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

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

by Teresa Shane
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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.

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17 comments

Summer October 14, 2014 - 7:29 pm

I admire your strength Teresa! I too am a non-traditional student. I started my education as an unexpected and sudden widow at age 32. With a 4 and 6 year old to care for and our grief to deal with the years have posed challenges. Our life experiences give us empathy for our clients as you said. Congratulations on your hard work and remember, life may not move on, but it will move forward!

Teresa Shane October 16, 2014 - 10:50 am

The grief journey is hard enough without the added challenge of school. I really stuffed a lot those early months until I hit that wall. Congratulations on your success, and I am sorry for your loss.

Lee-Ann Kant October 15, 2014 - 9:17 am

Bravo for being so honest and open in this blog post. You are already a wonderful clinician and your clients will be lucky to have you. This is an inspiring post and I wish you success and happiness in your chosen work. I was also an older student and agree that it brings perspective. You have given me a much needed boost on a day I felt lagging in this career. We are indeed lucky to be SLPs and we need to face our challenges with courage and resilience. That is what I hope to help my clients find in themselves.

Teresa Shane October 16, 2014 - 10:58 am

I’m glad I could help. You are not alone, and that is a huge relief for those of us who sometimes feel that way. Stay strong!!

carliekimble@gmail.com October 15, 2014 - 10:08 am

This is beautiful, Teresa. You ROCK! I believe anyone who reads this will be inspired by you. Wishing you continued success, Dr. K.

Katie Reily October 15, 2014 - 11:11 am

You will become an excellent clinician, Theresa. Just stay humble-the key to resilience.

Heather October 15, 2014 - 1:05 pm

I’m so glad that Teresa is not letting setbacks derail her during the arduous journey of graduate school. This post really made me wonder, though, to what extent did this student actually exhibit pragmatic deficits or simply have a different set of social skills based on upbringing, SES, etc.? I find that many students, particularly those who may not be from middle-class homes (and I have no idea from the blog post if that is the case with Teresa), need instruction in middle-class, “office job” social skills, but that does not mean they have a pathology! Graduate programs might do well to provide this sort of instruction overtly and as a matter of course, recognizing that our students come from a diversity of backgrounds, rather than pathologizing, in some cases, people who do not have pragmatic deficits but who are not used to the social skill requirements of the settings we work in. A really interesting topic! Thank you, Teresa and ASHAsphere!

Teresa Shane October 16, 2014 - 10:56 am

Heather, Thank you for your comments. I do/did have some pragmatic issues, mainly in social cues and some other areas. I tend to come on very strong, and I needed to learn to tone it back! It has been such a wonderful journey, and I truly feel like it was the best move I made. My clinician is wonderful and I appreciate how hard she has worked to work on the goals I set at the beginning of our semester.

Full Spectrum Mama October 15, 2014 - 1:36 pm

ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL.
You will have SO much more to offer clients!

Dawn C-J October 15, 2014 - 4:41 pm

You’re right, it’s brave of you to admit your weaknesses and seek help. We all have them and can all use a helping hand sometimes. Good luck.

Katie October 15, 2014 - 11:18 pm

I admire your determination and willingness to be honest with yourself. And, on top of that, I hope I look even half as good as you at 52. Wow! 🙂

Teresa Shane October 16, 2014 - 10:47 am

I wish I looked like the girl in the picture, too! I look pretty good for 52, but not that good 🙂

SLP2b October 16, 2014 - 9:19 am

What a wonderful post. My years in graduate school have include 5 long-term hospitalizations of close family members and the death of one. Your words were very encouraging!

Teresa Shane October 16, 2014 - 7:13 pm

You sound very strong and focused on your new career path, too. Hang in there!

MBrigman October 17, 2014 - 7:39 am

Teresa, your words are an inspiration to many. Thank you for sharing your journey! I wish you continued success in your future career. It is great to see you in the clinic putting your pragmatics skills into practice! Keep up the good work!

dana October 23, 2014 - 8:21 am

Teresa,I understand your journey. I have a learning dishabille and dealing with it is not easy but I continue to go to school for SLP-A.I know one day my dreams with come true. My parents taught me to believe in myself.

Teresa Shane October 24, 2014 - 10:50 am

Dana, you hang in there and keep pushing forward!! You will bring so much to your clients!

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