Finding Strength, Resilience and Speech-Language Pathology—as a Future Clinician and Current Client

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Life is full of challenges; age does not play favorites. I think the key is how we handle those challenges. That is where courage, resilience and strength come into play.

Since starting undergraduate courses at the University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, in August 2012, I faced a number of challenges—residence changes, job changes, health challenges, and school challenges. I remember rolling into the fall semester in 2013 feeling exhausted, stressed and wondering if I would make it. I was trying to put some space between my long-time boyfriend and myself. He moved across the street from me after a fire where we used to live.

I was still working about 30 hours a week, attending school full time, and preparing to start graduate school in January. The final challenge was his unexpected death from a heart attack the day before the last week of fall classes in 2013. Over the next two weeks, I made it through classes, finals and a funeral.

At 52, I have experienced my share of obstacles and stressful events, but this put me into a tailspin. I am one of the strongest women I know and my obstacles are usually short walls. I made it through the spring semester, but that first summer semester knocked me back onto my heels, mentally and physically, and I could not climb over that wall. I learned then how much support I had in the school faculty, staff and my classmates.

During that summer semester, I lost my focus. I felt buried under the mountains of clinic paperwork, a research paper and challenging coursework. My clinical evaluations were not positive, and I was floundering. That is where I pulled my courage from deep inside myself and turned to the faculty and my friends for help.

Reaching for help is hard, because sometimes the answers are not what we want to hear. My supervisors got me back on track and helped me stand up on my own two feet. I had to take a long, hard look in the mirror and face the person they saw. At the final case conferences, I asked them some direct questions, which is how I not only became a clinician this fall, but also a client. As a former U.S. Army sergeant, and as someone with a strong personality, I fit in well in some venues, but I needed help to be successful in other venues—like the speech-language pathology field. That is where the strength came in. I am self-aware, and willing to look at myself, but I had to admit I needed help with my pragmatic skills.

My clinician is wonderful, and together, we are discovering how to work on my pragmatic skills. My clinician created a scaled list of questions about how I communicate, and we used that to get feedback from my teachers and supervisors. The answers knocked me back a bit, but I accepted their feedback with grace and maturity.

We are working on my personal interaction skills, my resume, and even my social media postings. The interventions are working as my teachers and supervisors notice a difference in how I communicate. I am having a successful semester and my mid-semester conferences resulted in two A’s and a B.

Being a client is different from being a clinician. I am convinced it takes courage and strength to come into a professional clinic and lay oneself open to change. Change is hard. Change is not always fun. Sometimes change is painful.
While attending graduate school, I turned 52, and in November my first grandchild will be born. So many changes, so many opportunities lie ahead for me. This field of speech-language pathology is ripe with opportunities for older students. As nontraditional students, we have faced challenges and experienced things that younger students will not experience for a while.

Sometimes our life experiences mirror those of our clients, giving us the ability to be empathetic and genuine in our care. I am looking forward to this next chapter in my life. I will face any other challenges with courage, resilience and strength, because that is what I do.

Teresa Shane is a speech-language pathology graduate student at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri.

How to Begin or Reignite Your Career in Schools

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One of the best things about being a speech-language pathologist is the variety of work settings to choose from. Holding the CCC affords SLPs the flexibility to carve out a niche many settings such as schools, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities; private practice, academia and corporate.  You can reinvent yourself just by changing where you work.

As an SLP who has worked in many settings.  I can attest to the value of change and honing new skills. However, change is always easier when you’re equipped with the right information.

If you’re making a change to schools, here are ten things to know to help you get started:

  1. The federal IDEA law and regulations governs special education and related services to all children with disabilities. This includes children with speech and communication disorders. It is important to understand the law and regulations in order to follow the special education process in schools.
  2. IDEA requires that all students who receive special education have an Individual Education Program or IEP. The IEP is the blueprint for the services that each child receives and should include a statement of the child’s present level of performance, measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals that will help the child to benefit from the educational curriculum.
  3. It’s important to know that there are qualifications for eligibility for speech language services in schools. Check with your local district or state for guidelines outlining eligibility criteria for speech-language services.
  4. Service delivery in schools is typically conducted through individual or small group sessions, and/or  in collaboration with teachers and other education professionals. Tracking goals and collecting data for multiple students in one session is accomplished with preplanning and organization. It is important to develop a method of tracking data for each student goal in order to report progress throughout the year.
  5. The average student Caseload  across the country is 47 according the 2012 Schools Survey. That number will fluctuate throughout the school year. Scheduling and service delivery are key to managing your caseload.
  6. Response to Intervention (RTI) is a process in which struggling students are provided with alternative interventions in areas of need to determine if their performance is due learning difficulties or faulty instruction. Some schools fully embrace the RTI model while others do not. IDEA allows for RTI but does not require it.  SLPs often play a role in the RTI process in their schools.
  7. The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by 45 states thus far and is an initiative to prepare students for college programs or to enter the workforce.  The standards include the areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening, language and mathematics. SLPs should be familiar with the standards in their state to develop IEP goals that complement and integrate the Common Core curriculum for the students they serve.
  8. Speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs) typically work in the school setting under the supervision of an SLP. The scope of practice for an SLPA is narrower than that of an SLP and is designed to support, not supplant the work of the SLP. ASHA recommends that SLPs supervise no more than 2 SLPAs at a time.
  9. SLPs in schools may be subject to state teacher requirements. ASHA’s state by state webpage outlines teaching requirements from each state across the country. Learn in advance what you’ll need to work in the public schools in your state.
  10. Salaries in schools vary widely across the country. ASHA’s 2012 School Survey provides salary data for public school SLPs in every state. Opportunities to earn additional income may be available by working in after school and summer school programs. Salary supplements may be available to SLPs who hold CCC credential.  Schools also offer excellent retirement plans, health benefits and favorable schedules.  Read more about the rewards of working in schools.

Of course, there’s much more to school based practice than just these ten points, but it’s a start.  ASHA is committed to serving school based SLPs by offering clinical and professional resources as well as professional development opportunities. One of the most popular professional development events is ASHA’s annual  Schools Conference. The Conference features the best speakers in the field on a variety of topics.  In fact, early bird registration is open now!
These resources and opportunities for learning will help to make your transition to schools a smooth one.  If you’d like to connect with us about school based practice, please contact us: schools@asha.org. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Lisa Rai Mabry-Price M.S. CCC-SLP, is the associate director of School Services for ASHA. She can be reached at lmabry-price@asha.org.

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.