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Undergrad – What to look for!

3 Mar

Howdy. It’s four AM and I’m wiiiiiide awake. I went to bed weirdly early because I felt crappy and now here I am, blogging and answering emails because…what else is there to do? (Eat.)

I got an email from a high school junior (Melissa) this week, asking me what to look for in an undergraduate speech therapy program. (Which may be known as any number of things: communication disorders, communication sciences and disorders…who knows?)

GOOD QUESTION! Never really thought about it since I sort of…fell into my program. But if I was specifically looking for a program, I came up with some things that I really liked about my program (Or didn’t like…though there wasn’t much to dislike.)

1) Class size! My undergrad was teensy. We had about 30-40 girls in my program. And consider, that’s 30-40 girls that I saw every day. For four years. So depending on your personality a small class size or a big one might make more sense. To me, small was better than other state schools that had 60-100+ students in the comm dis program. I got to know the girls in my class, some of them are my best friends. But also, small means cliquey. Small means getting to know EVERYONE (even the people that make you INSANE. You may sit by your best friend for four years, but you may also sit by someone you want to judo chop for four years.) In a bigger program there’s more of a buffer.

Another benefit to a small class size is getting to know the professors more personally. These are people you’re going to be asking for references and recommendation letters in three years. If they don’t know you, your letters may be rather impersonal and vague. I got to know my professors, I’m friends with them on Facebook, I give them big hugs at state conferences. If your class size is humungous you’re going to have to work very hard to stand out.

2) Do they have a NSSLHA chapter? We had one at my undergrad but it was sort of…disorganized. It was affiliated, but involvement was rather willy nilly and professors didn’t really push you to be in it. If you were in it, it was likely just because you wanted it to be on your resume. We did community projects and that kind of thing intermittently. But some programs have really cool NSSLHA programs! They have a lot to offer students, they support students, and they push students to get involved early. NSSLHA is awesome too, because if you’re in it for …two consecutive years (?) you get a discount when you become a grown up ASHA member. Which is sweet. So yeah, ask about NSSLHA. If they don’t have one or it isn’t well-organized, and you really like the program, get in there quick and help organize it yourself! I’m pretty sure National NSSLHA has resources to help students put together their local chapter.

3) Can you be a clinician as an undergrad? This was one my most favorite things about my undergrad program and such a bragging point for me in grad school! I was a clinician as a senior. And as a junior I was an “assistant” clinician. It was awesome! I had clients! Three to be exact. It was so nice to go into grad school with clinical hours already and clinical experience under my belt. I felt so much more confident and secure than many of my peers. And God knows, I love feeling confident and secure.

4) How else can you get involved in your department? I knew as an undergrad that I needed to get in there, get to know the professors, get to know our department administrators. I wanted them to know my face, know my name, and to like me. So I worked for the department – I started working for our admin assistant shredding confidential papers 2 hours a morning, 3 days a week, for a whole summer. Then I moved up in the world and started working for our professor who was in charge of the alumni files, so I spent a lot of time filing, inputting data, sending out surveys, etc. Then I started working for another professor just doing her general bidding (seriously, one time I vacuumed bugs from under her desk. I also opened her mail for her. WHATEVER. I’LL DO IT.) I spent so much time in our department it was ridiculous. But guess what — they knew my name, they knew my face, they knew I was a hard worker. And I made some excellent friends/colleagues/mentors.

5) WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO FOR THEM? My undergrad program had a lot of opportunities for research. Which is rare for an undergrad program so ask about it. As a junior I did research in a group setting – there was five or six of us. We picked a research project, put it all together with the guidance of a professor, and presented it at our university’s undergrad research conference. Then senior year my best friend and I did an independent research study, so the two of us picked a topic, did the project, and presented it at a local and state wide conference. It was awesome. And it gave me great experience for when I went to do my thesis in my Master’s program.

