CFY (Coming For You)!

stage

I’m a big fan of musical theater (I was so excited Jessie Mueller won a Tony this year.  She was wonderful.). I’m in awe of the performers who seem to sing, dance and act with equal aplomb.  And then they go out and do it in front of a live audience.  Every day.  Twice on Wednesday and Saturday. Where do they find the endurance?

Well, baby, I’ve got news for you.  You’re about to star in your own show.

There is no denying the difficulty of grad school. You’re taking classes in everything, even the stuff that might not be your cup of tea.  Ideally, your clinical fellowship year is in an area you particularly enjoy and the everyday implementation of book learned skills will certainly give you many ah-ha moments. What can be difficult is the frequent observation, knowing, or maybe not knowing, that someone is on the other side of that two way mirror.  There is a feeling of being constantly “on.”  Even paperwork remains a performance. I would drop into bed at night, completely spent.

I actually had two CFY experiences.  The first was my dream job. I was a preschool therapist in a local school system and my job included home visits/evaluations, lessons within the preschool handicap classroom, individual pull-out therapy for many of those same kids, other children that came only for speech, and screenings–lots and lots of screenings.  I’d been working at my school practicum the previous spring in the same location so I knew the staff, some of the kids and had a relationship with my supervisor.

Then life intervened.  My husband and I married in early August which gave us time to honeymoon before the first day of school.  But as the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men….”  Within the first month my husband was transferred to Atlanta, a five to six hour drive from where we were living, and needed to move immediately.  I gave notice that I would leave at the Christmas holiday, started packing our wedding gifts and began to look for a new placement.  (Yes, my husband left a couple months before I did.  Not an auspicious start to married life, but we made it work.)

My second placement was equally as dreamy–out-patient rehab for a large children’s hospital with lots of experienced therapists, including OT and PT, to learn from and watch. The experience I gained there truly shaped the clinician I am today.  So much so, that if I were to give one bit of advice to a new therapist starting out it would be to work where you have lots of interaction with more experienced clinicians. I know you’re sick of being watched, guided, and yearn to start doing your own thing, but…for me, it was the best possible thing that could have happened. (This is where I spent two years exhausted.  I was finally starting to get my feet under me, doing some mentoring myself, and feeling less stressed by the whole process when, guess what, transferred again.)

I share this because I think we get so close to a situation we aren’t seeing it anymore. My situation was unique, but these things come up for lots of reasons.  Sometimes CFYs take place in more than one location or setting.  There might be a short “pause” right in the middle. It’s ok.  Show close and new ones open.  Break a leg!

 

Kim Lewis is a pediatric clinician in Greensboro, NC and blogs atActivityTailor.com.  Attendance at the ASHA convention this fall qualified her for an ACE award (7.0+ CEUs in a 36 month period).

 

Continuing Education: The Options; The Reality

conted

Kids, my own or those I work with, are often slightly astonished that I like school—genuinely like school.  They can’t believe I willingly went to school beyond college and even now happily sign up for multi-day seminars.

Apart from the fact that it’s required for us to maintain our certification (30 hrs or 3.0 CEUs/3-year maintenance period) and the ethical obligation to stay current with best practices, I truly enjoy hearing about new methods, gathering information and collaborating with others in our field.

As a result, I’ve racked up a lot of CEUs over the years and  have found not all CEUs are created equal.  There are marked differences between the types offered and unless you’re really just trying to cross off credits, you need to know which will best suit your needs.

ASHA or State Convention

ASHA provides up to 2.6 CEUs; or up to 3.15 if you register for pre-conference activities.  State conventions will vary, but .6-1.4 CEUs seems to be the standard.

Pros:

  1.  There are lots of different topics available, sometimes on very niche issues that wouldn’t make sense, or be cost effective, for an entire seminar.
  2. If you realize 10 minutes into a session that it isn’t what you expected or that the speaker is so dry you’ll be nodding off if you stick around, you can simply hop up and move to another session.  At ASHA you can follow the Twitter feed to find out where the good stuff is happening
  3. Go with a friend and you can double the amount of information you receive (though your credits stay the same).  It’s a certainty that you will find some times slots overflowing with sessions your dying to hear—split up the work.
  4. It’s also a certainty that some time slots will have no compatible sessions to your interests.  No worries, head to the exhibit hall!  The exhibit hall at ASHA requires you to set aside a decent chunk of time, but even the state vendors are worth a look.  This is an outstanding opportunity to see new products, have someone walk you through scoring on a new assessment tool, or find resources for referral in your area.  And don’t forget the giveaways—you won’t need new pens for a year!
  5. Networking is a huge opportunity, especially at ASHA when participants are staying in the area for a few days.  You can meet up at the ASHA sponsored events or join smaller groups like the #SLPeeps at dinner.  You’ll get more information, recommendations and camaraderie than you thought possible and head home reinvigorated about the profession.

