The Best Speech-Language Pathologist Blogs from ‘A to Z’

Editor’s Note: In her daily work at PediaStaff, Heidi is Editor in Chief of the popular PediaStaff Blog for pediatric and school based therapist, and also created the PediaStaff’s Pinterest Site  for therapists and parents of special needs children.  The company’s continuing work to educate, share resources with, and support the special needs community has been featured on Parents.com, and Love That Max, (an award-winning special needs blog).   In addition, PediaStaff has been recently profiled by the well-regarded social media blog, The Realtime Report, for their innovative work on the Pinterest social media site.

 

Author’s Note:   I would like to thank the following speech-language bloggers for contributing to this article:  Activity Tailor, All 4 My Child, Future SLPs, Play on Words, Speech Lady Liz, and Speech Room News.

 

The number of Speech-Language Pathologists blogging and engaging in social media grew steadily in 2011. Those of us who are active on Twitter (we call ourselves the #SLPeeps), have been sharing articles and resources on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Recently though, the new social media kid on the block, Pinterest, has made it easier than ever for SLPs to engage each other and share ideas. And with all the sharing going on, it has given bloggers a new place to network their ideas and find inspiration for new ones. While I am not sure exactly if there is causality, it seems that Pinterest is inspiring SLPs to jump into the blogging world. We have counted at least nine brand new SLP bloggers since the first of the year and all of them are also on Pinterest.

I was recently speaking with Maggie McGary, ASHA’s Social Media guru, and we started talking about how great it would be to survey Speech-Language bloggers and compile a short-list of ‘must follow blogs’ for both SLPs and their clients.   Sean Sweeney has compiled a great list of blogs in the SLP Blog Bundle, but he doesn’t have a list of exactly who is in there, nor does he describe them anywhere one by one. So, since we have relationships with a great many of the regular speech and language bloggers already through our blog at PediaStaff, I mistakenly thought that I was well-suited for the job of compiling a ‘Best Blogs’ list. I emailed our contributors with a straw poll of sorts to get their votes for the best speech and language blogs in each of several areas. I waited patiently for results, and planned how I would deliver the findings to you in this column.

The results? Well…. The moral of this story is that there isn’t a short list! There are now a dizzying number of blogs to follow and most of them are definitely worth reading. What’s more, our respondents found it impossible to rank as “better” or “best” because they all have their own flavors and angles.

After the ‘best laid plans,’ fell through, what emerged was a list of the active blogs that were submitted as favorites, ordered from A to Z , plus some that are brand new that deserve notice.   In order to make this list, the blogs needed to meet the following criteria:

  • written by a speech-language pathologist or current graduate student
  • currently active
  • writes about (or shares resources on) speech language topics at least once a week (preferably more)
  • directed to either clinicians, parents and caregivers
  • has good ongoing continuity without multiple periods of inactivity in the past
  • professional and well edited for spelling, grammar, etc
  • shares more general resources and news than it does information on their own products or services

It is important to note that note that neither PediaStaff nor any of the contributors to this list specifically endorse any of these bloggers, nor make any claims to the clinical competence of the authors. In fact, a few of these bloggers keep their full names to themselves to protect their privacy, so we have no way of verifying if they are who they say they are. Please make your own informed decision as to the effectiveness/appropriateness of what these clinicians are sharing.   I know this is by all means not a conclusive list (especially since new great new blogs seem to be popping up like daisies!) but as of  March 2012, the following are the speech and language blogs that PediaStaff and our colleagues recommend that also meet the above criteria:

Activity Tailor – Kim Lewis, M.Ed, is a private practitioner working in school settings.  Her lovely blog includes easy, creative treatment activities and private practice tips. I especially like her clever seasonal ideas and occasional commentary pieces.

All 4 My Child – This Edublog finalist for best new blog offers book reviews, searchable by goal or theme with activities for use to meet therapeutic goals. This site also shares uniquely collaborative therapy ideas, experiences and musings related to social interaction written by co-treating SLPs and OTs.

ASHASphere – You are reading it now.   Definitely a “greatest hits” blog with tremendous articles for speech and language clinicians daily!

