How to Put the ‘Super’ in Supervisor

Nov 7

Being a supervisor in any setting brings to mind a myriad of responsibilities. Is it best to guide or direct, monitor or inspect, influence or manage? As a supervisor to well over 120 speech-language pathologists in school settings during the past 15 years, I have learned a lot about duties and people.

Each situation or SLP calls for different handling at different times, but staying true to one’s own supervisory style is most important, I feel. Consistency helps everyone stay connected and working toward mutual goals.

Over the years I have developed a list of seven skills that have, time and again, helped me stay on track and support staff, even when I really had no idea how to handle a particular situation! If the following list can help even one person, I offer it with humility, as I am still learning and growing:

  1. Listen! Actively listen to staff (and parents!). Do not interrupt or begin to form a response until the person is done speaking. Sometimes people only need to be heard.
  2. Be available. Let staff know how, when, where to find you helps alleviate concerns.
  3. Take responsibility for your actions and for those on your staff. Do what you say you will do.
  4. Give credit where credit is due. Usually the best ideas have come from the staff.
  5. Lead, follow or get out of the way. Okay, I stole this one from Thomas Paine, but it is true. Often it is necessary to lead, but recognize and follow a good idea when it is offered. At times, you have to let a staff member figure out a solution for him or herself (this I learned from a seasoned supervisor).
  6. Stay informed. Stay current with knowledge and skills for your area of the field; it is fine to learn from other staff or supervisors.
  7. ACT. Be accountable, credible, trustworthy

Your list may be very different from mine, and I would be happy to compare notes. Supervision has been, by far, my most challenging and interesting job during my 30+ year career in speech-language pathology. And I am honored to be able to work with a dedicated and professional group of individuals! Each one has taught me valuable lessons about coaching, guiding, monitoring and supervising. The staff is truly the most valuable asset, and, as such, honing one’s supervisory skills is critical to your and their success. Good luck!

Janice Tucker, SLP.D, CCC-SLP, is a supervisor of speech-language support programs in Pennsylvania. She is past president of the Pennsylvania Association of Speech Supervisors and past vice president of the Pennsylvania Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 16, School-Based Issues, and 18, Telepractice.

A New Twist on Vocational Training

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In April, 2013 I wrote an article challenging SLPs  who work with students with autism spectrum disorder to use our creativity to help our students identify their strengths, interests and even fixations and parlay them into career possibilities (“Gearing Up for Reality,” ASHA Leader Magazine April 2013).

As a result I decided to create a six-week pre-vocational summer camp counselor experience for eight  high school aged male students, many of whom I hadn’t seen for several years. I wanted to offer them the same summer intern experience that typical students are exposed to minus the stresses and fear of failure.  Staff and I wanted this to be a safe and nurturing environment with structures in place to help them navigate the world of work.

The criterion was quite simple; the students needed to commit to work in our summer camp at least three days per week and attend weekly job club meetings where I would address daily living, social, and pre-vocational skills.  Additionally, each student would receive a stipend of $200.00 in exchange for their participation but more importantly to make our discussions on money management real and tangible.  Our program would culminate in a trip to Clear Lake, Calif., for a weekend work experience.

Sadly, our  six weeks have come and gone. I vividly remember how I felt on that first day seeing the boys. I stayed on the verge of tears as they each filed into my office with their parents in tow. Despite their height, good looks, and deep voices I could still see in each of them the little boys who I once knew. As I extended my hand to greet them, each gave me a warm hug. My heart melted!

It was interesting to watch the boys interact with each other on that first day. Some were more socially adept than others but they had all come a long way. In many ways, they were like typical teens sizing each other up and looking for a common ground while seeking acceptance.

During the first week I began to see their personalities unfold.  We had an antagonist, a peacemaker, a social “dude,” a wanna-be grouch with a beautiful smile, a cool diplomat, an “honest Abe,” an easy rider, and the sleeper with a big heart who never ceased to amaze us.  As different as they all were, the thread that bound them all was ASD. I was curious to see how they would adjust to working with the staff who were their bosses, the children who were the clients or consumers and the other assistants who were their colleagues.

During our first club meeting, as I laid out the employee rules, the antagonist challenged me on the “no cell phone” rule.  He wanted to remind me that the phone could be used for more than talking or texting.  After all, what if he wanted to check the time?  I calmly repeated the rule and reminded him that this was a company policy and referred him to the clocks on the walls.  This was nonnegotiable.