6) MELISSA! – I forgot something important: do they have an onsite clinic? Some schools don’t! And that means you have to go out in the world to do your 25 observation hours. Which might be good because it is more realistic. But it might also be super inconvenient. I honestly had ENOUGH going on as an undergrad without worrying about driving all over creation trying to do my observation hours.

7) @goldstein25 pointed out that undergrad programs don’t have to be accredited so I deleted this. But in its place I’m replacing it with this tid bit: if the school you’re looking at doesn’t have an undergrad SLP program, but you want to go to SLP grad school – you’ll have to “level“. Which means that you’ll have to take both the undergrad SLP courses as well as the grad courses. So you DEFINITELY want to find a university with a CMDS major for undergrads. Otherwise you might as well slap at least another year onto the 2 years for your Masters.

If anyone can think of anything else, please comment and share your ideas. This is just what my brain produced with minimal sleep.

NP: Brandi Carlile – Heart’s Content

I have things to say again!

4 Aug

My laptop won’t connect to wireless and I’m tired of blogging from my phone so I’m sitting in the library right now just for you!

I started my first ever big girl speech language pathologist job on Tuesday. As I stated previously, since getting your license in the state of Delaware is apparently near impossible, I’m starting as an “aide” rather than an SLP. This week I just did some observing, orientation, and training types of things.

2 days this week I spent out in the community with my CF supervisors. I have two supervisors because I’m working half the time with peds and half adults so it makes sense. Both days I observed peds home health and community services. I love it! I think I’ll really learn a lot and get to experience a really wide range insofar as disorders and cultural diversity. I’m living in Wilmington, DE which apparently contains 30% of the nation’s population in a 100 mile radius – so that’s a lot of different kinds of people all squashed together.

One thing I found interesting was that in some cases my employer uses a “trans-disciplinary” approach. They say I won’t be doing it right away and I gotta say, “WHEW.” For those of you who don’t know what I trans-disciplinary approach is, let me explain:

What happens is, that for whatever reason, it is determined that the patient you’re seeing NEEDS treatment from multiple disciplines but can’t see multiple disciplines. This could be due to time, parent desires, behavior etc. So the treatment team picks a main therapist who delivers multiple types of therapy. So not only is the speech therapist there for speech, but they might also be working on the child’s ability to hold a crayon or jump. The therapists all work together to help the main therapist think of strategies and techniques. Everyone makes goals for the child during a transdisciplinary assessment.

You may now understand why this seems overwhelming to me. Since I’m not an OT or a PT, I don’t know their technical jargon or their techniques! But one day, I may be the lead therapist. And I find this scary. Probably by the time it rolls around I’ll have worked and co-treated enough that it isn’t so scary, but the idea right now of providing OT/PT services as an SLP makes me want to run and hide! What do you guys think? Have any of you encountered this in your jobs or training? How’s it going for you?

In related news, I really need to step up my toddler-Spanish and my sign. I took Spanish for eight years but never really functionally used it, but with a population that is so diverse I will very likely encounter clients and families who speak Spanish (among other languages – Spanish is just the one that I know). I only took sign for one semester, I could definitely use a refresher.

Sometime I need to join ASHA but right now I genuinely have no money. I want to take advantage of the gift to the grad program and my NSSLHA membership, but I can hardly make ends meet. I reaaaally need a paycheck. Ah the perils of unpaid internships. Get excited folks, it’s really fun.

(The man sitting next to me just put his hands all the way into his pants and adjusted himself. I’m judging.)

And my fourth post on the Hearing Journal is up so check it out!

ranting. raving. want a job.

16 Mar

Listen ya’ll. Finding a job is hard.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot of them. When people say that SLP is a field that needs people, they aren’t lying. But nobody wants CFs! I’ve lost count of the number of jobs I’ve applied to and I’ve had three interviews. I’ve applied to schools, early childhood centers, contract companies, hopsitals, nursing homes. I’ve applied to full-time, part-time, PRN. I’ve applied all over the state of Missouri but I may need to start branching out. I told the contract company I’ve done a phone interview with that I will go anywhere within a 300 mile radius of St. Louis. WANT JOB.

