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Clinical Fellowship Year

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You just graduated. You are burning bright with a fiery passion to change lives and start your career as a speech therapist! You go girl/guy! Now bookmark this post and set an alert for yourself to check back here in one month. Your CFY is a magical time but it is gonna get rough. You are not alone!

This blog post is for you when you are in the thick of it. Because there will be a day where you feel down and worn out.

I am offering you some advice. I just know as a CF, there were a few times I was feeling overwhelmed and went looking for a blog post like this to no avail. This is definitely one of those times where you can take what you like (or what you need) and leave the rest. Here are just a few things to keep in mind as you navigate this incredibly exciting and challenging new adventure:

 

15. Connect with your tribe.

There is a facebook group called Speech Pathologists at Large. Go find it.

 

14. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Don’t compare yourself to other therapists. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

 

13. If you make something – LAMINATE IT.

And if you’re using velcro- put the rough side on the pictures so it can be used on felt boards letter if you want.

 

12. ASK QUESTIONS.

You are clinical fellow. You should have a bajillion questions every day and that’s normal. It’s almost a guarantee that no matter what walks through that door… you’ve never treated a kid just like that before. Try to find the answer yourself but if you can’t, ASK!

 

11. “She made a promise to herself to hold her own well-being sacred.” -unknown

Try not to take your work home. You need to relax. Your brain is going to be a big puddle of mush for the better part of this experience (and beyond) so let yourself binge on Netflix now and again (and again).

 

10. Your best is enough.

All you need to do to be successful each day is make this session a little better than the last. If you can do that, you can be proud of yourself. I often wondered how much more progress my patient might make with a more experienced therapist. We will never know. But as long as you give that kid 100%- you are doing your job.

 

9. Grad school introduces you to the tip of the iceberg.

It does not (and cannot) adequately prepare you to meet the needs of every kid on your caseload and it’s no one’s fault. Birth by fire is necessary. Do your best to fill in the gaps.

 

8. Write it down.

Write down the things you’re learning. It helps you process and encode. You can look back later to see how far you’ve come.

 

7. “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield

You are most likely going to have a family complain about you. It happens to everyone. But you will also have families who LOVE you. Learn from them both and don’t take the first one personally. Their child is the most precious thing in the world to them- it’s not meant to hurt you. We can’t all be perfect matches for every kid. 

 

6. Think outside the box.

If after a few sessions with a really tough kiddo you are still having a difficult time- figure out what kind of support they need from you that they are not getting. Maybe they need visual supports. Maybe they need some sensory input so they can organize. Talk to your supervisor.

 

5. “You is kind. You is SMART. You is important.” -“The Help”

Just remember that there was a day when the words “speech hierarchy” and “Brown’s Stages” meant nothing to you. You are smart. You know LOTS. Don’t forget that. Most of your families are totally unaware of what’s fully going on with their kid, so you at least know more than them and can help guide them through it.

 

4. Fake it ’til you make it. (Your confidence, that is.)

If you don’t feel confident in your answer to something- don’t keep talking in circles around it. Make your point quickly and, if needed, let the person know that you are going to look into it and get back to them. Also, try to remember that not everyone is a naturally friendly person. It doesn’t mean they think critically of you. It literally might just be their face. Be confident in your response and don’t let it get to you.

 

3. You will have ups and downs.

Even therapists I work with that have been at it for 15 years (and who are AMAZING) go through slumps where they feel ineffective. Just make note of the ups so you can remember those happy feelings. It will get tough at times but remember another peak is around the corner where something will click for your kiddo and your heart will explode with joy.

 

2. “Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering…” -Audrey Hepburn

Know that the more kids you treat, the more you will see patterns and get a sense of the “big picture.” It’s okay to feel lost. Trust your training and lean on your colleagues to be sure you are on the right track. You will navigate these waters together. You’ve got to work on faith for a while until you are backed by experience.  Everything is scary until you have a few under your belt. (During my CFY I was terrified of treating R and now I’m like “pffft” no problem- here is some help if you need it.) You’ve got this!

 

1. You can do this.

Remember the thousands of therapist who have been where you are right now. Your CF supervisor? She’s been here. Barbara Hodson? EVEN SHE’S BEEN HERE. Everyone was once brand new. Everyone, at one time, didn’t have a clue what they were doing. But they learned from their mistakes, sought answers, perservered, and got better and better until they got great. That will be you too.

 

 

There you have it. My best advice and a big ol’ virtual hug.

The paperwork sucks. Sometimes the parents are difficult to deal with. Sometimes the kids spit at you and hit you. So of course there are bad days but overall- I love my job and cannot imagine a more amazing career. How many people go to work and actually experience *joy*? Not just being happy at work- but feeling heart-warming joy?

 

You are making your debut in the BEST profession on the planet. It will be really hard some days, and then it will get easier. Then it will get hard again. Just know that eventually the hard days get less frequent and less intense- so push through! You’ve got this!