Becoming Olivia SLP – Olivia is a graduate student in Canada chronicling her experiences as an SLP student in video log (vlog) format. She is full of energy and creating quite a bit of chatter for herself amongst the ‘SLPeeps.’

Chapel Hill Snippets  – Ruth Morgan is a school-based clinician who highlights her “assorted observations both in work and play.” Her blog is insightful and well-written. Ruth’s free therapy shares (often downloadable books) are especially popular and well done.

Child Talk – Becca Jarzynski, who specializes in autism, writes a wonderful speech and language therapy blog for parents/caregivers that should not be missed. Her articles offer concrete ideas for parents to help their child communicate during “everyday life.”

Cindy L. Meester’s Blog – An oldie but a goodie, Cindy Meester’s blog has been extremely popular with SLPs since before blogging (and reading blogs) was trendy. While she blogs about all sorts of topics, she was recognized by the Edublog Awards as a finalist in the Ed Tech category.

Early Intervention Speech Therapy – Stephanie Bruno Dowling has a well-known blog on Advance for SLPs and Audiologists. It is unique among the blogs on this list in that it is only one of a few that specialize in Early Intervention.

Eric Sailers’ Blog – Eric is a former school-based clinician who blogs about technical applications for SLPs. He is also the creator of several apps including ArticPix.

Erik X. Raj, Speech Language Pathologist – Erik is a creative SLP, best known for former blog ‘ArticBrain’ which shared how to really engage kids in speech with humor and talk of ‘boogers’ and bugs! He is also blogging on Pocket SLP.   His current blog is a video blog.

Hanna B. gradstudentSLP – is a brand new blogger who has come onto the SLP blogging scene just in the past eight weeks. So far, she has made some very nice (and quite frequent) posts on a variety of school-based topics.

In Spontaneous Speech – This blog was recommended to us recently by several bloggers that speak highly of Cindy. We have started following her and suggest that you check her out as well.

If I Only Had Super Powers  – This blog is another “oldie but goodie” that has been around since long before blogging was popular. Although we have not gotten to know this blogger personally, she is on our ‘must read list.’

Jill Kuzma’s SLP Social & Emotional Skill Sharing Site – Jill works with students with Asperger’ Syndrome and other high functioning students with social and emotional needs. This blogger is well-respected among her peers in the industry and her blog has much to offer.

Let’s Talk Speech-Language Pathology – Brand new in February of 2012, this is a student blog with some nice potential. We are looking forward to reading her thoughts and ideas.

Little Stories – Kim Rowe’s parent oriented blog is new to us, but was recommended to be in this list by our colleagues at All4MyChild. Based on what we have read so far, it seems to have some great resources and insights for caregivers of young children with speech and language delay.

LiveSpeakLove – Another brand new school-based SLP blogger, Lisa at LiveSpeakLove, is an SLP in the Baltimore County Public Schools. She has creative activities and offers up a bunch of great Boardmaker shares, often with a seasonal bent.

The PediaStaff Blog  – I feel a bit awkward including our own blog in this list, but the contributors to this article insisted that I mention it. With posts up to five times a day, the PediaStaff blog aggregates and presents a collection of the clinical articles, treatment ideas, and news. Our staff combs over 100 therapy blogs, websites, and news wire feeds daily,  to ensure that PediaStaff readers receive the best information available as it is happens and is written.

Play on Words – This unique, ‘must-read’ blog focuses on toys, games and books that facilitate language development. Sherry Artemenko writes excellent book and product reviews, and also offers up specific ways parents can sneak speech language therapy practice into family fun time at home.

Playing with Words 365 – We discovered this blog through Pinterest. SLP blogger Katie is also certified in ABA. She has a well developed blog that, although written for parents and caregivers, is quite popular among her peers in the profession.

Say What Y’all – Here is yet another brand new school-based SLP blog with great promise. Clean and fresh, Haley Villines’ blog has a modern and creative feel that is echoed by her excellent articles, so far.

Speech Gadget – ‘Deb T., SLP’s’ blog features a variety of articles on books to use in speech language therapy, tools, websites, apps and other online resources. On hiatus for a bit, she seems to be back in action with regular (and excellent) posts and tips.