Cons:

  1.  Though there is tremendous variety in topics some of them can be fairly obscure, but, hey, that means there really is something for everyone.
  2. The title and even the couple sentence description can be misleading.  You may not really know what you’re walking into until you’re in it.
  3. The sessions are short!  Unless you pony up for a short course, the sessions are 30min-2 hrs.  Sometimes I feel like we’re just getting started when they start wrapping it up!
  4. There can be, for better or worse, a lot of anonymity at a big conference.  If you want to network, you’ll need to put yourself out there otherwise you’re one person in a very large sea.  I think I saw that ASHA broke records this year with over 14,000 attendees!

Seminars

This will vary widely depending on the topic and number of attendance days.  Most will provide up to .6 per day.

Pros:

  1.  You can really delve into a topic at a seminar and the sign-up literature is usually very specific as to what will be covered.
  2. Seminars move around quite a bit and you might get to see one of the stars of our profession in a smaller setting that allows one-on-one interaction at some point (yes, I’ve asked for autographs).
  3. Seminars tend to be more clinically based, rather than strictly research, so you will usually find yourself implementing new techniques, maybe even materials, the day you get back.
  4. Seminars tend to have more participatory components.  You might get to try out techniques on other therapists, write plans/goals, or play a “patient” yourself.
  5. Keep your eyes peeled and you can attend something very close to home, even if you don’t live in a metro area.  This can cut down on costs substantially.

 

Cons:

  1.  If you’ve made a bad decision, you’re pretty much stuck.  Get a cup of caffeinated coffee, try to muddle through awake and ask a lot of questions.  Some speakers will improve with participant interaction and at least you’ll get some of the info you were looking to find.
  2. You can get quite a few hours in with a one or two day seminar, but it will likely take a few to cover your total CEU requirements.  You need to consider travel costs, but seminars themselves are usually pricier/hour.
  3. Some seminars have a bit of a cult-like feel.  If you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid yourself, that’s fine, but if you’re a dissenter and question the theory … you might find the room gets a little chilly.  Oops.

At Home Options

Again, this varies widely.  You can take on-line courses as short as an hour (.1 CEU), or sign on to a webcast and get a few hours.  An ASHA on-line conference like the one on Neurodegenerative Disorders (2/19-3/3) can earn you up to 2.6.  There are also DVD or CD courses and self-study journal article options.

Pros:

  1.  The convenience of CEUs earned at home can’t be ignored.  You can do them at your leisure, devoting just a bit of time each day or make it a marathon session and knock it all out at once.  You can do it before the kids wake up or after they go to sleep, or during a snow day.
  2. With no travel expenses, the cost can be much lower than other alternatives.  ASHA SIG members can earn very inexpensive CEUs through self-study as well as discounts on other related ASHA courses.  SpeechPathology.com offers a yearly subscription for unlimited on-line courses.  Specific organizations such as The Stuttering Foundation have very economical DVD classes.
  3. You have a lot of flexibility in terms of topic.  There are lots and lots of courses available and you don’t need to wait for it to arrive somewhere near you.

Cons:

  1.  You’ll need some discipline.  Make that quite a bit of discipline.  It’s really easy to let a stack of DVDs sit, and sit…and sit some more.  It’s even easier to start a course only to find you never finished it.  Be honest with yourself and what you are likely to accomplish.
  2. The quality of the DVDs/CDs will be fine, but in a world of surround sound and fast paced cable shows you will be astonished at how slow a lecture moves.  Speakers that are dynamic in person are often diminished on film when you lose the energy of the audience as well.  And beware if you stop a DVD and try to find your place again later!  When the “scene” never changes, it can be frustrating to try and relocate your stopping point.
  3. Interaction is often limited.  Live webinars and conferences will give you an opportunity to ask questions, but other options lack this ability.

In the examples above, I’m referring to ASHA-approved course,s which are required for the ACE award and can be tracked through the ASHA CEU Registry.  However, ASHA does permit other CEU credits to count toward your certification maintenance.  Check the guidelines for information on continuing education credits without pre-approval.

Kim Lewis is a pediatric clinician in Greensboro, NC and blogs at ActivityTailor.com.  Attendance at the ASHA convention this fall qualified her for an ACE award (7.0+ CEUs in a 36 month period).

Finding Strength in Vulnerability

Teacup!

Photo by pheezy

Perfectionism has a strong allure. At one time I thought it was an admirable vice, demonstrating a drive for excellence, but in the past decade I’ve realized that perfectionism is much less about Olympic-like performance and much more about guarding your vulnerabilities.

Like many women, once I had children, I had a good hard lesson in our inability to exert control over our lives. Oh, sure you can pack hand sanitizer in your purse, stick an umbrella in the car, keep chicken tenders in the freezer, but you’ll always miss something. Maybe you’ll send your son in to school with shaggy hair and an old tshirt on picture day, or suddenly realize that not only was your child due at a birthday party 30 min ago, but you don’t even have a gift.  So, now I’m a recovering perfectionist, looking to treat myself with the same compassion I would a friend and practicing taking bumps in the road in stride.

One of my summer reads was The Gifts of Imperfection by Berne Brown. Truth be told, it was on last summer’s reading list.  See how I’m making progress?  Brown spent years researching shame before turning to her own journey of wholehearted living and I liked her idea that imperfections are not inadequacies but “reminders that we are all in this together.”  Their gifts are courage, compassion and connection.