Meanwhile, “honest Abe” complained of total exhaustion and became stuck on how challenging the little children were. Interestingly, my sleeper who appeared to not be paying attention, when asked for an opinion said.  “I was like that when I was four and couldn’t talk, but once I learned how,  I didn’t cry as much.” Our diplomat closed it out and reminded everyone that they should “want” to help the kids in the same way “we” had  helped all of them. My heart skipped a beat as I thought how amazing are my boys!

Staff and I marveled as we watched them grow and mature in just six short weeks.  Several of them had worked with the boys in their early years.  We remembered the “social dude” when he had a fixation with fans. He told us that he has turned his fixations into hobbies and then began to tell of his hobby.  We also reminisced about the peacemaker who as a child was extremely shy.  We watched in disbelief as he  reprimanded the group and pleaded for them to allow the antagonist to finish his statement.

On July 19th we boarded our flight to Sacramento, drove two hours to Clear Lake and settled into an unbelievable weekend at the Full Circle Sheep Farm with sisters Eva and Marty who embraced us as if we were family.

Our workday started at 7 am on Saturday and we painted barns, tended the sheep and their lambs, and played with pets Blaze and Malcolm X . We then returned to our Travel Lodge to swim and relax before returning to the farm to paint drawings of sheep on the barns.  The remainder of the evening was spent discussing TrayVon Martin and lessons we could learn from this and similar situations.  Their concerns were valid and we collectively developed strategies to deal with the unexpected.

On Sunday morning we returned to say our goodbyes. The boys surprised all of us as they spontaneously spoke from their hearts about what the experience meant to them and even what they meant to each other. The social dude suggested they should all return not for a weekend but an entire week.  The grouch flashed his beautiful smile and agreed unconditionally.  Honest Abe said, “Lets do it again but somewhere that’s not so hot!”   Our smooth  diplomat said “We are like brothers and I love all of you.”  The sleeper had the last word and said “  I feel so blessed. I want to bring my family here.”  All of the adults fought to fight back our tears of joy.

On the flight home all I could think was “mission accomplished.” My pilot pre-vocational program was a success. The boys have committed to staying in touch and having quarterly activities. They have gotten a taste of the world of work and more importantly, they have learned the importance of giving back. We all agreed autism is a label and it doesn’t define how far we can go in life.  The sky’s the limit.  In the words of my sleeper, I feel so blessed!

Pre-vocational training video

From the blog of Los Angeles Speech and Language Therapy Center, Inc.

 

Pamela Wiley, PhD, CCC-SLP, is the president and founder of Los Angeles Speech and Language Therapy Center, Inc. She can be reached at pswiley@speakla.com.

Top 12 Pearls of Wisdom For SLP Newbies

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You’ve done it! Congratulations! Six years of school, countless clinical hours, and the Praxis. Now that it’s time to start your first job as a speech-language pathologist. Your first job will teach you all those things you didn’t learn in graduate school. After my first few years, I’ve reflected on the most important lessons I learned and here are the top twelve:

1. Be kind. Be kind to everyone! Everyday. Learn everyone’s names. Thank your secretaries, clerks, and custodians as many times as you can. Don’t underestimate the amount of help they will give you!

2. Go out of your way to connect with families. There are many reasons this is important. You won’t get the full picture of your student’s life if you don’t know something about their family and their life outside the school day. Your parents will be much more likely to buy-in to your homework plans and carryover if you’ve made a personal connection with them.  Lastly, you are taking care of their baby (the most precious thing to them in the whole word). If you’re working with their 3-year-old they will feel so much better if they know who the heck you are!

3. Don’t procrastinate. You’ll need help and there is no getting around that.  If you are writing an IEP at home at 9 pm for an 8 am meeting and then the printer doesn’t work, you won’t have time to make other arrangements.

4. Be a team player. Bite the bullet and volunteer to do things that take extra time. If you have a talent use it to help others. For example, whipping up visuals is super easy for me. Even when a student isn’t on my caseload, I often make up data sheets or visual posters to support students going through our RTI team. Your team will appreciate your talents and you will be able to ask your team to help you with their specific talents.

5. Think generalization from day one. Ask your student’s teacher what is the ONE thing you can work on to make the biggest difference in the classroom.

6. If you make a mistake, admit it, and find a way to solve it. Then don’t make that mistake again. You’re going to make mistakes, just be gracious when you do.

7. Ask for help, but do your own research first. Your co-workers and administrators will be willing to help as you get to know the paperwork. If you can do the research yourself and spend the time to try to solve problems yourself before you check in for help.

8. You aren’t done learning. Get involved with ASHA, blogs, conferences, whatever it takes. When a kiddo comes along and you haven’t seen that disorder before, get busy researching.

