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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


Dressing like an SLP

6 May

Dressing for clinic. Dressing for interviews. Dressing for work. Dressing for conferences and presentations. Some students, you may notice, have a hard time figuring out the difference between dressing nicely as a professional and dressing nicely as a party girl. We all have different taste and style, but we all need to make good impressions!

These are some examples of what I’ve been wearing to interviews and such! (Usually my clinic wear is khakis and a solid colored shirt and a cardigan…because I’m super creative that way.)

Button downs!

Skirt suit

Professional dress

Graduation dress!

Three piece suit

And after all that, I get to wear this in just two weeks:

Master’s hood and all!

NP: The Cardigans – Lovefool

more of the last day!

18 Dec

The truth: SLP is the prettiest major

see? I told you

would I lie to you? NEVER.

slowly losing our minds

Bonding in the clinic

Speechie Besties


some new grad school images

17 Dec

Using an eye gaze system Cadabbey and I wrote "I ZAPPED A MAN"

Your brain on grad school: I left the house wearing these penguin slippers

Last day of clinic - contents of my lab coat pockets

She kept every single client billing log and every single corresponding supervisor comment.

Last day pictures (there are more of these but JENNI WON'T UPLOAD THEM)

feeling unhappy about returning the lab coat

super unhappy


I made this to work on holiday core curric vocab at ECSE

Things I won't miss at the clinic: THIS PRINTER. GAAH.


almost done!

7 Dec

Dysphagia final was yesterday and I think it went just fine. We had to do this reverse case study thing ( we were presented with a manuever or exercise and had to describe the patient who needs it) and I don’t know if I was specific enough (I had the Shaker and I just said limited UES dilation.) GUESS WE’LL SEE.

So Friday is my last day of work before I START MY FIRST EXTERNSHIP. GAAAH! Can you believe it? I certainly cannot. Am I ready? I don’t think so! Ugh what if I screw up and kill someone with artic therapy? Really I think it will be okay but seriously, I am having a hard time grasping the reality that I’m almost done.

As I said before, I will spend two weeks in December and two weeks in January placed at ECSE in Springfield. I’m excited for some time to get real experience working with little ones. I don’t know that I’ll love it, but just in case I do I’m glad to get the chance to try it out. Plus my supervisor is one of my favorite clinical supervisors and I think working with her will be a lot of fun.

With only a week or so left of classes and finals I don’t have too much left to do. A final in special populations, a take home final for dysphagia, finishing up a treatment summary, meeting with supervisors, two clinic sessions left.

You guys. I HAVE TWO SESSIONS LEFT IN CLINIC. ohemgee. I may cry. Or smile. Or maybe my face will get stuck in some sort of weird-in-between-grimace.

My thesis is coming along, I have three-four “normals” to compare with my participants who have dementia, so I’m excited to see how that goes. I’ll start getting their data tomorrow afternoon. While I’m alone in the abyss that is Springfield next week, I’ll have evenings to type up my thesis paper. According to my stats-committee-member I’ll need to make a lot of graphs.

As far as moving goes, listen to this schedule: AHEM. Sometime before the 30th of December the boyf is helping me move into a storage unit. Then I’ll go home to STL for about a week for XMAS. Then I’ll go to KC for New Year’s Eve. THEN, I’ll come back to Springfield for the last two weeks of externship. THEN I’ll move my stuff from the storage unit to STL. Then I’ll come BACK to Springfield for a two week class. THEN I’ll go back to STL to begin my externship with SSD-STL.


Welcome to Grad School, YOU’RE GONNA DIE.

(Not really, don’t panic. I’m just quoting Axl Rose.)

I think that’s all I have as far as grad school updates go. Sometime I need to sign up for the Praxis which I am taking in March. If anyone ever wants to know something specific about grad school please feel free to ask.

NP: Dan Fogelberg – Same Old Auld Lang Syne




This is Halloween, this is Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!

26 Oct

Ten points if you get the reference.

The other day @ASHAWeb prompted (haha, I would use the word ‘prompted’) SLPs to share their Halloween therapy ideas. I wasn’t really ready to think that far ahead. But now it is WEDNESDAY which means I have therapy with my little one tomorrow and we will do Halloweenie type things.

