Archive | work RSS feed for this section

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

Advertisements

Aphasia therapy

26 May

APHASIA!

If you’re working with adults you’re PROBABLY working on aphasia. There are maaany types of aphasia. If you use the WAB, which there is a good case you will, then you will give your patients any one of eight aphasia diagnoses (Broca’s, Wernicke’s, Transcortical Motor, Transcortical Sensory, Global, Isolation, Conduction, Anomic). Most aphasias  be classified as fluent (receptive) or non-fluent (expressive). And there are other aphasias out there like primary progressive, alexia, agraphia etc. AND the way you classify aphasia will depend on your “theory” of aphasia.

I say all of this, but really you won’t see “pure” aphasias often – I would say many are mixed. You’ll see patients with a variety of difficulties that manifest themselves in all sorts of exciting ways.

AND QUITE FRANKLY – sometimes the diagnosis is SORTA irrelevant. To me – I’m not treating a diagnosis. I’m treating the issue. Just because someone has Broca’s aphasia doesn’t necessarily mean that the treatments typically used for Broca’s aphasia will work for this patient.

So what do you do with these patients – who may have difficulty speaking, understanding, reading, writing, spelling and a plethora of other troublesome word related tasks?

I’ll try to narrow it down a bit.

The patients I saw MOST OFTEN were having difficulty with word finding. I’ve had one patient with global aphasia and one patient with Wernicke’s. My externship had a very cool “Evidence Based Aphasia Clinic” which analyzed the aphasic characteristics of patients enrolled in the clinic, and then looked at EVIDENCE BASED protocols for treating aphasias. WHICH IS SO SMART. Everyone should do this. Not just with aphasia. With all things. One day I’d like to have at least one legit journal article printed off that explains why I do what I do with each kind of disorder that I focus on.

Back to what I was saying – What do we do with these patients? With a global aphasia you’ll likely be trying to find some kind of multi-modality communication system that will be consistently and appropriately utilized in the patient’s life. These are tough patients but you’ll find a way to communicate. One of my most favorite patients had global aphasia. She was the sassiest.

Wernicke’s? Wernicke’s aphasia is really cool. There is a Treatment for Wernicke’s Aphasia which works, but is extremely tedious and exhausting for EVERYBODY. Be sure to break up your sessions if you attempt it. The idea is you put out six photos (of 12 photos total) of everyday photos and first – hand the patient a card with a word on it. The patient matches the word to the picture. The patient then reads the word or verbally identifies the picture. The patient then repeats the word after you. Then you ask the patient to identify the picture with just a verbal cue. There is no scaffolding or cueing, but obviously for training purposes and for success purposes you’ll want to cue and prompt as necessary at the beginning. When I find the source for this I’ll share it – I’m not sure where I hid it. You can also do Response Elaboration Training, Cloze Procedures, Melodic Intonation Therapy, and I’m sure a number of other procedures.

And the biggie – word finding. This is going to change with each patient. I really enjoy category naming and teaching HOW to do this efficiently. I think often we say to a patient “Name all of the animals you can!” and then they have a hard time and we write down how many they got and then we tell them to name some other things. THIS IS NOT GOOD THERAPY.

Teach, don’t test, people.

So some ways we can deal with naming and word finding is to do semantic mapping tasks and semantic feature analysis. You can TEACH patients how to categorize by really thinking about how our brain works. How is our brain organized? Do we just have a jumble of animals in our brain all willy nilly? If someone asked YOU to name as many animals as you could what would you do? I often tell patients to subcategorize. Tell me animals, but first tell me farm animals, then zoo, pets, woodland, ocean, flying, etc. Tell me vegetables but envision yourself at the grocery store. And also consider – are you asking the patient to name CONCRETE items or ABSTRACT? Example time. Concrete: Animals. Abstract: Red things. Our brain is not organized by color.

Other tasks for word finding: synonym and antonym generation. And not just ONE word. Tell the patient to think of THREE antonyms. This gives you a good idea of where they are as far as what is difficult and what sorts of scaffolding is required. Can you give a patient a FIM score without really pushing them and figuring out what is hard? (No.)

Unscrambling tasks. Idiom defining.  Homonym explanation. Word defining. Seriously – ask a patient with a word finding disorder to define the word “tree”. Try that one. I really recommend the WALC books and Cognitive Reorganization if you work with aphasia often.

Now, I’m going to do the last edit of my thesis because I’ve been…not doing it.

NP: Anna Begins – Counting Crows

PS – if you Google just the word “WALC” you get this website. Lolz.