-Lindsey

Articulation Therapy, Feeding, For Parents, Generally SpeechyThings, Language Therapy, Little Friends

Parent Roadmap to Therapy : Keeping Families in the Loop

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Photo By: Sylwia Bartyzel via unsplash.com

Think back to (insert number here) years ago when you were a young therapist. Now take it back to your CFY… and then grad school.. and then undergrad… and then back to a day before you knew anything about cueing hierarchies, Brown’s stages, or the alveolar ridge. That is where most of our parents and families are.

Let’s clue them in and teach the parents… not just the kids.

It’s easy to forget just how much we, as speech therapists, actually know. We can get lost in professional jargon and in our own thoughts during therapy. Sure, WE know why you chose that activity and the level at which you’re cueing your kiddo to answer a question…. but our families don’t. If they are present in the session, they will likely miss many of the nuances of your therapy.

There are 3 people who should always know a child’s goals: you, the child, and their caregiver.

When everyone works as a team, knows their job, and knows the goal… we are a cohesive unit. Of course there are exceptions, but this trifecta brain-share is the ideal. This way everyone can see the big picture and home programming is no longer a chore- it has a very specific purpose.

I recently had a chat with a ROCKSTAR parent. She is all on board with treatment and so supportive of both me and her sweet kiddo. I realized one day we had been in our groove for so long that I needed to check in with her and remind her of the big picture. In this  case, our little guy is a late talker. We have been working on songs with gestures, vocalizing during play, and adding a few signs to our expressive vocabulary. But I needed to remind mom WHY. WHY we needed to start with gross motor imitation and vocal play. WHY we weren’t hitting it hard and demanding words from him. WHY WHY WHY.

Of course, we can always ask parents if they have any questions…

but you can’t ask questions about things you don’t know exist.

 

(i.e. cueing hierarchies, Brown’s stages, or the alveolar ridge)

It’s our job to put ourselves in the parent’s shoes (or the child’s, depending on the situation) and anticipate their needs and questions. Some parents may feel like it’s not their place to question our methods… even though maybe they don’t understand why we’re having their child do something that seems counterintuitive to them. Some may just feel so overwhelmed that they don’t know where to start.

We are part therapist, part playmate, and part hand-holder.

It’s easy to forget that we literally have a masters degree in COMMUNICATION disorders. We should be *awesome* at communicating… but we’re also human. I’m sure we could all take a little more time to explain the intricate process of speech, language, and feeding development now and then.
(OH DARN, we have to talk more about the most wonderful field on the planet? )

Yes.
-Lindsey

Articulation Therapy, Generally SpeechyThings, Language Therapy, Little Friends, Older Friends

Let’s Talk Visuals

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My biggest takeaway from my internship in a public school was the use and value of visual supports. My supervisor was the visual QUEEN and while I didn’t fully understand why at the time… I certainly do now.

The way I see it, there are two major reasons you should consider using visuals in therapy:

  1. If our kids are language delayed, language may not be their best learning method. For receptively delayed kids, more words mean more confusion, higher frustration, and less success. Providing them with a visual reminder, cue, or explanation may be their key to success in learning skills and handling emotions. For our behavior kiddos, it can mean pointing to a desired action rather than them hearing the word “NO” one more time in their day.
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  2. You are building a cueing system. Your option for cueing your kids with minimal visual cues (or better yet- them self-regulating and checking back to their cue independently) is stronger if you START using that cue early on.

 

Tips on Smart Visual Creation and Storage

Once upon a caseload, I was a young CF with lots of extra time. I took advantage by building my own visual library. I used (and still use) the visuals I collected for picture exchanges, cueing, behavior supports… the works! My biggest recommendations to you as you create your own library are the following:

  1. Invest in binders and tons of velcro (check amazon for better velcro prices!). Velcro strips are excellent for storage purposes on binder pages but velcro dots may be your best friend when it comes time to place velcro on the back of a visual. I have ruined many-a-scissor and wasted many-a-hour from cutting sticky velcro strips.
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  2. Pick a system. I chose to have the “scratchy” side of my velcro as the anchor and the “soft” side on the back of visual supports. REGRET! Put the “scratchy” side on your visuals to allow using them on felt boards later on. Learn from my misfortune…. it’s too late for me but save yourselves.
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  3. Laminate EVERYTHING and keep it forever. If you are going to spend the time putting all of these visuals together- do it right the first time. If you want to save yourself HOURS AND HOURS of googling you can check out my SLP visual kit (pictured below). You still have to laminate… but you don’t have to google for (did I mention?) HOURS AND HOURS to find cute, high quality, comprehensive images. I did it for you. It took me forever. <3

 

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Soapbox over. Use your sweet kiddo’s eyeballs like the sponges they are! Our little learners all have different needs and modalities- we don’t talk about that enough in grad school.

I would love to hear about your favorite visual supports. Send me a message or comment! Best of Luck!
-Lindsey