VSU alum finds her calling in speech pathology

Sep. 23—VALDOSTA — Kimberly Barnes, a Valdosta State University alum, has found her calling in the special education sector as VocoVision's new clinical manager.

VocoVision is a leading provider of telepractice services for U.S. schools across the country. The Columbus-based company supports and collaborates with telepractice teachers and clinicians who provide speech-language pathologist services to students from grades K-12.

Barnes earned her bachelor of science and master's degree in communication disorders from VSU. She also holds a speech-language pathology state license in Georgia and Maryland, as well as a certificate of clinical competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Barnes will oversee and support delivery of speech-language pathology telepractice services for K-12 schools and school districts nationwide.

She said she grew up with a legacy in the public school systems as her mother worked as an SLP for the Muscogee County School System for more than 30 years.

While she started out as a music major at VSU, she found herself drawn to working with students in need of speech services.

"I grew up hearing about it; I've always enjoyed seeing mom work with that population of special education students. I have a family full of educators, so going into speech pathology made the most sense to me because I've always enjoyed working with children and trying to help fix their articulation and language needs," she said.

During the last 14 years, Barnes provided in-person and virtual speech services and developed individualized education plans for students who have various types of communication disorders in both the public school and private practice settings.

She mentioned one of her crowning achievements was when she served as department chair of the Special Education Department for Harris County schools during the 2017-18 school year, overseeing the department's SPED teachers and nearly 100 students.

In that position, she championed a school-wide program that enabled teachers and students to learn functional sign language in efforts to improve communication with students that depend on sign language as a mode of communication.

Despite her dedication to helping hundreds of schoolchildren, Barnes said the strain of constantly being onsite led to her exploring new opportunities with VocoVision when a recruiter noted her previous work.

"After about 10 years of in-person, I experienced what people would call burnout. I have a heavy caseload working with the school systems and working in person was a little much. Having a child and a family of my own was when I got really interested in working with teletherapy," she said.

"I've worked both in Georgia and in Maryland over the years for a variety of counties moving from place to place. From Valdosta, to Columbus, to all of Georgia, to Maryland and back again. What led to the shift is that when you're working in person, there's a lot of pressure ... when you're doing teletherapy, you get the support system from your contract company and to the different teams like the clinical and technical teams. You have your recruiter backing you. You feel like you have a little more support and will be better able to serve the students."

Melissa White, director of clinical services at VocoVision, said Barnes' dedication to enriching students' communication abilities and her prioritizing inclusion in her collaboration with parents and educators alike made her a natural fit for the role.

"It was clear during our interview with Kim that her experience both in schools and in telepractice would be valuable for our clinical team. She had leadership experience that would help us in supporting telepractitioners and the students they provide services to. Kim thinks outside the 'therapy box' and comes up with solutions that make good sense in the virtual world," she said.

For more information on VocoVision and teletherapy, visit https://www.vocovision.com/.