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. Β 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.


About SLP_Echo

I am a Speech-Language Pathologist (CCC-SLP) working in Alaska.

Posted on September 13, 2013, in SLP-CF and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Very nice! So important to take a lunch break and stay on top of paperwork.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. Girl-I NEEDED this post today. Thanks for being transparent (and for the grand advice).

    • 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. πŸ™‚

  5. 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 πŸ™‚ ). 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!! πŸ™‚

    • 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! πŸ™‚

  6. A Mom in Georgia

    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 πŸ™‚

  7. 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??



    • 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. πŸ™‚

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