9. There’s nothing worse than being out of compliance or completing paperwork incorrectly. Your supervisors might not see how great your therapy is everyday, but the minute you’re out of compliance they will notice. The ‘take home message’… get organized early. Double check your dates and get with your teachers, clerks and intervention specialists. Get yourself organized before you get busy decorating that cute therapy office!

10. Advocate for all things speech and language in your buildings. You might even need to advocate for new ideas within the SLPs in your district. Speak up when you have a good idea, but remember that you’re new. Sometimes it pays to be quiet and listen to what seasoned SLPs have to say. They seriously know so much.

11. Document, document, and document. Remember, if you don’t document it, it didn’t happen.

12. You’re just one fish in the sea. Remember that when it comes to scheduling, therapy time, etc. everyone needs ‘time’ with the students. Work with your team. Just get over the fact that you think you’re done with your schedule the first time. It will change monthly if not weekly.

The best part of being a speech language pathologist is that you’re never done learning. You’ll get new interesting children added to your caseload, be challenged to use new technology, and collaborate in ways you never thought you would. By this time next year you’ll be able to make your own ‘top 12’ list of valuable lessons.

Jenna Rayburn, MA, CCC-SLP. is a school based speech-language pathologist from Columbus, Ohio. She writes at her blog, Speech Room News. You can follow her on facebook, twitter, instragram and pinterest.

Why the Scarcity of Male SLPs—and What Can Be Done

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One could easily see the lack of males in our profession by walking into any elementary school, or even attending an ASHA conference. It’s no secret that males are a rarity in speech-language pathology, but the topic of conversation has now shifted to what we can do about this trend. The fact that I was a minority in our field was apparent to me immediately after attending my first articulation disorders course.

Unfortunately, efforts to attract more males to our profession have been generally unsuccessful. Not only that, but according to data presented in the article on this topic by Kellie Rowden-Racette in the August ASHA Leader, the number of males in our field, and related fields (for example, psychology), have actually declined.

At this time, we have to use the information gathered by ASHA about why males are not choosing speech-language pathology, and develop concrete solutions on how to address the dearth of males in this profession.

The Frederick Schnieiders Research study conducted in 1997 revealed three common reasons males were less likely to pursue speech-language pathology compared with women: concerns about adequate income, concerns about advancement, and fears of limited opportunities for growth. Perry Flynn, an ASHA board member who blogged on this topic for ASHAsphere last week, shared an additional reason in the ASHA Leader article—lack of awareness:

“Men seem to have awareness and knowledge of many other related services—physical therapy, psychology, even occupational therapy, and certainly nursing—but no inkling of what a speech-language pathologist might do,” says Flynn, also associate professor at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Flynn’s insight holds true for me, as I knew very little about the scope of our profession before entering my junior year of undergraduate courses. However, as illustrated in the Leader article, there are issues beyond “awareness.”

Another explanation given of why men aren’t in the profession was that men are still unfairly viewed as less nurturing than women. I agree with Michael Maykish, an SLP in an elementary school in North Carolina, when he says, “You can’t generalize the notion that men aren’t nurturing.” Maykish goes on to say, “Successful SLPs are inherently nurturing, male or female. If you aren’t, you’re not going to enjoy being an SLP and probably shouldn’t be in this career.” We, as males, have an opportunity to promote our gender by directly showing we, too, can be nurturing.

Bringing awareness of CSD opportunities to the male population before they enter college will hopefully have a multi-pronged effect. This should give some insight and knowledge about the profession to some males who previously wouldn’t have considered going into our field, and possibly spark some interest. The male students who are now interested in CSD will act as a conduit, since, as history has shown, males influence other males regarding college major.

It is important that men in our field act as ambassadors, and take time to share the benefits of being in this profession with high school juniors and seniors. Word of mouth, coming directly from the source is a powerful tool.

Earning an adequate salary is obviously a concern for everyone, but, traditionally, it’s an even bigger one for males. Given the large numbers of SLPs employed in schools, developing ways to address this financial concern from a school-based perspective may be the best way to see the biggest return of male therapists. If we want to see the median income rise, I believe it is imperative we continue our efforts to separate ourselves, males and females, from teacher-related fields through continuing education and specialization. It is dispiriting to hear that SLPs are being offered entry level pay. We are highly qualified professionals who are in high demand. Consequently, negotiating a salary above entry level should always be an option, including when working with a school district.

Adding courses to your resume or becoming specialized in a particular area will only help school-based SLPs become more marketable and should result in higher incomes, which hopefully will attract more males to the profession. Providing treatment after school hours or during the summer are other ways to supplement a school salary, making the profession more appealing to salary-driven males.

