4 years of an undergraduate degree followed by 2 years getting a Master’s degree, all you really think about is that first payday when you start your Clinical Fellowship. Something about being paid for the work you are doing – it rights the soul. All those sleepless nights studying, worrying, writing, reading – ugh! If I had been paid for the work I invested in my education, let’s just say you could all come stay with me on my own Alaskan homestead.
Now, some honesty…
What’s most surprising about this first year as an SLP is how quickly I found my weaknesses.
In SLP graduate school, the support is there. Ever-present even in the smallest of ways. Someone to answer a question, pick up your slack, support you, and even take over if necessary. There was always back-up. But all I can remember is feeling like a slick professional, ready to shake the chains of graduate school for a paid position doing what I love. I knew I didn’t know it all, but I figured I could figure it out.
True. I can figure it out. But when a kid is sitting in front of you and you can’t think of where you put your tongue depressors or how to interact with a non-verbal kiddo, “figuring it out” doesn’t always cut it. I am doing my best to prep for my days by problem solving my weaknesses. Here is a quick list of my weaknesses:
- I need more tricks for teaching the /r/ sound.
- Being more systematic. My ADD rubs off in therapy…need to tuck that in and straighten out, Katie.
- Modeling social behavior before I expect it. It’s so easy to just grab a kid from a room, head my office and start. Take a moment for greetings and farewells.
I’m sure this list will change, grow, and become more complex as the year goes on. But to recognize where I have the potential to be overwhelmed makes me feel less overwhelmed. I haven’t had a day where I went home and felt overwhelmed with what tomorrow brings. I brainstormed some ideas on why I think that is. While this applies to my Clinical Fellowship, I think many can apply to starting SLP graduate school or any new position.
I made it. This was the first full week starting my SLP-CF here in The Last Frontier. I have about 50 + kiddos on my caseload and couldn’t be more excited. All the preparation in the world couldn’t have prepared me for sitting down at my desk in front of a cabinet full of working files, and figuring out how I’m going to make this work. On more than one occasion, I wanted to stop and ask someone, “Excuse me, could you tell me how to do my job?” But I gathered my newbie-baggage, shook-off the overwhelming feelings, and tackled my job. Sink or swim people…and the water is cold.
One of the perks of still being in graduate school means I have access to any and all journal articles since the dawn of time. Rachel at “Talks Just Fine” suggested a new blog installment where other #slpbloggers link up, and review current research within their scope of practice. I am all about this new venture! So, here is my first review of current research.
Spencer, Schuele, Guillot, and Lee (2011) discussed the role of phonemic awareness in early literacy instruction, and how Speech-Language Pathologists have demonstrated increased ability for such skills. For instance, Spencer et al. (2008) evaluated teachers’ ability to perform phoneme segmentation; while teacher’s were accurate 55% of the time, SLPs were 75% accurate. So, why did the SLPs outperform classroom teachers?
In the current article (Spencer et al., 2011), the authors recruited 196 SLP undergraduate and graduate students at four Universities in the U.S.; Spencer et al. (2008) participants were the comparison group. Paper based phonemic awareness tests were administered to students which evaluated (1) phoneme segmentation, (2) phoneme identification, and (3) phoneme isolation. The article also evaluated the type of coursework students had taken and how they contribute to phonemic awareness skill.
Overall, Spencer and colleagues (2011) found a phonetics course contributes the most to phonemic awareness skills, and may account for the discrepancies Spencer et al. (2008) found when SLPs were compared to educators.
The transition from Speech-Language Pathology graduate student to an independent, unsupervised SLP is an awkward time. I’m frolicking through my last internship of graduate school, and I can’t help by notice the differences in my clinical and professional skills. The promise of learning from a new supervisor coupled with the triumph of securing an SLP-CF position in the fall heightens my self-awareness.
The awkwardness reminds me of my teenage years, which was almost 6 years ago (once upon a time, really). Still living at home, drivers license in hand, and plans with friends made. Keys at the ready, I was free as a bird…after I consulted with my father of course. The gatekeeper. The Oz of Curfew. It’s easy to overlook those pesky details of asking permission or seeking advice when you think you are standing on your own two feet. This same awkwardness has followed me into SLP graduate school. When confronted with 30 new clients, inclusion of technology, and finding evidence, how quickly I’m reminded of my unsure footings. Yet, those footings are stronger than I imagined.
I’ve posted statistics, tips, ideas, and resources for applying to Speech-Language Pathology graduate school. For those of you who read them and used the ideas, thank you! For those of you who did not, that’s OK, we can still be friends. I will get us one of those friendship necklaces. BFFs. I digress.