The Speech Guy – Quite active in the #SLPeeps community on Twitter and Facebook, Jeremy Legaspi, SLP, writes primarily about technology. His articles on worthwhile apps, interactive websites, and technology are definitely worth reading.

The Speech Ladies – This mother and daughter team has an excellent school-based blog full of colorful posts, creative ideas and free downloads. Highly recommended!

Speech Lady Liz – Liz Gretz is a second generation SLP with a great deal of energy and creativity. Her blog is oriented to parents and professionals alike and features tons of colorful, culturally relevant activities that the kiddos can get excited about. She is also very active on Pinterest.

Speech Room News – Young and full of energy, school-based SLP Jenna Rayburn posts fresh, fun activities to promote speech and language goals. New last year, the site was awarded First Runner-Up among in the Edublog 2011 awards in the ‘Best New Blog Category.’ PediaStaff is proud to have made the initial nomination of Speech Room News for this award.

Speech Techie – Sean Sweeney is no stranger to technically savvy (and wanna-be technically savvy) SLPs. He is a regular presenter at both ASHA and Boston University on using technology for Speech and Language therapy. This blog is a must read and is a past EduBlog first place winner in the ‘New Blog’ cateogory.

Speech Time Fun – “Miss Speechie” is also a brand-new and already prolific young blogger. Her posts are full of colorful, creative and fun ideas for the classroom.  She is active on Pinterest and often modifies ideas she finds there through a speech/language lens.

Sublime Speech – The explosion of creative new speech blogs continues with Sublime Speech. Lots of ‘Do It Yourself’ activities with free downloadable versions of her creative and ‘hip’ creations! Another one to watch!

Talk It Up Speech Therapy – Ashley Dyer McGeehon’s ‘Talk it Up’ is another brand new one to watch online. A school-based SLP, her ideas are current, interesting, and engaging.

Therapy App411 – This new group blog, also an Edublog nominee, is a collaborative effort of several of our favorite therapy bloggers. The aim is to review smartphone and tablet apps through a therapy lens. Is a must follow for SLPs interested in using smartphones, tablets and technology in the clinic and classroom.

There are several other blogs that I would like to offer honorable mention to that didn’t meet all our criteria.  For the most part they are just not posting often enough  (how dare those student bloggers pay more attention to their classwork than their blog!) or have taken too many extended breaks from blogging.   Please be sure to check out:  2 Gals Talk About Speech Therapy, Cree-zy, Crazy Speechie, Easy Speech and Language Ideas, Future SLPs, Geek SLP, Heather’s Speech Therapy, Landria Seals’ Blog, The Learning Curve, Lexical Linguist, Mommy Speech Therapy, Pathologically Speaking, and The Speech House

 

Heidi Kay is one of the founding partners of PediaStaff and is the editor-in-chief of the PediaStaff Blog, which delivers the latest news, articles, research updates, therapy ideas, and resources from the world of pediatric and school-based therapy. PediaStaff is a nationwide, niche oriented company focused on the placement and staffing of pediatric therapists including speech-language pathologists.


 

Interview Tips

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Photo by Javrsmith

This blog post will help you prepare for interviews and improve your chances of landing a great job. Please note, that while some of the advice offered here may seem obvious to you, it might not be obvious to everyone, and we would rather share things that sound basic rather than omit something that we assume you know.

These tips are provided for your consideration for both direct hire positions as well as contract assignments. Although a contract job is not a “commitment for life,” the employer conducting the phone or face to face interview will be looking for a strong indication that you are committed to the position you are being considered for and that you are truly interested in their district. Many interviews for contract jobs are done strictly by telephone, and as such are often perceived by the candidates as less important as an interview that takes place face to face. In fact, the opposite is actually true. A telephone interview may be your only chance to make your best impression. It is much more difficult to get the “real you” across by phone, so you need to make the most of every minute by preparing ahead of time.