I hope some of my suggestions are valid enough to spur even a small increase in the amount of males choosing CSD, as it is a remarkable field. A large section of my response focused on the financial aspect of our profession. I must admit the financial issue was not really relevant to me when I was considering the field. I guess I always felt if you work in a “helping” profession, you make some financial sacrifices. That said, I always felt my salary was fair, and if it wasn’t, it was my responsibility to change something.

Also, I realize much of this blog has been a testosterone-fueled rant, but I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t thank all the wonderful female SLPs. When the demand of speech-language pathologists is still so high that I’m trying to convince more people to commit, regardless of gender, well, then the gender that has composed approximately 96 percent of our field for so long must be doing something right.

Kevin Maier II, MS, CCC-SLP, is an SLP in the Wyomissing Area School District in Pennsylvania.

What Does a Fulbright Specialist Do?

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The Fulbright Specialist Program links U.S. academics and professionals and their counterparts at host institutions overseas. Qualified academics receive grants to engage in collaborative two- to six-week projects at host institutions in over 100 countries. International travel costs and a stipend are funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating host institutions cover grantee in-country expenses or provide in-kind services.

Communication sciences and disorders professionals are among those who participate in the program. In this post, I (Robert Goldfarb) and my colleague Florence Ling Myers recount our experiences in it.

Florence was a specialist in education and worked at the University of Hong Kong in 2011 for two weeks. She received approval for the five-year placement on the specialist roster. I was a specialist in applied linguistics/TEFL at Universidad Pedigogica Nacional in Bogotá, Colombia for six weeks, with the latter half of the commitment completed online after returning to the United States.

Our experiences were different enough to provide a sense of what a prospective Fulbrighter can expect.

Florence’s experience: Fluency disorders and returning to my roots

My mission in going to HKU was to reinforce the importance of fluency disorders in the family of speech-language pathologies. I gave workshops to students and professionals on cluttering, cluttering/stuttering, and stuttering. I met with academic and clinical faculty and reviewed curricula. Of particular interest was learning the problem-based learning paradigm used by faculty. The pedagogical philosophy is that students need to acquire critical thinking and problem-solving skills, to pose clinical hypotheses based on independent library research and come up with evidence-based therapy approaches for various case studies.

I had the pleasure of co-mentoring a senior thesis in stuttering. The student was bright, responsive and competent. HKU is definitely a high-power university, with great expectations for faculty and graduate students to publish in premier journals.

I also had a personal mission: to return to my roots and give back to my motherland. I escaped to Hong Kong as a refugee from mainland China in 1949 with literally nothing but the reassuring hands of my mother. I took not so much a “slow boat from China,” but a creaky leaky junk under the blackened nocturnal skies from Canton. I now wonder if I had been an illegal child alien. My dad was already in the United States to earn his doctorate in physics from the University of Missouri. Much has changed in Hong Kong since the 1940s, yet there is still this undefinable yet undeniable human spirit—to survive and thrive—among the people there.

Having been in the United States for nearly 60 years, I, too, have changed, though there is still very much a Chinese core in me. Whether or not one is from the East or West, the common bond that motivated me to return to my homeland as a Fulbright Specialist was a passion for cluttering and stuttering, and to instill this passion in the next generation of speech-language pathologists in China.

Robert’s experience: Helping with research methods/professional writing

I committed to teach two intensive graduate courses in research methods and in academic writing to advanced students working on thesis projects. In preparation for the visit, I arranged for my publisher to send some relevant books I had authored, and added others I thought might be useful. In addition, I prepared course packs in English and Spanish (with the help of a graduate student from South America) regarding local idioms. I learned, for example, that people in Colombia expressed something very positive as “the last Coca-Cola in the desert.”

Students also received feedback on their research projects in various stages, from proposals to data collection. Another commitment was a keynote address, called the Foro Fulbright, to local universities and other Fulbright scholars in the country. The students and young faculty were all bright, hard-working and dedicated, but their exposure to research design and international perspectives was provincial. Most students and faculty were open and eager to learn what the global academic community had to offer.

Not all experiences were positive. I was given Thursdays off, because it was known as “riot day,” when vigilantes stormed local universities. Sure enough, on the first Thursday of my visit and the Wednesday of the second week, I was ordered out of the office I shared with colleagues as vigilantes bombed the institution for hours. These events were followed by riot police storming the university. The tear gas they discharged lingered in the air for days.

