my students every day. May the love and support of our SLP community surround you, as you go forward.

Barbara Raymonda
New Hartford, N.Y.


Our hearts are broken over this senseless tragedy, and we mourn the loss of each precious member of your community. Please know that you are in our thoughts in Minnesota.

I wish you and all of Newtown peace and healing.

Cindy Vachon
Minneapolis, Minn.


I can only imagine what folks there are feeling. It would be overwhelming. Grateful you didn't have to witness it on-site, but there is nothing that can take away the pain of losing folks. We cannot make sense of the senseless.

I know I have lost colleagues in car accidents, from cancer, etc., and kids to fires and getting hit by cars, but never so many at one time. My heart is with you. Hope you are getting the support and comfort that you need.

Sindy Sands
Vancouver, Wash.


Are able to access the therapy materials that you had at Sandy Hook? Do you need new materials?

Janice Creamer
District Heights, Md.


Right now I believe all of my things have been packed and moved to the new school. It's just a matter of unpacking and organizing, which I am hoping to do next week. I have my iPad, so that is a good thing.



I know that I will be praying for your strength as the SLP at that school in talking to your students over the next months and years. As SLPs, I find that our room is often where students feel safe in discussing their concerns. I would love to have this community help you generate suggestions for resources that might help you support your students, who will likely be going through the stages of grief for a long time. 

Louise Valente
Irvine, Calif.


Some local volunteers will be bringing some snowflakes to you. I've asked my friend Brittany to stop in and say hello if she is able. My daughter made six large and 20 small 3-D snowflakes that Brittany will be bringing next week. I will be thinking of you as you make this transition. Enjoy your new technology!

Judith Jollimore
Ashby, Mass.


I wrote my first message regarding members suggesting resources to you, and then had an idea.  One wonderful organization that I am in went to Amazon and made a "wish list" with a shipping address and items that would be helpful. They then provided the link to those of us who might feel led to support them.

I have read the news about teddy bears and other resources pouring in to your community, but I wonder if there are specific items might be more helpful to you as an SLP. I can't speak for anyone else on this list, but I know that if you would like to create a list like this, and share the link here, I would be the first to assist in providing any materials that might help you work with your students. They are so lucky to have such a thoughtful SLP supporting them-I am betting that you have already begun thinking about this topic. Paints? Puppets? Paper supplies? Craft materials? Books on grieving? Let us know how we can help you.

P.S. If you do it through Amazon, it automatically lets everyone know when an item is purchased. I would suggest an alternate address to the actual school address, as I am guessing there is a pile of items there sent from all over the country. You are going to need support personally as well-if you had personal items that would help YOU stay centered, I would be most happy to see them on the list as well.

Louise Valente
Irvine, Calif.


From the Hartford Courant today. Newtown has requested that no more toys or food be sent. They have a warehouse full of toys to distribute.

If folks want to send gift cards to local businesses in Newtown, they can be mailed to: Chris Kelsey, Town Assessor, 3 Primrose St., Newtown, CT 06470.

OR there is a United Way Fund. Donations can be mailed to Sandy Hook Support Fund, c/o Newtown Savings Bank, 39 Main St., Newtown, CT 06470 OR to the Newtown Memorial Fund operated through the United Way of Western Connecticut (http://newtown.uw-westernct.org).

Also, from the Waterbury Republican...Contributions donated through the website www.donorschoose.org/newtown will be divided equally among Newtown teachers who can use the money for materials and special projects, or pass the money along to another educational effort.

I also heard of a fund established through the PTA, but that info was not in the paper today.

Connie, is there a preference? I know I would like to help the students and teachers at their new school.

Shelley Lloyd
New Hartford, Conn.


Yes, these organizations would be the best way to support SHS. I know people out there are trying to do 26 acts of kindness, and I also know there are many districts in the country that have much less than we do in Newtown. Anything we can do to support each other would be a great tribute to the children and staff lost on that day.

I went to the new school yesterday and with help from my SLP BFFs set up my speech room. I now have a whole classroom for speech, not just a tiny office space. There is so much room! They even installed a Smartboard. I have no idea how to use it, but I know the kids will love it once I figure it out. If anyone has any speech and language lessons for the Smartboard, I would love for you to share them with everyone.

Paper snowflakes and artwork from around the world are slowly starting to fill the hallways and it is going feel like a winter wonderland when we all return next week. There will be a lot of language therapy happening from the classrooms to the speech room as we talk about all the beautiful things around us.

Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for everyone's support. SLPs are a special group of people and I am proud to be a member of our community.



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