Even finding the open positions is hard. You have to

(1) think up the names of schools and hospitals or do a ton of research finding places in the city you want,

(2) navigate their website,

(3) find out if there are any SLP positions available,  and

(4) fill out each individual application which takes one thousand billion years.

Contract companies often just have you fill out their inquiry form and then they call you so that isn’t too bad. If you’re looking for something specific – good luck. Trying to find early childhood centers that hire SLPs is quite the undertaking.

Then you have the nasty little problem of not being certified. In Missouri I can pretty much count on one month post-graduation before I can get a provisional license. Today I had an interview and it felt good but then it came down to, “Give me a call when you have your license.” Which is completely understandable – but it still sucks. I want to know at graduation I have a job.

The whole process of getting licensed and certified is also really convoluted. Here’s a little checklist of things you have to do if you want to work in the schools in Missouri:

– 6 years of school! NBD

– Pass the Praxis II – SLP

– Get a provisional license (and then a full license) from the Board of Healing Arts

– Get a Temporary Authorization Certificate from the Dept of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) – you have to get the go ahead from the Board of Healing Arts before you can do anything through DESE.

– Get a school certificate through DESE after you complete your CF (don’t forget – schools treat us like teachers!) called the Student Services Certificate.

– Complete your CF (36 weeks, supervised)

– Get your CCCs

– If you’re contracted in the schools you’ll need to get a Medicaid number. You cannot get a Medicaid number as a CF. So you cannot bill Medicaid.


– Maintain your certification with CEUs (30 hours of continuing education per biennium) through ASHA, Board of Healing Arts, and DESE

– PS. If you get your CCCs and THEN decide to work in the schools you’ll apply for an Initial Student Services certificate which expires in four years and THEN you get the Career Student Services certificate.

– PSS. You may also wish to be a part of your state association – so remember to pay for that as well!

Completely. Friggin. Insane.

Oh oh oh – and here’s something that is just AWESOME. In order to get a MO Provisional License – you must have a job, supervisor name, and employer name, before you can apply. Yeah. Don’t bother applying for a license unless you have a job already – but you may NOT see clients/patients until receive your license number. WHAT? So basically when you go into an interview you’re saying “Hire me now, but I can’t work for you until the end of June.”

Which is why it’s so hard to find medical placements – they’re hiring for NOW not four months from now.

If you want to find out about your state’s redonkulusness – you may do so on ASHA’s State-by-State website.

NP: Eric Church – Springsteen

hey ya’ll

30 Nov

Make an ASHA Community account! And then add me! I don’t know anyone on there to add ūüė¶

NP: Judy Garland – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas


Last but not least

29 Nov

Here is my third and final post regarding the 2011 ASHA Convention via ASHAsphere. It’s about getting involved and advocating for your profession. So, read it HERE.

Also, I’m taking the apartment.

Now, time to edit some treatment summaries! LIKE A BOSS.

it’s been awhile

28 Nov

Sorry all. I had the week off for Thanksgiving and while I love blogging, I was slightly busy with family and friends.

Currently I’m having thesisy issues. One of my committee members won’t email me back, I’ve only got four participants, the nursing home hasn’t contacted me about getting more participants. I don’t know if I should try to find same age peers without dementia so I at least have n=8? Or maybe I could do individual case studies with each participant since I only have four?


That’s pretty much my main concern right now. I’m trying to pack up my apartment a bit (actually I pulled all of my belongings out of my closets yesterday like a crazy person and now my apartment looks absolutely wild.)

don't tell Stephanie

I need to write my third and final ASHAsphere post, but I’m having brain troubles (meaning – I know what I want to say but I want to say it in a way that you know, makes sense.) And then just finishing up with classes, taking finals, wrapping up clinic, and so forth – which is just busy work for the most part. I’VE GOT BIGGER FISH TO FRY.

