Top 3 Speech Pathology Tips
For all you new, soon-to-be, or veteran SLP’s out there, I want to share my top 3 speech pathology tips if you want to be successful at your job and lower your stress levels.
To be successful, you must learn everything a speech pathologist must know including dysphagia, articulation, language disorders, evidence-based practices, assessment, and therapy! You MUST know this stuff forwards and backwards.
However, just knowing your sh&#t will not cut it.
Be kind. This is my number one rule of thumb for work and life and THE MOST IMPORTANT speech pathology tip and the one that is easily forgotten due to the stress of the job. We forget to be understanding and kind.
- I KNOW how frustrating (and dangerous) it can be when a nurse doesn’t follow through with your recommended swallowing strategies or places water on a patient’s tray who needs thickened liquids.
- I UNDERSTAND the frustration when a teacher gives you only one open spot, 2:30-3:00 on Wednesday for your social group.
- I GET IT when a parent calls to cancel 5 minutes before an appointment because she needed to schedule an emergency manicure before the weekend.
However, being a nurse is HARD. They have a lot of patients, doctors orders, pain management, families calling, Dr. Google monitoring their every move, etc.... Have you asked how their day is going? Have you told them you understand their job is impossible and are amazed that they do it so well? Have you thanked them for screening your dysphagia patient? Sympathy and empathy go a long way. When you show you care, most likely the other person will help you when you need it. They will be on your team and your patients will prosper.
Being a teacher is one of the hardest jobs in the world, I could never do it! Have you told your teachers it impresses you they can handle 27 kids all day long? Have you told them they are doing a great job including your IEP students in group discussions? Have you thanked them for communicating progress with parents? Teachers have over 20 kids ALL DAY LONG. They have pressure from administration, testing requirements, parents who know everything, students with behaviors, 27 different learning styles all at once, no plan time...it is HARD! Offer sympathy. Tell them they are doing a great job! When teachers know you care, they will care about you!
Being a parent is THE HARDEST JOB, especially parents who have special needs children. Make sure they know they are doing the best for their child. Maybe that manicure is the only thing keeping their sanity. Be kind and let them know you are on their team.
HOWEVER, DO NOT BE A PUSHOVER. You must kind and empathetic but NOT take on too much. Know your limits. Remind parents of your cancellation policy (kindly). When people are treated with respect and kindness, they will respect you.
LISTEN…. Really LISTEN!
When we meet a parent, a teacher, a nurse, a child, really anyone...we make assumptions (consciously or not).
Try to quiet those assumptions and keep an open mind and LISTEN. When you truly listen, people will surprise you, in a good way.
There is a saying, if you want to know what is wrong with patients, just ask them. However, what that saying doesn’t say is...you need to LISTEN to their answers (not what you think they are saying or should say).
Listen, when a teacher says the child cannot answer WH questions in class. Let’s say you know a certain child can answer questions in a small group or in the speech room when cued; however, the teacher says the child cannot answer WH questions in class.
- Listen, when the teacher says he/she is cueing him/her and it doesn’t work.
- Maybe the child is distracted during class. Maybe preferential seating will work.
- Maybe he can’t see his cue card.
- Listen, be a pathologist, and figured it out!
Let's say a patient is coughing during meals despite consistent use of swallow strategies.
- Listen, when the nurse says he/she is doing every swallow strategy, but the patient is still coughing while drinking.
- Don’t assume the nurse is doing it wrong. Maybe it is fatigue due to a medication or time of day.
- Listen, be a pathologist, and figured it out!
As speech-language pathologists, we are pathologists. We need to assess a situation in its entirety and figure out the problem. That is what we are trained to do.
Okay, now you are kind and a good listener, it is time to be flexible. I have noticed that this can be difficult for many medical professionals but it is necessary. We know our stuff. We can assess patients, design treatment plans, pick out evidence based treatment techniques/programs based on learning styles and goals, treat, update goals, and dismiss when needed.
The only caveat in this plan is the patient...every patient is different and unpredictable. Every patient has different needs and goals.
We may walk in with our “plan” but we need to be FLEXIBLE too!
- PROMPT not working? Try something else!
- No matter what you try, the child CANNOT say /t/, move on to another sound
- The child won’t sit for a book... pick on active activity - practice vocabulary while running across a room (slow vs fast).
Remember how you listened to your teacher about all his/her stress with math testing this year. Remember, how you kindly responded. This teacher CANNOT have her student miss math. BE FLEXIBLE. You can “push in” during math. Support the vocabulary learning, pre-teach math skills, support articulation as he/she answers questions, etc...
Remember how you want to work on categorization but this parent, yes recognizes it is important, only really wants to hear about his/her child’s day. They have been dreaming of this moment. Use that! Take pictures, make sentence strips. Work on language through this goal. It will motivate everyone on the team and the child will make progress.
Remember, how the nurse said, it is for him/her to remember to use the feeding techniques because he/she is exhausted and busy. Maybe work with the food service to get a different color tray or place the strategies in a different position in the room. ASK the nurses what might work for THEM and try it! Everyone wins!