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW:

Research the employer in advance. Learn specific details about the organization, the department, and specifics about the job so that you may be as informed as possible about them. Most of this information can be found on the organization’s website or by “Googling” them and reading articles you find online. If you are working with a recruiter they should be able to help you collect much of this information, but whatever else you can learn on your own will only serve to help you even more. For example:

  • Size – the number of clients served, and if it is a school based position, the number of schools, administrators or managers.
  • Recent awards and honors the company, district or organization has received.
  • Reputation – How is this employer or school district perceived in the city/town compared to others.
  • Administration – a visit to the school or company website will generally lead you to current news and information about the organization.
  • The makeup/census of the caseload – What are the economic, geographic, cultural and socioeconomic factors for the families that you will be serving. If the employer is a school district, is it growing or shrinking?
  • How big is the department? Number of therapists? Number of administrators?
  • Total number of clients/students served – Is the caseload growing or is there attrition?
  • If a school, how are the children served? Are the students served through a pullout model? Are therapy sessions done one on one or in groups?

SPECIFIC JOB QUESTIONS TO HAVE ANSWERED BEFORE THE INTERVIEW:

  • Why is the job available?
  • Exactly where is the position located?
  • What will be the population and makeup of your particular caseload?
  • Is there a supervisor over your area or will you report directly to the Director or Assistant Director?
  • How many hours am I guaranteed (or can I expect) per week?
  • Is paperwork done by computer or manually, and will I be provided with all the tools I need to succeed?
  • Email address of the interviewer so you can send him/her a “thank you” note.

All of this will not only create a stronger image of you in the interview, but likewise will provide you with a better basis for evaluating the opportunity if an offer is made.

FOR THE PHONE INTERVIEW:

  • Schedule a time where you can give the interviewer your undivided attention.
  • Keep the interview “clinical” and focused on the job duties. Other, more general questions can be answered by your recruiter or through your research.
  • Don’t talk about money yet. If you are working with a recruiter, they will have that information for you. If you are interviewing on your own, get through the interview first and follow up with human resources for salary information.
  • Let the interviewer ask his or her questions first to ensure that the interviewer covers all that they want to learn about you. If there is time, feel free to ask job related questions.

FOR FACE TO FACE INTERVIEWS:

  • Getting there: Have good directions and allow plenty of time to get there.
  • As a starting point, it is critical to understand that the impression you make in the first few minutes of the interview generally sets the tone for your success or failure for the entire interview.
  • Dress conservatively; avoid bright colors. Make sure hair is clean and neatly styled. Avoid perfume and cologne but make sure you wear deodorant to control perspiration and odor.
  • Be exceptionally courteous to everyone you meet.
  • Even if you’re having a bad day, put on a smile and show your enthusiasm for the job. Many hiring decisions involve more than one candidate. Personality and motivation are often tie-breakers.
  • If you want the job, ask for it. At the very end of the meeting say why you’re excited about working there and that you’d like to have the position.

 

Heidi Kay is one of the founding partners of PediaStaff and is the editor-in-chief of the PediaStaff Blog, which delivers the latest news, articles, research updates, therapy ideas, and resources from the world of pediatric and school-based therapy. PediaStaff is a nationwide, niche oriented company focused on the placement and staffing of pediatric therapists including speech-language pathologists.

Resume Preparation Tips

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Photo by bpsusf

(This blog article has been adapted for ASHASphere from the “PediaStaff New Graduate Guide.”  Click here to download the entire guidebook.)

A resume is a “living” document that will grow with each new job and professional experience. That said, it should concisely and effectively describe and sell your most relevant credentials. An employer will spend very little time reviewing your resume, so it must be clear and targeted for the type of job you are applying for. You may have more than one resume with different objectives. Don’t be afraid to “toot your own horn” because if you don’t, nobody will!  Beware of typos and grammar errors as these will leap right off the page.  Remember, this may be the only time you get to make an impression on an employer!