Finally, on the Sunday before I left for home, I was robbed by a policeman while walking to the supermarket. The executive director of Fulbright Colombia called it a perfect storm of crime and civil unrest, and approved my decision to teach the remainder of my courses online.

Ongoing ties

Our students continue to keep in touch. I have helped several students write master’s theses of which they could be justifiably proud, and the thesis that Florence co-mentored was published the following year in the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.

Working as Fulbright Specialists allowed us to interact with colleagues and students abroad, while serving our country as ambassadors of scholarship. While there were some unwelcome experiences for me, we have many positive memories. We encourage you to apply to be on the roster, but note that you will need a bodyguard in some countries.

 
Robert Goldfarb, PhD, CCC-SLP, is professor of communication sciences and disorders at Adelphi University. He is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 2, Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders, and 4, Fluency and Fluency Disorders.

Florence Ling Myers, PhD, CCC-SLP, is professor of communication sciences and disorders at Adelphi University. She is an affiliate of ASHA SIG 4.

Get Some Book Drive Know-How

July 25 (2)

 

In low-income neighborhoods, one book for every 300 children? In middle-socioeconomic status neighborhoods, 13 or more books for every child? I read this jarring statistic and had an epiphany. As a university professor, mother of a school-aged child, and part-time itinerant public school speech-language pathologist, I wondered if there was a way I could help effect change for the low-SES children in my own area?

SLPs all over the United States battle with the problem of students who present with cognitive, linguistic, and executive functioning deficits related to being from low-SES backgrounds. Sometimes these students have genuine, underlying language impairments and qualify for language interventions, but many times they are typically-developing language learners whose language deficits stem from their low-SES status and its accompanying disadvantages. As experienced SLPs, we all know that low literacy skills can have lasting and serious consequences. A shocking statistic indicates that in states such as California and West Virginia, prison cells are built based in part upon the number of third grade students who are reading below grade level. What could I do to help?

I decided to attack the problem of a lack of books for children in low-income homes. I started collecting new and gently-used children’s books in fall of 2008 for a graduate student’s thesis. We collected several hundred books, which she used, and then she graduated from our program. In April of 2009, my beloved mother, Beverly Roseberry, died of a heart attack. Mom had been a general education and Sunday school teacher. In the Philippines, where I grew up (my parents were missionaries), my mom always had books for my sisters and me despite the fact that we were quite poor. On one island we lived on, my mom even started a library for the Filipino children. She loved books, and made sure that my sisters and I did, too! I decided to keep the children’s book collection going in my mom’s memory. Today we have collected and donated more than 43,000 books to local children in under-resourced areas. There are 21 area agencies and organizations receiving our books as well as three elementary schools.

 

July 25

Third grade students at Whitney Elementary School receive books to keep and read during the summer.

It can be discouraging for SLPs who work with at-risk, low-SES children to address the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that these children face. One of these obstacles is the lack of access to age-appropriate reading materials. How can the average SLP gather children’s books to distribute to low-SES children to keep as their own? Here are some tips for being successful:

  1. Have a large, attractive, marked box in a central location that is easy for people to get to
  2. Make the collection time-limited (e.g., 1-2 months)
  3. Have a short flier explaining why books are being collected and who they will be shared with. On the flier, have a contact person with contact information (like an email).
  4. If possible, donate the books locally to groups of children that your audience of donors cares about. For example, the books collected by the Orangevale Rotary go to the Orangevale Food Bank. Books collected by moms in Davis go to Head Starts in Davis. People are most enthusiastic if books stay local and connected to them somehow.
  5. Be sure to pick up the books on a regular basis. Don’t let that box overflow and make a mess!
  6. Challenge your group to collect a certain number (e.g., 100-500 books). People love a numerical goal.
  7. Keep reminding people—announcing the book drive one time will not be sufficient.
  8. At the end of the book drive, celebrate with a treat! Share information about where the books went. If possible, share pictures of children who have received the books.

I have had several undergraduate students in our program gather between 300-800 books just by asking their friends. Members of service organizations such as the Rotary often like to take on a project such as a book drive. Churches are another great source. My own church, Bayside, has donated more than 5,000 beautiful books!

Most of all, remember: people love to donate books for a good cause. I have found that many, many people have children’s books sitting around in their homes gathering dust; however, the people are so sentimentally attached to the books that they cannot just give them to a faceless organization. Having a person specifically attached to the book drive—a face to identify with—helps people become more willing to part with books that hold precious memories. If you are the “face” of your book drive, most people will be very generous in their donations.