First on the agenda:

Paint Pumpkins. On Thursday we generally address /p/ so I thought this would be good.

Next up:

Do something to teach Halloween vocabulary, like a memory game. My client is SUPER into finding matches, so I’ll make some flashcards that say things like Trick or Treat, Please/Thank you, Boo, candy, Pumpkin – you know the drill.


Read something like The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything  , Spooky I Spy, or Go AWAY Big, Green Monster.


Putting that vocab to work. We have an EDHH preschool at my University and they are trick or treating around the building. This will give me a chance to assess my client’s spontaneous speech and the kiddos can have some fun.

I plan on wearing my Halloween socks which I bought from the $1 area at Target. THAT IS THE BEST PLACE ON EARTH. Seriously – go there. You will find so many great therapy materials. And…socks. Usually they have a bunch of holiday stuff so if you want Halloween prizes or treats I recommend looking there.

NP: One Eyed – One Horned – Flying – Purple – People -Eater


PS – this website has a ton of activities for a number of holidays: Speaking of Speech


so you think you can be an SLP graduate student?

17 Oct

I’ve come to notice that by the time we get to graduate school, all clinicians have the same gear. No one says “You must have these items to function here” but we all have the same stuff. Here is your checklist:

1. A lifetime supply of watches.
2. A clipboard. But not just any clipboard. A clipboard WHICH OPENS. Don’t try to tell yourself that the extra three bucks for the opening is too much – all that will happen is you will buy a crappy regular clipboard and then you will buy a opening clipboard four days later. Then you will have spent too much money and have one useless clipboard.

3. Your body weight in ball point pens. Preferably black. In undergrad I had clinic and the rule was ONLY BLACK PENS. And now my body involuntarily spasms when I write on a clinic form with a blue pen. Also, I suggest if your school has a “New Student Welcome” that you go because they give away SO. MANY. PENS.

Please note that the theft, accidental or otherwise, of another student’s pen is punishable by death. DON’T STEAL MY PEN.4. Dry erase markers. You may think you don’t need these but I promise the time will come.5. Folders. Lots of folders. Buy folders. You will need folders. Those folders will need pockets.6. Cardigans. No explanation needed. You know you need them. (To be fair I haven’t seen any man-cardigans in the clinic but I hear that’s in right now)7. So much hand sanitizer. I prefer the sprays because you can clip them right onto your lab coat pocket.

Things you might as well get rid of: Your pride and sense of shame. Hahaha. Just kidding. But seriously.

NP: L.E.S. Artistes – Santigold (obsessed with this song) (PS the video is SUPER WEIRD.)


I adore fluency therapy

26 Sep

This semester I have a fluency client. I am LOVING it and I thought I’d share some of what is working and what isn’t with you.

Let me preface this by saying my client is a teenager and getting them to do ANYTHING is a chore but I love being able to say “Nanny nanny naaaanny” when something works that they didn’t want to do because it was “stupid” or embarrassing.

Okay so we start our sessions with some facilitating techniques – systemic relaxation, rote speech (ABCs, 123s), and discussing techniques we’re going to use. This kind of gets the ball rolling on the “feeling” of fluency. If your client can do something fluently, start the session with it. That way you’re getting a kind of errorless learning – the client can be successful right away and if they can’t do something you can always take a few steps backwards.

My goals for the semester are to establish fluency in structured speech tasks but my client has already surpassed that so I’m going to have to start working on fluency in connected speech/conversation.

Anyway, so I use word lists for one word, two word, three word, four word phrases and then sentences. Usually I use those right after we do rote speech tasks to keep up the fluent speech. We quickly practice the techniques we’ve seen success with on these word lists (thoracic breathing, reduced rate, low pitch, easy onset). Then we read an article from Missouri Conservationist for Kids, and I parse the article before the session so I know how many syllables my client will be reading (makes for easier tracking later). Each paragraph we read we use a different technique and record it so that my client can listen to them and count the stuttering moments for themself (not a word but I don’t want to say he or she).