Before Writing the Resume:

  • Compile your educational experience. This will include all degrees you have completed or are in the process of completing, as well as relevant courses and seminars.
  • Catalog all your work experience such as your clinicals, therapy-related jobs, and positions working with children (special needs as well as typical). Also include jobs which demonstrate your leadership and interpersonal skills whether they are speech related or not.
  • Make a list of your honors, scholarships, academic and community achievements.
  • Put together names of all of the professional and community organizations to which you belong.
  • Choose three references who will speak highly of you (check with them first). Get their full names, titles, phone numbers, and email addresses. Also ask them how they prefer to be contacted.
  • Create a record of publications and papers you have written and presentations you have given.

Writing the Resume

  • At the top of the resume put your name, address, phone number(s) and email address. Only include references to blogs or social networking sites if they are exclusively used for work. We also recommend that you open a free account just for your job search. Gmail or Yahoo are great for this.  Also, make sure the voicemail message on the phone number you have listed is clear, professional, and states your name.
  • Declare your objective, the type of job you are looking for, and the population you wish to serve. This should be short and general. Do not close the door on any type of job you might have an interest in. Create a second resume if you find that your possible career objectives don’t work well in one document.
  • Create your educational information section. Working with most recent first, list the schools, city, state, year of graduation and the degree earned (or expect to earn).
  • Write your experience/work history. List this experience in reverse chronological order. Include title of job and use descriptive action words to describe your duties and responsibilities. Examples are “achieved,” “communicated,” “recommended,” “provided,” etc. Avoid passive verbs like “have written” or “was selected.”
  • Add a section for publications or papers you have presented, if relevant.
  • Create a section for any honors you have achieved. These honors should include academic, civic, and any other awards you may have received in the community.

After Writing the Resume

  • Show the completed document to a trusted friend, professor, or peer who can proofread it, look for things you may have missed, and help you with any areas of confusion.

Heidi Kay is one of the founding partners of PediaStaff and is the editor-in-chief of the PediaStaff Blog, which delivers the latest news, articles, research updates, therapy ideas, and resources from the world of pediatric and school-based therapy. PediaStaff is a nationwide, niche oriented company focused on the placement and staffing of pediatric therapists including speech-language pathologists.

The SLP New Graduate’s Timeline for Success

Road to Uluru

Photo by Jo@net

(This blog article has been adapted for ASHASphere from the “PediaStaff New Graduate Guide.”  Click here to download the entire guidebook.)

We’re sure you’ve heard the old adage that “Timing is Everything!”  This has never been truer than as you take the next step toward becoming a Speech Language Pathologist. This blog article will help you navigate what we like to call the “road map to success.”

At the Beginning of Your Degree Program:

  • Create a favorites folder in your computer browser where you can start to catalogue the various websites of job search and clinical resources that you will come across.
  • Start ‘networking socially’ specifically for your profession. For example, join Twitter and follow the “#SLPeeps” hashtag, join the ASHA LinkedIn group, and if you are going to work with kiddos, the Pediatric and School Based Therapy group on LinkedIn.
  • Subscribe to all professional newsletters and blogs you can find relevant to your course of study. Many of the not-for-profit organizations that specialize in specific communications disorders have robust newsletters that contain information-packed articles and current news items. SLPs are prolific bloggers! Sean Sweeney of the Speech Techie blog has put together a great Blog Bundle of 17 bloggers that blog about speech-language pathology topics.
  • Begin preparing your professional resume. List all pertinent class work, projects, awards, publications, and workshops you’ve attended. Also include para-professional employment and volunteer work if applicable. Use bullet format please. This is a work in progress!
  • Since I am not fond of “Don’ts,” here are a few “Do’s” for you to consider when beginning your search:
    • Do post your resume…but limit where and how many…YOU take control of your job search.
    • Do choose your recruiter carefully…the right one is your “best friend and ally” in your search.
    • Do stay focused on what’s important now….your clinical experience and preparing for your professional exam.

In the Final Year of Your Degree Program (6 months from graduation):

  • Continue working on items in the section above.
  • Begin the process of identifying your location preferences and communicate them with the recruiters you’ve identified and others who you have asked to help you with your search.
  • Set up a separate email account (Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) for ONLY job search related issues. Keep it professional! (For example: jsmithslp@yahoo.com, or sjonesslp@aol.com)
  • Update your resume. Include all clinical work…quantify whenever possible (worked with 8 students at John Jay Elementary School…list diagnoses and treatment used.)