This particularly resonated with me in light of the welcome session at ASHA Schools 2012.  Jennifer Abrams presented “Hard Conversations” the practice of which does require a dose of courage. She doesn’t advocate confrontation for the sake of confrontation, but does encourage us to speak our minds, advocate for what needs to be accomplished, risk being outspoken and opinionated.

I think this is a particularly tough role for a school therapist. Frequently we feel a bit outside the usual school hierarchy, not quite as entrenched or comfortable as we would want to be, especially if we were going to make waves. Yet, sometimes this outsider status might give us a better perspective on changes that need to be made, or to advocate for students or families that aren’t getting the services they deserve.

Other times, this might mean advocating for ourselves, whether that means defining our role or (as recent #slpeeps conversations and other blogs have covered) asserting our “speech-language pathologist” title. It’s less important to be well liked and a perfect employee than it is to live up to the values that brought you to the profession in the first place.

At my house we have exceedingly hard glazed dinnerware that I specifically chose for its durability. A few years ago, one of the mugs was thwacked solidly against granite and suffered a chip on its lip. I moved it to the back of the cabinet and it was almost never used. Last winter, I purposely pulled it out as my afternoon tea mug and I use it most days. It’s a good reminder to me that even with a vulnerability the main purpose is still maintained. And as far as a gift of imperfection?  I can always tell which tea is mine.

Care to share? Let us know if you struggle with perfectionism or enjoy a more carefree attitude.

 

(This post originally appeared on Activity Tailor.)

 

Kim Lewis M.Ed, CCC-SLP has a private practice for pediatrics in Greensboro, NC. She is the blogger at www.activitytailor.com, providing creative ideas for speech therapy, and the author of the Artic Attack workbook series.

Take a Speech Vacation

Summer vacation 2011 friends and family

Photo by kevin dooley

Everyone’s in the midst of planning summer vacations, signing up for camps and stocking up on popsicles and sunscreen.

May I make a recommendation? Take a break, maybe even a big break, from therapy at some point this summer.

Odd advice coming from a therapist? Perhaps. But I’m a parent too. Certainly consult your own provider(s), but let me list here five very important reasons you should take 5 this summer.

  1. Get perspective: There’s nothing like uninterrupted time together to realize, “Hey, this is so much easier than last year”, or “Wow, the waitress understood her order!” or “He can put on his Velcro sandals himself now.” It’s hard to see growth when you’re staring at it all day. Sit back and bask in the accomplishments no matter what the size.
  2. Re-evaluate goals: Therapists have great ideas for achieving the chronology of development, but they don’t live your life. Maybe it’s 3:00pm, he’s tired and fussy. You know he needs the peach smoothie in the blue cup before nap because you’ve been running this script for years. So maybe you aren’t so vested in a verbal request for “drink,” “smoothie,” or “nigh-nigh” (especially if you’re on the brink of the only quiet 30 min. you’ll get in your day). But getting him to say “Mimi” on the phone to your mom, which would make her year, even if he did it without communicative intent? It’s ok to prioritize this way. Figure out what you care about.
  3. Decrease mileage: Gas is expensive and the emissions are bad for the environment—so go green. Even more importantly, lose all that time spent commuting to appointments and sitting in waiting rooms. Use it on playing and living.
  4. Integrate lessons: A skill learned in therapy is useless if you can’t achieve it in your everyday life. The connections your child is making when they ask you for “more” on the playground swings? And then uses it again on the slide? That’s mastery. Practice carry-over.
  5. Build confidence: Both you and your child need to realize that it’s not the professionals getting you through the day—it’s you. Scary, I know, to think “the buck stops here?” You’re doing better than you think. Get assertive. “The buck stops here.”

Now….send us a postcard.

(This post originally appeared on Activity Tailor.)

 

Kim Lewis M.Ed, CCC-SLP has a private practice for pediatrics in Greensboro, NC. She is the blogger at www.activitytailor.com, providing creative ideas for speech therapy, and the author of the Artic Attack workbook series.

Shooting for Good Speech!

This activity is one I pull out from time to time as a special treat and is a particular hit with the boys.  A year or so ago, my son and his grandfather put together a fabulous catapult.  The lid/target combos are the perfect ammo for launching.  (See my post, “Lots of Pros” from April 10, 2012 for instructions on making articulation target lids).

We run through our first set of words which I’ve inserted into the lids.  Then, I have them say the target a couple more times before we launch it from the catapult.  Sometimes we see which word goes the furthest, sometimes we set up a basket and see if we can get any in it.

Click to Play

The building instructions for my catapult came from “The Art of the Catapult” by Gurstelle.  I did a quick search online and there are several kits for catapults that would probably work, as well as instructions for a plastic spoon/popsicle stick version that goes together fairly easily (I’ve seen these put together….many times!).

Give it a try and launch something new!

(This post originally appeared on Activity Tailor)

 

Kim Lewis M.Ed, CCC-SLP has a private practice for pediatrics in Greensboro, NC. She is the blogger at www.activitytailor.com, providing creative ideas for speech therapy, and the author of the Artic Attack workbook series.