On the upside, I bought a NYE dress! It’s so pretty. Yay!

Now that you’ve got my life update, I thought I’d share some ASHAcon 2011 pictures! Katie refuses to put hers online so I’ll share hers LATER.


I am the shy-est

Palm trees at the convention center

San Diego Convention Center - where we did all of our learning!

view from the CC

If only we could have met him in real life!

ASHA partners in crime!

Some Truman SLP friends at NSSLHA day!

screwing around in the exhibit hall

we want to know how much these tiny lighthouses cost to make

ASHA bling

I'm in the ASHA guide! With Kim Lewis (aka Activity Tailor)

Line to get into NSSLHA Day Luncheon was out the door!

Check out the tweet wall #slpeeps

Dr. Rao talking to the First Timers

there was a lot of floor sitting at ASHAcon11

Thanks ASHA - for recommending the hostel!

There you are, for now!

NP: Florence + the Machine – Heavy in Your Arms

some other fun ASHA knowledge

23 Nov

As I said previously, I attended 17 presentations at ASHA. Instead of hashing out each presentation, I decided I would share one thing I learned from the non-swallowing presentations I attended.

Alright, so first up – I went to a session entitled “Implementing the PECS Protocol to Teach Functional SGD Use” which was presented by Joy McGowan. Usually I try to stay more adult based when I attend seminars, workshops, conferences, BUT – my school externship supervisor said I’d be working with a caseload of nearly 90% nonverbal. SO, I thought this might be a good one to attend. And I was right! I think the main thing I took away from this presentation is know the difference between what type of reinforcement you’re using. Is it tangible or social? And how does the receiver of the reinforcement see the reinforcer? If you’re working with a child with autism, are they seeing that hug as social? Or are they receiving deep pressure input and as such, that hug may be tangible.

if you Google PECS – this is what happens

NEXT – I went to a half an hour presentation entitled Predicting the New Voice in Male-to-Female Transsexuals. It wasn’t the greatest, and it wasn’t particularly applicable. But it was cool to see that someone who has not had surgery and wasn’t receiving hormones could change their pitch significantly. I also missed the first five minutes or so, so it’s possible that I was just a little lost.

Onward! I kind of hate sports. I mean, I’ll watch them. But they make me incredibly nervous. So I like to learn about concussion and TBI as sports related injuries so that when I have children I can mold them into nerds who like to stay inside where it’s safe and read. As such I went to The Role of the SLP in Concussion Education, presented by Nancy Cohick. I think my main take away here was, you can tell teenage boys not to act like idiots but it probably won’t sink in. She has been trying to implement concussion in-servicing for teachers, coaches, parents, and students and I think her presentation seems pretty straightforward. But she hasn’t been seeing much learning going on.

I went to two presentations on NSSLHA day – one on surviving externships and the other on the PRAXIS. I can’t say I really got much out of them that I didn’t already know. But I was impressed with how smoothly NSSLHA day went and how many people attended. Nice job, NSSLHA!

Pretty much forever I’ve been considering the Ph.D. I know I won’t do it tomorrow or anything, but I imagine sooner or later I’ll likely get around to it. I attended Stories From the Frontlines: Pursuing the PhD which was presented by a handful of Ph.D. students. It was very helpful and informative, and woo-wee are those women SMART. My main takeaway from that was take a stats class pre-Ph.D.! (I was planning on it anyway but they really encouraged it. So now I’m extra encouraged.)

I went to one presentation entitled Communication Skills of Children With CP and Severe Motor Impairment presented by Emily McFadd and Katherine Hustad. Much like the PECS presentation, I went to this to get prepared for my school externship site which will be working with a population of students with severe disabilities. The presenters encouraged the audience to use the Gross Motor Function Classification System, which is used by many OT/PT/Pediatricians/Neuros etc. The main takeaway was at Level 4 and 5 of the GMFCS, the students should be using AAC as either a supplement or as their main modality for communication. They said to take what the student is already doing to communicate (most likely eye gaze, facial expression, vocalizing, crying, or body movement) and find AAC which will suit them now – but consider the future. And don’t ever give up on speech.