Three Months from Graduation – During your Clinical Fieldwork

  • Same as above. Begin to narrow down your employment preferences.
  • Definitely start connecting with a recruiter that you trust in your area to discuss job prospects, specifically one that will customize a search for you.  Establish and convey your availability for phone and face-to-face interviews to that person or persons.

Two Months from Graduation

  • Schedule your PRAXIS exam if you have not already done so.
  • Make sure you update your resume to include clinical affiliations and resend to everyone that you previously sent a copy.
  • Develop a reference list – Ask your references for permission so they know you’re listing them, and ask each for a written reference, these are sometimes helpful.
  • Build a schedule of available times for phone interviews and visits with prospective employers.

One Month from Graduation (Oh my Goodness, it’s Getting Close!)

  • Continue to conduct interviews as needed.
  • Begin licensure research, review requirements for the state(s) you are interested in.
  • Develop plans for relocation (if necessary).
  • Finalize your resume with graduation, professional exam results, and any articles published or continuing education taken.
  • You should be in weekly contact with the recruiter(s) that you are working with.
  • Be sure to have your relocation plans in place to include cost of relocation.

We highly encourage you to plan for some down time for yourself! It is important for you to begin your new career rested, refreshed, and ready to tackle the challenge ahead!

Heidi Kay is one of the founding partners of PediaStaff and is the editor-in-chief of the PediaStaff New Graduate Guide [PDF], and the PediaStaff Blog, which delivers the latest news, articles, research updates, therapy ideas, and resources from the world of pediatric and school-based therapy. PediaStaff is a nationwide, niche oriented company focused on the placement and staffing of pediatric therapists including speech-language pathologists.

So you want to be a Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist? Making Sense of (and Choosing) the Best Settings and Terms for You – Part Two of Two

(This article was adapted for ASHA from the the “PediaStaff New Graduate Guide” [PDF])

In my last article I reviewed some of the basic terminology that you need to know before starting your job search as a pediatric or school based SLP. We talked about ‘terms’ (‘direct hire’ vs. ‘contract’ and ‘travel’) as well as definitions of the different pediatric settings such as school-based, outpatient clinic, hospital or early intervention. The ‘term’ part isn’t too hard to decide if you sit down and make a list of your priorities. However, it is much more slippery for someone like me to suggest exactly which setting is best for you, because there are a variety of factors specific to your particular search that should have a far greater impact on your choice over just the setting. So we will chat more about those factors and other practical considerations, rather than the ‘pros and cons’ of each.

TERMS: Direct, Contract or Travel?

The advantages of direct hire placement often include opportunities for professional advancement. The size of the organization that you are joining will also determine whether and how quickly you can move into a supervisory role. Benefits may be better in a direct hire environment, especially with larger organizations. Generally school districts have excellent benefits; and although the pay is much lower for district employees vs. contracting, therapists with large families may find that the better benefits package outweighs the lower annual salary. Large hospital systems, as you might guess have better benefits than small privately run clinics, which might not offer any.

Travel or contract placement can be preferable for a therapist in several situations. For one, pay is generally much higher when contracting. If you are traveling in a state or city away from your permanent place of residence you may be eligible for tax-free per-diem to cover the costs of your housing and meals while working away from your primary residence. This can be a fantastic way of socking away some extra cash for later because the money that you are spending on your daily living is not taxed like it is when you are working at home. Traveling/contracting is also ideal if you are looking to explore new areas of the country for a while.

Depending on your personality, what your leadership potential is and the type of chemistry you are looking for will influence what type of direct hire position you should consider. Are you looking for a large team where you can share your experiences with peers on a daily basis and rise in the ranks to eventually manage, or are you looking for a tight knit group where you may have a chance to work with a wider variety of clients, with a range of populations and diagnoses.

Settings and the ‘Rest of the Story’!

