How I’m Avoiding being an Overwhelmed SLP-CF

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.

1. Tackle the Paperwork before it tackles you

Therapy seems to be the one constant I can handle in my day. Before I start my day and after the last session, if there is a lingering document I need to fill out, I am trying to tackle before I leave for the day. While an IEP can take a few days to complete given the time I have, I am inputting small pieces here and there. This stuff just sneaks up on you so fast.

2. Open lines of communication

Touch base with a teacher when an IEP is due soon. Soon to me means at least a month. Start collecting data to share and get input from the classroom environment. Contact the parent, if even just to say hi. Build a relationship so that when the time comes to invite them, perhaps attendance might rise as well.

3. Admit inadequacies

It’s so easy to sit in my office, feel like a failure, and just push those feelings down. I’m refusing to let this year be rough. If I need help, I have an amazing support system in my district. My CF supervisor is knowledgeable, many district SLPs have offered help, and previous supervisors are always a call or email away. For the sake of my clients, I need to address my shortcomings so that I can see change.

4. Ask for help

During the 18 zillion trainings (approximately) I attended, the one thing people kept saying was, “Just give me a call if you need help” or “We only have a job to help make you look like a rockstar.” And you know what, that’s what I’m trying to take advantage of. There is an entire staff at my disposal to help answer paperwork questions and make sure I stay in compliance. This takes doing #3 – admitting inadequacies – by telling them where you are stuck. I’ve called my central office support services at least once a day. Me and those ladies are going to be BFFs by year end. I’m just fine with that.

5. Use resources

Our department gave us a flash-drive with answers to virtually every question I’ve had. Yet, I didn’t explore this as I should have. So before I call and seem helpless, I’m trying to help myself. It might take a little research, but I find that when I uncover the answer using my own resources, the answer and knowledge tends to stick a lot longer.

6. Take a lunch break

I’ve been guilty of eating lunch at my desk, in my office, and reading emails. Alone.  I’m sure there are days when it might seem necessary. But not only is lunch a time to get sustenance, I like talking with fellow colleagues. Talk about moose, discuss Alaska Life, and laugh with others as I ask newbie-Alaskan questions. If even for 30 minutes, my day is broken up with mini-session of encouragement and rejuvenation.

7. Introduce yourself

Something so easy, but is also easily overlooked. I keep walking around my school and see people I know work there, and I see working with students. Yet, I’m being shy and don’t stop and extend a hand and a hello. Why?! I’m making an effort that when I see someone who I don’t yet know, I introduce myself. Simple, yet friendly. Makes those hallway encounters less awkward when I can at least know we’ve spoken.

8. Over prepare

I’ve had meetings where I thought I wouldn’t need a release of records form, then I needed it. Or I thought a parent already received their parental rights document, so I didn’t print one. Then I needed the document. So now, I’ve printed several out, filed them away, and will hopefully have the things I need when it comes to a meeting. But, if I don’t…it’s ok to say you will get it or step out and find it.

There are still moments where things pile up. Overwhelming feels rush in. And I panic. But I know who to call. I know where to look. I know that I have support. So, it’s a continuum of balancing my resources with my emotions. Learning to react with these things in mind, rather than jump straight to negative thoughts.

Here’s to being thankful I have a job in a career that brings me joy.

13 thoughts on “How I’m Avoiding being an Overwhelmed SLP-CF”

  1. I enjoy your e-mails and I find a parallel in what you mention about discovering weaknesses as you humbly admit them. St. Therese of the Child Jesus in her short journey through this life came to a point when she was no longer surprised at her weakness (her “faults” as she called them). In fact, she arrived to a point her “profession” where she was discovering a new weakness in herself daily. This for her was in no way a source of discouragement – on the contrary. In seeing she was weak, she looked to a source of strength which could supply (The only Source which could supply) for her deficiencies and in the humble recognition and offering-up of her weakness, she was made strong. Keep going.

    1. I am a big fan of constantly evaluating those weakness or faults. This makes me work harder to provide the very best for my clients. Thanks for being a reader!

  2. You are amazing Katie. It took me years to acknowledge that I didn’t know it all, to swallow my pride and ask for help. Some people never learn this. I am so proud of my SLPdaughter!

    1. Ma…thanks for reading and the kind words. I am becoming more aware how easy it can become to hide away feelings of inadequacy. Trying to keep myself accountable.

    1. Thanks for reading! It can be so easy to hide in my little corner and hide all my insecurities. But in reality, I’m stressing and being overwhelmed throughout the week. I just try to find a balance and be consistent.

      Working on it. 🙂

  3. Hi Katie, I randomly saw your blog via the share you posted on the “Future SLPs” page on Facebook. I just read it and wanted to say, first of all, thank you for writing out all of the things that I haven’t been able to say! I, too, am in my CFY year (I’m out in CA) and I can relate to every single thing you talked about. It’s been an overwhelming, exhausting, but extremely rewarding experience, and I really try to take it day by day (aside from compulsively checking due dates all the time for upcoming IEPs- ha ha 🙂 ). Anyway, I really enjoyed reading your blog and want you to know you aren’t alone! Best of luck to you, and hooray to being SLPs!! 🙂

    1. Aww Jenna…thanks so much for reading. It is so nice knowing I’m not alone and staying sane. I’m a work in progress and glad I have some readers to go along with me! 🙂

  4. Thank you for caring so much about your job and the kids who so desperately need the expertise of an SLP…I am the mom of a daughter who is non-verbal at age 11, and uses one of the therapists in Vicki Clarke’s group. We LOVE our SLP’s!! Keep it up, and know that you ARE making a difference 🙂

  5. Hi Katie! My name is Lisa and I am in my 2nd year of SLP grad school. I had a few questions for you and wanted to send you an email but I couldnt find your email address anywhere… but I’m also not very familiar with blogs so it’s probably right in front of my eyes! Whats the best way to contact you??



    1. Lisa,
      On my “About Me” Page, there is a contact form. Feel free to fill that out and it sends directly to my email. Happy to answer any questions. 🙂

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