A book drive has several major advantages: 1) low-income children benefit greatly from having their own books, and their literacy skills improve; 2) your friends get to clean out those closets, and 3) you get the joy of seeing children own their own books—for many, these are the very first books they have ever owned. Collecting and donating children’s books is something I will do for the rest of my life, and I have been privileged to have tremendous support from my students, church, family, and friends. Good luck!

Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is a professor in Sacramento State University’s Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology and also works directly with students ages 3-18  as a speech-language pathologist in the San Juan Unified School District and has writes a blog about her book drive. She can be reached at sacbookdrive@gmail.com.

Collaboration Corner: Being Included

July 18

 

This is a story of why inclusion works. This story is about the sincerity of a fifth grade class, who like most 11-year olds moving to middle school, are full of excitement and angst. They had been together since kindergarten. When they were in fourth grade, a new student arrived. Abby (not her real name) entered their classroom as sweet student full of spunk and delight. A child with Downs Syndrome and autism, Abby is non-verbal. While in school, she learned how to use PECS, some signs, and her Dynavox. Most of all, she developed a fierce attachment to her peers, teachers and school community.  The feeling was mutual. When she was absent, her friends would ask how she was doing. Her peers pulled her into their games and conversations, whether by using sign, or learning to use her communication systems. An outside observer would never  have guessed that Abby was relatively new to the class or her school.

Which is why, two days before fifth grade graduation, when Abby didn’t come to school, her classmates became worried. They discovered that just a few days earlier, Abby had fallen and broken her leg, and would miss her graduation.

And that’s when the good stuff happened. The class decided to make Abby a get well video, and sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, a personal favorite that she often asked for when in class. Her elated parents called the school. According to her parents, Abby sat in her leg cast, watched the video, and beamed.  She smiled and waved at the video while her friends wished her get well and sang.

Then the school organized a graduation ceremony. Given her injury and sensitivity to sound and large crowds, the school arranged a smaller graduation, just with her fifth grade class. We all hoped that Abby would be well enough to make it that following Monday.

Monday arrived. With fans blowing, and classrooms sweltering 90 degrees, Abby came into school by wheelchair. Even though the class had graduated a week earlier, they wanted Abby to experience the same excitement they did at their own graduation. The staff cued up Pomp and Circumstance, and the class filled in the bleachers with Abby in line. My friend and colleague gave a graduation speech dedicated to not just Abby, but to the whole class. She spoke of how this class that grew up together readily embraced a new student to their class. How their acceptance reflected sincerity found in communities of people that care for one another. They learned how to reach out to her, and she taught them how to become a friend and advocate.

The ceremony concluded with the class singing and dancing to, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Abby’s favorite song. Then, for the second time in a week, the students received their diplomas, congratulations and a handshake from the principal and staff. As she rolled up and took her diploma, the class gave an enthusiastic (but silent) cheer for Abby.

As the class emptied the bleachers row by row to the song, Time of your Life, Abby began to cry. Maybe it was the activity, or the noise, but it almost seemed that on some level, Abby knew that this was the end (or the beginning) of something special.

The values posted on the front of our school building our simple: Be kind and respectful to everyone and everything. Include everyone.

Role models are what we need most in inclusion. Congratulations to the class of 2013, you sure are the best. Thanks for reminding me why I got into this career in the first place.

 

Kerry Davis, Ed.D, CCC-SLP, is a city-wide speech-language pathologist west of Boston. Her areas of interest include working with children with multiple disabilities, inclusion in education and professional development. The views on this blog are my own and do not represent those of my employer. Dr. Davis can be followed on Twitter at @DrKDavisslp.

A Handful of Post-Graduate Retrospection

S in the Road

(photo credit)

With daylight savings time fast approaching, I am reminded that spring is nearly upon us. For the current graduate student, spring often means comps season. It always seems to be the time that never ends, until the next thing you know, it’s three years later and you look back and marvel about the relativity of time.

One of the hardest things about any new endeavor is getting started. Everyone has to start somewhere, and much as we would prefer to think otherwise, the best place to start is at the beginning. Much as I don’t want to admit it, I hated starting at the beginning. But I did it (and I’m glad I did it), and here’s a handful of things I’ve learned so far.

You’re going to make mistakes. Embrace them, learn from them, and use them for good.

I, like many I suspect, envisioned all sorts of things going smoothly when I first started. This daydream was quickly put to rest as I realized that getting the hang of things takes time.

What’s more, sometimes the only way to really learn something is to make certain mistakes along the way. The key is to realize that you can harness a lot of knowledge from mistakes. Try to think of your clinical fellowship not as a place where you need to be perfect, but a place where it can be safe to make mistakes. Keep an open line of communication with your clinical supervisor, and be realistic about what you feel comfortable doing. Think big, but don’t be afraid about starting small.