So you say, “Ok, I understand the different terms. What can you tell me about the pros and cons of all of the different settings?” Well, for this one, the ‘devil is in the details.’ It is impossible to generalize (so I won’t even try) the advantages and disadvantages of one setting over another because every employment situation is going to be unique based on size, location, demographics of the client base, the clinical population, caseload, and most importantly the people who work there. The clinician with no roots and flexibility to move anywhere has the unique privilege of choosing his or her preferred setting in a vacuum, but most of us have to work within certain geographic parameters. If I live in a big city, I can’t work in a small country school house.

For most of us, it’s going to come down to the people. Do your homework. How often does the staff turnover? Are there long term employees you can talk to who can tell you why you should work there? What is the reputation of the company or organization? 99 times out of 100, the places that are ranked the best companies and organizations to work for get those rankings because of the people working there and the culture created by those people.

To be sure, there are also other practical considerations that will “trump” even the quality of the people. A new graduate in her Clinical Fellowship probably isn’t best served if she is working alone in home-health setting, even if the clinic with the contract is a wonderful employer. Better to work with babies in a hospital with someone who can mentor you first if you must work with babies.

On the travel/contract side, there are also practicalities that might fly in the face of what you might really want to do. The best candidate for a school-based, travel or contract position with peds is the SLP with his or her C’s. But just because you are experienced doesn’t mean the short-term jobs will be easy to find everywhere you might want to go. Competition for local short term pediatric positions can be fierce. Most hospitals, for example, will reward a current clinician who is working with adults in another part of their organization a temporary transfer to the pediatric unit before hiring someone from the outside. Additionally, would-be travelers to major cities must compete with local PRN pools. Short term openings in medical and home-based settings do exist, but the trick is finding the employer that will offer money for living and travel expenses. This is where working with a good agency that knows the ins and outs of the school and pediatrics market comes in.

And then, of course, there are the realities of being a new grad. If you are a new grad and need to complete your CFY you may be a bit more limited if you want to try contract or travel therapy, but the opportunities do exist if you know where to look. As you might imagine, it is fairly costly to bring on a CFY. So you will need to find an employer who a) will need you for the entire nine months; b) has the means and staff to supply you with supervision, and c) needs you badly enough to pay for your supervision despite the fact that they will essentially be training you to leave after the year is up. At PediaStaff, we place a large number of CFY’s in schools all over the country. The key is just knowing who has the critical need.

In Summary – Be Open Minded and Write it Down!

All this said, if you have a setting that you are particularly excited about, certainly check out all your options – but don’t get too emotionally attached to that choice, in case reality doesn’t jibe with your ideals for your ‘dream job.’ Sit down with pen and paper and answer questions that can help you prioritize which things will be most important to you. You might even call on a friend, loved one, or professional mentor to be a sounding board to help you answer questions like these:

  • How important are specifics about cash money and/or benefits?
  • Do you want to see the country or be closer to family and friends?
  • How much drive time or are you willing to have or are you willing to move across town?
  • How important are opportunities for advancement?
  • What is your ideal caseload size, population age and diagnosis?
  • What about the SLP staff? What is the quality of the supervision available if you need it? How about their experience and specialties?
  • Is it better to wait for a particular experience that I want later in my career in favor of something that needs to take higher priority in my current situation?

Remember too, much will depend on what job offers actually arrive on your table and whether you have the good fortune to have options. When you sit down and start to make your list of priorities, you will quickly realize that your choice will probably have a lot more to do with the people who are currently (and will be) in your life as well as the kinds of kids you want to treat, more than it will be about exactly what type of setting it is.

Happy searching and remember to stay relaxed and enjoy the journey!

Heidi Kay is one of the founding partners of PediaStaff and is the editor-in-chief of the PediaStaff New Graduate Guide [PDF], and the PediaStaff Blog, which delivers the latest news, articles, research updates, therapy ideas, and resources from the world of pediatric and school-based therapy. PediaStaff is a nationwide, niche oriented company focused on the placement and staffing of pediatric therapists including speech-language pathologists.