The techniques we use: first we use DAF – not because it is a technique but because my client thinks it is cool and I use it as a reward. Also, my client does BETTER with fluency when using targeted techniques so I can say “Hey you know what – DAF is cool but you got this on your own, you can physically be fluent without any technology.” I think with teenagers who stutter this is a big deal – it’d be soooo nice to just have some earbuds in that look like an iPod that would make them fluent, but it doesn’t work that way, and even if it did – they can do better without them.

Then we read with thoracic breathing and practice inspiratory checking and conversational breathing. This is a hard one to monitor but I’ve seen a lot of progress with some coaching prior to speech acts.

Usually then we work on reducing rate. To reduce rate I taped a tongue depressor to the table and the client is prompted to read each word but not finish the word before finishing running his hand over the length of the depressor. Now we’re working on staying slow without the tactile cue (usually there’s a lot of me making  crazy “slow down” hand motions). Reducing rate has a HUGE effect on my client’s fluency – which is likely why the DAF works.

To target disfluent moments, we do easy onset and cancellation. My client really seems to hate easy onset, but it works. If you’re working with a teenager, expect a lot of ‘splainin – they want to know what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and when they can leave. At least once a session I have to say “This isn’t something you would do in real life, I just want you to feel control over your speech.” Sometimes we’ll do things like negative practice or speaking at a ridiculously low pitch and my client HATES it but, it works (that’s when the “nanny nannying” comes in).

If you’re working with a teen, be relaxed and really make them feel like this is a team effort. Being different is not cool, so make sure they know they aren’t alone. Before you make them do something, do it yourself! At least then if they think what they’re doing is stupid they’ll feel like you both look stupid rather than them looking stupid alone.

If anyone has any tips for working on stuttering at the connected speech level please let me know! I’ve noticed with my client that when reading or speaking at a reduced rate, the naturalness of speech goes out the window. It becomes very robotic, but when prompted to add intonation to a reduced rate the dysfluency comes right back. We do a lot of modeling right now, any input is appreciated.

NP: The Rascals – Good Lovin


quick and dirty

23 Sep

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. A really easy, convenient way to learn about CSD masters and doctoral programs is through EdFind.

Go there. Use it.

I have to go remember how to use the Visi Pitch because I have a diagnostic at 4 PM. I have the worst hangover.

NP: Spice Girls – Two Become One


I like to move it move it

9 Sep

I was just reading a post on ASHAsphere about ASD and gymnastics and dontcha know – it got me to thinkin’.

I think therapy and movement should go hand-in-hand as much as possible – not only for kids on the spectrum but for kids with all sorts of disorders. Children are active by nature and they learn through exploration. You can’t stick a kid at a table and tell them to make the /s/ sound. There needs to be more and I’ve found that by utilizing the whole body I see better results.

When I say the “whole body” I really mean it. In a university clinic setting you’re often in teensy rooms full of other furniture and equipment, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit in tiny chairs with both feet on the floor. Implementing a wide variety of sensory input during therapy can make a world of difference. Using gestures and tactile cues is more intuitive and natural than you might think.

I discovered that this sort of whole-body cueing and feedback works really well with children with apraxia of speech, but it also works well with kids who have less involved developmental speech disorders as well. It is so easy to add a visual component to a model of a sound – think of how you might “act out” a /p/ or a /k/. Beside verbally telling a child how to make a /n/ and showing them in a mirror, what kind of visual cue might be appropriate? What works for each kid is different but what is often the same is that they want and need to MOVE. Make that natural desire work to your advantage. Clap or jump on stops, move your hands like a fricative, SHOW them plosion. And make them do it with you. Not only can this be fun but it adds that extra sensory-kinesthetic-proprioceptive feedback. Instead of using movement as a reward, implement it right into the actual teaching and then you’re not wasting therapy time shooting hoops every time little Timmy says his /r/ accurately. Plus it doesn’t really hurt anything so why not?

Get those kiddos up and out of their seats. They are ninos! They need to release their wiggles. (Oh but seriously I’ve have kids fall down and crash into things so, uh, be careful)

This seems appropriate

NP: Natasha Bedingfield – Strip Me