I then attended a presentation regarding Traumatic Brain Injury: School and Outpatient Transition by Renee Lavelle and Lindsay Wilson. This presentation was excellent and provided a lot of ideas for TBI treatment in the schools. I think the best thing I got from this presentation was that we really need to be advocates for kids with TBI in the schools. They LOOK fine, so teachers expect a lot of them, and it may be hard to get them services. We really need to make sure we can justify services by looking at the areas of Sensory, Impulsivity, Attention, Executive Function, Memory, Language, and Pragmatics. In-servicing is a big deal for making sure these kids get what they need.

If I went to a presentation that I was a little disappointed in, it was Teaching to the Test – Linguistic Demands of State Assessments. The presentation overall was just fine, but the content was lacking. I thought it was going to be more of an advocacy type of presentation. How can we fight NCLB and make sure that students with disabilities aren’t taking the same test as students who don’t have disabilities? I think what it actually was, was a passive attack on the state assessment. Instead of looking at how we can deal with the administrative issues, it was how can we teach our students to deal with the test? We spent WAY too much time looking at examples of linguistic difficulty on the tests(Listen guys, we’re SLPs, we can identify a derivational morpheme. And if we can’t, we only need one example, not seven.) I think we all know that linguistic demands of state assessments are ridiculous, and that the requirements of NCLB are absolutely absurd. We shouldn’t lay down and take it, and force our students to try to reach the level of the test. It just seems wrong to take a child who has language/literacy issues and instead of focusing on the functional issues they’re having, we’re focusing on how to teach them what is on the test – which may be beyond what their baseline issues are. I’m sure that this is a reasonable way to deal with NCLB at the present- it just wasn’t was I was expecting. BLAH.

I bet this bill would say “BLAH” too

And that is it. I went to one other presentation, but that is going to be the focus of my next ASHAsphere post! So you’ll just have to wait it out.

NP: Cat Power – Lived in Bars


22 Nov

One of our professors is super into stuttering and cluttering research, so the name “Kenneth O St. Louis” stands out to my classmates and I quite a bit.

When we saw our professor, Dr. Klaas Bakker, standing with his research buddy, Kenneth, at ASHAcon, we got a little excited about the SLP celebrity sighting.

As any intelligent, well-behaved, grown woman would do, Katie photobombed him.


NP: The Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the Devil

oh yeah

21 Nov

Here’s my second post on ASHAsphere: If you are younger than 80 this post is for you.


sharing of the dysphagia info

21 Nov

It begins.

I attended a butt-ton of presentations on swallowing. I won’t tell you every gory detail on everything I heard, but I will give you a little peek-see at each presentation’s take away message.

I attended the following:

Assessment and Management of Swallowing in Patients with ALS

Cultural Competence and Dysphagia: Improving Quality of Life

A Group Approach to Pediatric Feeding

Swallowing Neurophysiology from Reflex to Volition

Trach Babies and Trach Vent Babies

Effects on Bolus Variation

Treatment choices for the Dysphagic Patient

(Yeah, my brain is tired. Thanks for asking.)