So you want to be a Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist? Making Sense of (and Choosing) the Best Settings and Terms for You – Part One of Two

kids holding hands walking in the street

Photo by fiskfisk

When we were at the ASHA convention in Philadelphia this past fall, our team met many enthusiastic clinicians who are excited to use their education and training in Communication Disorders to work with children. I was struck, however, by the fact that there is a fair amount of confusion with the terminology describing both the settings and the terms of employment for SLPs that work with young people. This post will be the first of a two-part article where I will clarify some of the basic terms, and then in the next part I will review some of the practical issues to consider as you choose a position as a pediatric or school-based SLP.

The biggest area of confusion is what the term “pediatric” means in the field of therapy. Most of the healthcare community considers the “pediatric” population to be the group of patients who are under the age of 21. In general, the medical settings (hospitals, rehab centers and outpatient clinics) use this broad-based definition.

When school and government subsidized therapy organizations talk about “pediatric,” however, they are talking about a different population – namely children aged ‘birth to five.’ These kiddos are actually separated into two additional sub-categories, Early Intervention and Pre-K.

Early-Intervention (also called EI) is the term used for home-based (or “natural setting”) services for the birth to five population. The employer of record for an SLP wanting to provide EI speech services varies widely by state. In most states independently contracted SLPs are hired directly by the government EI agencies themselves and through clinics that contract with the state. In a few states, EI services are provided by the public schools.

“Pre-School” or “Pre-K” are campus or clinic based services for children aged three-five. This one makes sense to pretty much everyone!

“School-Based” or “Education Based” services are those for children ages 6 to 18 taking place in a Kindergarten through twelfth grade setting. Of course, within the schools market there are public and private as well as charter schools – public schools with independence that feel more like private schools.

We also field a lot of questions about the different “terms” of employment – especially the difference between “travel” and “contract.” Lately too, the term “direct hire” has replaced the expression “permanent position.” So let’s sort it out.

  • Direct hire is the traditional employment situation where you work ‘directly’ for a hospital, school or pediatric clinic. Historically, this type of employment has also been called ‘permanent’ employment.
  • A “contractor” is generally a therapist who lives locally to the organization that is hiring but is compensated hourly and paid through a staffing agency or back office payroll company.
  • A “traveler,” like a contractor, is also paid hourly and paid by an agency or back office but has arrived from out of town for the duration of the assignment and usually qualifies for a tax-free per-diem to pay for the expenses associated with living out of town while maintaining a residence back home while on assignment.

Therapists living away from their permanent residence (defined as where you are currently paying rent or mortgage) are eligible for “per-diem.” The spirit of this allowance is to exempt from taxation any duplicate expenses affiliated with work that would not be necessary were you living at home. A traveler working for an agency will generally be a W-2 employee of the agency, not for the client where he or she works.

Contractors, because they are local, do not have these additional expenses and are not eligible for per-diem or housing. Contractors may be W-2 or if they are self-employed may receive a 1099 at tax time. IRS rules and regulations regarding 1099 employment are very tricky. This could be a whole different blog article. Suffice it to say, tread carefully if you are asked to work for someone else on a 1099.

Whether you are a seasoned therapist and are familiar with all these terms, or a new grad that is overwhelmed with all your options, there is a lot to think about before you choose a new position. Here are just a fraction of the questions you should ask yourself:

  • What type of kiddos with what types of diagnoses and issues are you looking to work with?
  • Are you a new graduate that needs to complete your CFY, or are you a seasoned practitioner?
  • What is more important to you right now in your situation: cash money or benefits?
  • Can you relocate?
  • Do you want to stay close to home or do you want to live somewhere else for a while?
  • Are you looking to do hands-on therapy or do you want to use or learn management skills?
  • Reward vs. Frustration: If you think a direct hire school-based position is your preference, are you willing to put up with some of the challenges that come with working for a government entity in exchange for the rewards of working with public school children?

In our next post we will talk about some of the practical issues to consider before deciding on a position. Relax! This really is a fun and exciting journey if you take your time and think about it.

Heidi Kay is one of the founding partners of PediaStaff and is the editor-in-chief of the PediaStaff Blog, which delivers the latest news, articles, research updates, therapy ideas, and resources from the world of pediatric and school-based therapy. PediaStaff is a nationwide, niche oriented company focused on the placement and staffing of pediatric therapists including speech-language pathologists.