Try a little bit of everything. You never know what might end up capturing your attention.

I spent much of graduate school being grossed out by anything related to swallowing. Still, I resigned myself to trying it out because I wanted to have some experience in every aspect of the field. While at first I was wary of what I termed the ick factor, I found that I loved working with the patients. It certainly took some time to acclimate to things I found uncomfortable, but I find myself wanting to do more so I could keep working with those patients.

Think of graduate school not as the last chance to learn everything. Think of it as the place where you’re finally given the tools you need to really learn, both in terms of actual resources as well as the capacity to make sense of them.

Half of what I learned in graduate school didn’t make sense to me until the very end. Even three years out, I’m still marveling at how pieces are slowly starting to fall into place. I find myself frequently poring over text books, reading and re-reading things and making connections for what seems like the very first time.

One thing I cherish about this field, and its practitioners, is a passion for life-long learning. I talk to colleagues about things I see with patients that challenge how I had, up until that moment, thought about things. I debate things with the #SLPeeps on Twitter. I ask questions of doctors and nurses that seem at first unrelated to speech and swallowing, but which ultimately deepen my understanding of what a patient might be experiencing.

Try not to think in cliches. That said, practice makes perfect. (Or rather, perfect-ish.)

I generally shy away from the word ‘perfect’, but find this saying apt in many ways. I started playing the guitar when I was in first grade, and the violin in fourth grade. In undergrad, I did theater for two years. In every creative avenue, I found myself in awe of what others could do, of how amazing their words or their music flowed.

I used to think of those I admired while I practiced. I wanted to be able to simply pick up my instrument, or say my lines, with as much ease and grace as them. “How nice it must be not to have to practice much,” I thought, “and to have such ease of talent.”

But I was wrong on one point. They did have talent, absolutely, but they, like me, had to practice to get there. The best way to get good at something is to do it, over and over and over again, until you become just a little bit better at it each time.

It is a journey. One filled with frustration, joy, and emotion, but one worth taking. I no longer strive for perfection, not because I don’t think it’s possible, but because I never want to stop trying to learn and grow. I always want to keep aiming to get just a little bit better every step of the way.

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Phillip Guillory, MS, CCC-SLP, NIC is an SLP and certified sign language interpreter. As an SLP, he specializes in acute care and especially critical care issues. As an interpreter, he specializes in post-secondary settings as well as community and, increasingly, medical settings. Phil can frequently be found on Twitter @ProjectSLP and on his website www.ProjectSLP.com. He is an affiliate of ASHA’s Special Interest Group 2, Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders and Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia).

Happy Peppy People at ASHA 2012

2012 ASHA Convention logo

“Hello friends. Are you tired, run-down, listless? Do you poop out at parties? Why don’t you join the thousands of happy peppy people…” at the 2012 ASHA Convention.  If this famous I Love Lucy script makes you think your convention experience thus far, then you are not alone.  Between walking from the Exhibit Hall to visit the vendors to checking out the NSSLHA Lounge and Poster Presentations, just navigating the convention can wear a person out.

Despite the many weary feet, the excitement from day 1 has been tangible. Waiting in line for coffee, finding the room number for sessions, or collecting your third Super Duper bag,  you can always find someone to share a conversation with. How often do you know everyone around you is an SLP or AUD, and feel comfortable discussing a therapy technique or a new iPad application while waiting in line?  The convention provides professionals from across the country opportunities to reconnect with colleagues and friends, refine intervention strategies and techniques, and renew the excitement and zeal for being “rainbows in the clouds” of our clients.

As a student, not only is attending sessions part of the allure of attending the convention, but meeting and networking with professionals who have knowledge and experience to share has been invaluable. Everyone I have met and shared a conversation with has been more than willing to relay tips for my SLP-CF job search or strategies for interviewing and negotiating a contract. I still get nervous before speaking with SLPs or AUDs, but I hope those I speak with remember what it felt like to be a student: Excited, nervous, stressed, overwhelmed, and just itching to finish our clinical internships. The convention is a chance for everyone to “nerd out” with other SLP students, professionals, professors, and researchers from across the world; it is like Christmas morning for me.

What was my favorite part of the 2012 ASHA Convention?

One of the highlights for me was meeting the SLPs, AUDs, and other student SLPs that I have met through Twitter over the past year. Many people are still apprehensive or unaware of the professional learning opportunities that wait by using Twitter with the #SLPeeps. Heidi Kay over at Pediastaff recruited some of the best SLPs who use social media as professional tools to create a Free Guidebook to help people get started. If you want to see how to use these tools, please check out the  easy to follow electronic book and start growing professionally with the #SLPeeps.