I’ll just start at the beginning. The first presentation on ALS and dysphagia wasn’t really specific to ALS, so that was kind of nice. The presentations that were very specific to one thing or another tended to be a bit much, a little over my head. Anyway, so this presentation gave a brief look at ALS, the epidemiology, incidence, signs and symptoms, effects on swallow etc. It then delved into assessment and treatment. I really enjoyed hearing the speakers’, Kimberly¬†Winter and Jennifer¬†Chapin, opinions regarding aspiration. They base their opinion off the Logemann, 1998 research on aspiration which showed that 38% of known aspirators in their (huge) study developed aspiration pneumonia. 27% of the 38% were NPO.I think as a group, when SLPs see aspiration on an MBS we flip out, everyone is gasping and covering their mouths and shaking their heads. Winter and Chapin were just saying, “Hey ya’ll, chill out!”Katie and I went to a presentation by Delphine¬†Herrmann and¬†Svetlana¬†Piliavsky (who are just so adorable I wanted to hug them both) on culture and dysphagia. It really just made me think. We all know to respect culture and get to know our patients. But their suggestions really showed me how above-and-beyond we can go to make sure our patients have the best quality of life possible when dealing with modified diets. They want us to consider the implications of just providing a client with a name of a food. Find out what that food might be called in their culture, like hummus instead of pureed peas. They encouraged us to try to modify foods that would be normal for them, and to consider temperature, texture, eating rituals, and so forth.

Elizabeth¬†Baird and Wyndi¬†Capeci gave a presentation on group feeding for peds with eating and feeding difficulty. They have a protocol in place (art time, sensory time, oral alerting, snack time) which helps children build up to eating new foods. They really encouraged a “stress free, no rules” eating routine and wanted to make sure parents as well as children get a good grasp on the new routine. They based their protocol of the Social Learning Theory and they said they have a lot of success. I could see why – their program was very systematic, well thought out, and organized. Me gusta.

Ianessa Humbert and another woman whose name is not on the schedule, gave AN AWESOME lecture on neurophysiology of swallowing. I in no way could wrap it up here, but trust me when I say it totally blew my mind. They had such a lovely ease during their presentation and though I could tell they both had IQs of about 1,000 – they made the material manageable and understandable. Love, love, love.

Trach babies and trach vent babies. The presenter, Suzanne Abraham, had WAY more info than could possibly be covered in an hour. She really needed a short course spot. Dear ASHA, give Suzanna Abraham a short course spot. Love, Sam. But seriously, we barely even got to delve into what she had to say. A fountain of knowledge that lady is. She had a ton of videos and just, wow. She wanted to go over four levels of trach assessment and care and I think we got halfway into level one.

Bonnie¬†Martin-Harris oversaw a presentation given by a Ph.D. student, on the Effects of Bolus Variables on Physiologic Components of Swallowing Impairment. So, so interesting and slightly over my head. Their takeaway message was basically that there NEEDS to standardization of swallowing assessment protocol and rating. They stated that the MBSImP was a reliable and valid observational rating tool to use during swallowing assessment, and that during MBS all SLPs should start with a thin liquid because that is where you’ll see the most impairment. They said not to just stop there though, that all viscosities are important to the MBS. I really wish their PPT was online because I would love to review it and try to make more sense of it. Half an hour was not enough.

And last but not least, I attended (and sort of got peer pressured into) the Jeri¬†Logemann, Mary J.¬†Bacon, Amy¬†Kelly, Bernice¬†Klaben, Annette¬†May, Mario¬†Landera, and Linda¬†Stachowiak lecture on Treatment Choices for the Dysphagic Patient: The Problem and Setting. It was advanced level, so I should have known better. But we just wanted to see Dr. Logemann in real life! Basically each presenter showed a case study and talked about their treatment choices and the outcomes for each case. Most of the cases had some kind of oral-head-neck cancer. I tried to take down general notes that I could use, but for the most part the cases were much too specific for me. I’m glad I went but I could have found something more applicable to a graduate student.

Excuse me Dr. Logemann, I mustache you a question

There you have it – a quick and dirty look at each dysphagia presentation I went to! Next I’ll talk about some TBI presentations I attended. I went to 17 presentations overall, so I have a lot to say!

NP: Joe Purdy – Can’t Get It Right Today

PS – slowdog wrote a great post on what he learned at a short course about physiology of swallowing at ASHAsphere. Check it out.