This post is intended for those who were accepted into an SLP graduate program and are anxiously and excitedly awaiting to start. Those were the days. When you wake up without a constant twinge of nervousness, contemplating if you will get in anywhere. TallyHo! Now you can breathe a little easier knowing you have a place to call home for the next 2-3 years. A place that will shape you, mold you, make you into a real-life Speech-Language Pathologist. Yippee!!
Now, you have a few months before you start. Don’t sit like a bump on a log for the next 2-3 months, but at the same time, take time to enjoy graduation, freedom, and summer time. Graduate school isn’t all unicorns, rainbows, and meadow frolicking. In preparation for the deluge of information that will soon ensnare your mind, consider the following Summer Reading List as you lay on a beach or veg-out on the couch. As you consider and use the list below, keep in mind to review the big areas in SLP:
- Language Development and Disorders
Free Summer Reading List
- Undergraduate Notes - The jumbled mess that is your undergraduate notes, look them over. Remember what was tough to remember. Recall the topics which you first skimmed, and look more closely this time around.
- Undergraduate Textbooks – Especially the ever-lovely Anatomy text for a review of the facial, swallowing, and laryngeal musculature necessary for speech and swallowing.
- SLP Scope of Practice - Now I’m sure at some point a professor pointed you in this documents direction, and you glanced over it with an eye of disillusionment. I said to myself, “How in the world will I ever know all of this?!” Now, break it out, look over the sections, and take note of things you don’t know or have never heard of. Google it. Research it. Don’t let your newness get the best of you.
- ASHA’s Compendium of EBP Guidelines and Systematic Reviews - Mind. Blown. I was introduced to this resource way too late in my SLP graduate school journey. Bookmark it. Tattoo it to your arm (obvious exaggeration). Look through the topics that interest you. Aphasia, dysphagia, dementia, feeding, and more. The guidelines documents are great for overview when working with the disorder – a starting place – and the evidence for the topics are equally helpful for preparing for future clients.
- ASHA’s Practice Portal – This is a new venture for ASHA, but promises to be my future go-to spot when a difficult client comes my way (still in Beta trials). Currently, there are only 4 topics available, but there is more coming in 2013…stay tuned!
- Previous years’ ASHA Convention Handouts - If you have a specific area of interest or can’t find information in a given area, search handouts and see what you can find. People work hard when presenting, so use the resource.
I am planning a Part 2 to this reading list which highlights paid options for those wanting more resources than are available online. For now, this will get you started.
Happy reading fellow SLP graduate students!!
Sunny Articulation and Phonology Test (SAPT)
By Barbara Fernandes at Smarty Ears
by Shimon Young
“My PlayHome is a doll house for the iGeneration…where your child can use everything, even the closets, TV and shower…fry an egg and feed the family pizza. Where you can pour drinks, blow bubbles and turn out the lights.” (via the iTunes description).
by Smarty Ears
An app designed by SLPs to improve language comprehension for all age groups. More specifically, it was developed to target categorization skills to improve word finding, memory, and reading comprehension difficulties.
Price = $9.99
There’s a naiveté about being a new clinician. Stumbling through therapy sessions, wondering if you are talking too much, giving the right prompts, or using the right technique. As a supervisor sits, watching, I wonder “What does she really think about my skills?” Sweaty hands.
Everyone has been through the process. Courses. Syllabi. Ethics. Evidence. Rationale. Professionalism. A constant flood of lists, charts, and data. Why does it seem that I should be at a higher level than the one I am now? Why must I still ask why?
I’m still new at this. Designing therapy like a pathologist’s pauper, hoping if I do it his or her way, perhaps I will find my own. Asking what seems like an obvious question, followed by a much more obvious answer. Hand to face. Why didn’t I think of that?
A child talks out of turn. I must look incompetent. This one picks his nose and touches my iPad. I need a hand wipe, but don’t want to seem overly clean. Why can’t kids just leave their nose alone?
So. Many. Goals. I started with one client, now I have forty times that. Constantly thinking what’s next. Tally marks. Was that right? Wait, did they say “cab” or “cap”? Crap. Did that one just say shit?
Lunch seems like a break from my thoughts. Email. Twitter. Take a picture. Enjoy this moment because soon I will be eating alone, instead of taking time to chat. Conversation turns to the how. The why. Why Alaska? Why not.
Halls filled with faces, unknown. That child is confused, should I step in? I’m new. Wearing a visitor’s badge. I already look creepy, just leave him be. Gather the kiddos. Make sure I don’t lose them on the way back to speech. Now, which one is which? Are you this one or that one?
End of the day. Let’s hear it. How did I do? Oh. I forgot to do that. Wait, you think I did well?
Driving home. Wondering if this illusion wears off. I’m having fun, not working all day. How can a job be more than a passion? How can a degree be more than 9 to 5? With all the newness of being a grad, I’m just so humbled by all the support. If there is no limit, why wait to find more?