Another one of the highlights from the convention was hearing Dr. Maya Angelou speak at the opening session. Her powerful storytelling inspired me professionally and personally. She compared SLPs and AUDs to rainbows in the clouds. A rainbow speaks of promise and hope; I would like to think I can be that for my clients.  Her personal tale of selective mutism after a childhood trauma empowered me to always consider the perspective of my clients before jumping to conclusions.  She always had a story to tell; as Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, accepting and establishing trust can impact how much of their story a client decides to share.

(Katie is one of the official ASHA Convention bloggers. These three bloggers were selected to blog about the ASHA Convention in exchange for complimentary registration. Stay tuned for more insights from her and the other bloggers before, during and after convention.)

 

Katie Millican, B.S. Ed., is a second year graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology program at the University of West Georgia (UWG). Katie is the current UWG local NSSLHA chapter President.  She is active with the #slpeeps and #slp2b on Twitter (@SLP_Echo) and on Pinterest, and she writes her own blog SLP_Echo: Just another SLP in the Making. Katie has a passion for using technology and sharing evidence-based ideas. 

6 Things to Look For When Choosing Your Continuing Education Provider

Made me smile...

Photo by Brett Jordan

The Internet is changing how and where we learn. Make sure you know what to look for when shopping for your next online continuing education course.

Creating and selling online continuing education is a rapidly growing industry, a fact that is great news for busy SLPs and audiologists. It’s become easier than ever to complete your national association and/or state mandated CE requirements quickly, conveniently and inexpensively.  And that means it’s more important than ever to know what to look for when shopping for a provider. Choosing the wrong one can result in a very dissatisfying educational experience and unwanted stress.  The following list will help you find the best fit for your CE needs.

  1. Accreditation:  Has your regulating board approved the provider or the provider’s courses? There are strict rules and regulations that must be adhered to and a good provider will be transparent in disclosing their accreditation. It’s also a smart idea to check with your national and state regulating bodies. Websites like ASHA.org will generally list all approved continuing education providers.
  2. Reputable Instructors: When you’ve located a provider and checked out some of their courses, do a quick online search on the instructors. Make sure they are licensed healthcare professionals, experienced educators or individuals with the appropriate credentials/specialized training in their field of instruction.
  3. Large and Varied Course Selection: Advances in medicine and documentation require that the practitioner must continually update their knowledge base. Continuing education providers should be doing the same thing. Look for one that is adding new courses to their catalog on a regular basis. Does their course catalog cover a wide spectrum of subjects that will not only keep you current but also enhance you professionally?  Providers can and should offer a large selection of informative and engaging courses.
  4. Understanding of Your Needs: When you’re shopping for continuing education courses you should feel confident that the provider understands your needs and requirements. Any provider worth their salt will be able to help you understand the rules and regulations that govern your profession.
  5. Production Quality: Simply having good content isn’t enough; it should be presented in a professional format, with clean visual components and clear audio. It’s no good spending money on a video course that is blurry and hard to hear or fails to even provide any visual demonstrations. It should be easy to access, too. A few clicks of your mouse button are all it should take to get to your material. You can check the provider’s website for screenshots or video samples of their courses to evaluate the value they place on production quality.
  6. Cost: It’s always nice to save money, but be wary of the provider with ridiculously low prices. That usually means that corners have been cut, never a good thing.  Prices should be reasonable based on the amount of content provided in the course, and the production quality of the course. Some providers will offer options to combine courses together at a lower cost than buying them individually. One that offers flexibility to buy exactly what you need to meet your requirements and takes your budget into consideration can be a lifesaver, especially if you’ve left those requirements to the last minute!

It’s always smart to do your research before you commit to a continuing education course,as for the SLP or audiology professional the fallout from a bad choice can create extra stress and unwanted complications in your life. Following these few simple tips can help you make the decisions when it comes to choosing an online continuing education provider.

 

Amy-lynn Engelbrecht is the Online Content Specialist at HomeCEUConnection.com. HomeCEUConnection.com is an ASHA Approved CE Provider, provides online continuing education courses that are convenient, affordable and user friendly. HomeCEUConnection.com provides that offer ASHA CEUs for Speech-Language Pathologists, Physical Therapists, Physical Therapist Assistants, Occupational Therapists, Occupational Therapist Assistants, Athletic Trainers, Massage Therapists, and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists.