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Clinical self-discovery. It’s okay!

21 Jan

Hey 2014, great to see ya!

It’s been two (TWO!) years since I started my internships and I’ve been thinking quite a bit on the narrowing of my clinical interests.

When I started my internships, I had no idea what I liked and didn’t like. I mean, I THOUGHT I knew (but we all know that’s silly…you have no clue until you get experience under that very cute belt you’re wearing.) I THOUGHT I wanted adult and hospitals. I THOUGHT I hated AAC (now we have a love-hate relationship.) I THOUGHT I wanted middle school students with diagnoses of ED/BD.

Hahaha. Thoughts.

I knew after my first internship that I loved working with the little children – you know, the weensy ones with the munchkin voices. I knew after my second internship that I did not want to focus on ED/BD. I knew after my third internship that hospitals are not my scene. Even after that, we still have quite an elaborate scope of practice to choose from.

So I got my first job and started my CF with a great, big, wide open caseload. Early intervention, bilingual early intervention, adult dysphagia, adult AAC and cognitive communicative therapy, peds feeding. Behavior, family coaching, communication strategies, group homes, ASL. Lions, tigers, and bears, OH MY!

When I started I was all, “Ohmygod I loooove it allllllll.” Now, a year and a half in, I’m seeing that I have clientele that I get excited about and things I look forward to and enjoy learning about. In turn, there are clinical things I don’t get super thrilled to death about. (Don’t get me wrong. I love all of my patients, but as far as clinical interests go there are things that I just professionally am more intrigued by.) (Was that a fragmented sentence?)(Sorry.) Since I would like to pursue the Ph.D. at some point, figuring out those clinical interests is a really important thing! I can’t stroll into a Ph.D. program and say, “Hey ya’ll – I like everything!” I need to find out what I love so that I won’t mind studying it for the rest of the foreseeable future.

So what do I enjoy? I love working with my Latino babies and families for language therapy. I love working with adults with developmental disabilities. I love adult dysphagia. I just wanna do those things all day.  Is there some communicative disorder where all three happen at once? Oh and I weirdly enjoy evaluations. Can’t really explain that one.

What do I sorta enjoy-ish? AAC. But not high-tech. I enjoy helping families use no-tech, low-tech strategies for targeting critical communication acts. (High-tech AAC makes me want to crawl in a hole. My brain rejects it. And the process for obtaining any device is the worst thing that ever happened. And it is just getting harder. And it is terrible. Run away!)

What am I unsure about? Peds feeding. It makes me so nervous. I don’t have a lot of practical experience and my book-knowledge is useless because it’s book-knowledge. Observation is an option, but frankly every child is so different there isn’t a ton I can take away from watching someone else do it. I’m learning as I go. Progress is slow (for me, not the kids.)

What am I pretty certain I don’t find particularly intriguing? High tech AAC! Adult acquired communicative-cognitive deficits pooooooooost-onset. School aged ANYTHING.

Part of me feels bad, about not loving it all. I have to remember that we ALL have clinical interests. That’s how we grow and develop specified skill sets. I can’t, mentally, love it all and I can’t know it all. I do truly enjoy interacting with and getting to know all of my clients. However, when faced with a puzzle, some situations get me all excited and riled up and I want to learn more. And I’m finding out what those exciting things are! Woo woo! Self-discovery!

And for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of Simon snuggling with his own tail:

He is sooooo cute

He is sooooo cute

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What’s in my bag?

28 May

I’m sorry but I just have to say that writing about “my bag” makes me think of Austin Powers. (Warning: that link is NSFW).

Now that we’ve got that out of the way: my therapy bag. What is in it? How do I decide? As many of you know, I’m doing some home health for kids 0-3 (mostly in the two-three range). My car and home are filled with toys, but I abhor taking the same toys into homes every week – I get bored, the kids are bored, the parents are bored. It’s like “Yeah, we know, you knock the blocks down and say, ‘UH OH’ – message and vocabulary received.” I like to keep things fresh and exciting. However, I also have to be realistic regarding my time and energy, and the children’s…everything.

When I’m considering what toys are going into my bag, I have to think about my kids. Some kids are age-level in terms of play. They have strong fine motor skills, strong attention, strong cognition: everything is age appropriate with the exception of their language. The toys I take into these houses are a little more complex and require more imagination: baby dolls with food and cups and plates, Little People paraphernalia, high-level puzzles, high level books.

On the other hand, I have some kiddos who do not yet shake musical toys or bang two objects together. Some of my kids have rather limited attention. Some need a lot of sensory breaks. The toys I take into these houses are more cause-and-effect, texture-based,  noisy, etc.

As a result of all of these factors, I keep some good ol’ stand-bys in the trunk of my car. My employer has a few cabinets of “Community Materials” so those, combined with my own toys, give me enough material to change it up once a week. That doesn’t mean that kids don’t frequently play with the same toys, it just means that something new or something they haven’t seen in awhile gets thrown in the mix pretty regularly.

When I pack my bag to go into a house I try to ensure I have: one book, one fine motor oriented toy, one sensory-something, something with pieces for receptive language,   something for turn-taking and social games, and my phone so I have some language-apps as back up.  Some therapists may think this is a lot but frankly, my sessions are one hour long with two year olds. Five or six toys doesn’t seem like that much to me.

Toys from my personal collection that I have a lot of success with? I share them with you now:

BOOKS!

I like books that have manipulative features for the EI population.

I like books that have manipulative features for the EI population.

 

Puzzles!

Think of the different skill sets required to complete each of these puzzles. Something as simple as taking a puzzle to a kid's house takes a lot more thought than you would ever think.

Think of the different skill sets required to complete each of these puzzles. Something as simple as taking a puzzle to a kid’s house takes a lot more thought than you would ever think.

Sensory!

Bean Box! I like these but holy smokes get ready for a mess.

Bean Box! I like these but holy smokes get ready for a mess.

 

This stuff is called "Gazz it" - it's 99 cents at Walgreens and it's a weird alternative if you're sick of play-doh

This stuff is called “Gazz it” – it’s 99 cents at Walgreens and it’s a weird alternative if you’re sick of play-doh

 

Fine motor!

Kids love to bang on things.

Kids love to bang on things.

Shape sorter ball is always a hit. Wooden stacker is a personal fave. And that ball thing is just something different.

Shape sorter ball is always a hit. Wooden stacker is a personal fave. And that other ball thing is just something different.

Social fun times

I just want to bang on my drum all day. And shake shake shake. And pat. And tap. And clap. And imitate motor movement. And sing songs using baby signs. Yay!

I just want to bang on my drum all day.
And shake shake shake. And pat. And tap. And clap. And imitate motor movement. And sing songs using baby signs. Yay!

Cause-and-effect

These poppers are always fun. For early players you can do a simple "POP" and for more advanced kids you can do some receptive "Who is in the trash can? Push the boat. Where'd he go?" games

These poppers are always fun. For early players you can do a simple “POP” and for more advanced kids you can do some receptive “Who is in the trash can? Push the boat. Where’d he go?” prompts.

 

These are just some of my favorites right now, DEFINITELY not a be-all-end-all list. And as an FYI – I get nearly all of my toys at Goodwill. Don’t feel like you have to spend a fortune to get some nice materials. And if you don’t have a lot that is okay, my supervisor always says you should be more interesting than the toy. If you can get a kid engaged and playing with YOU then you are all good in the hood.

NP: Love Somebody – Maroon 5

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

Receptive Language….huh?

25 Feb

Once again I have to point out that during my time in the higher education system, I learned the definitions and the textbook information and other sorts of useless stuff, BUT I didn’t really learn quite how to specifically address disorders. When I got out in the world for internships and you know, MY JOB, that proved to be a problem since I do speech THERAPY.

What disorder do I speak of today? Receptive language delays and disorder.

As I had been taught, receptive language abilities and skills enable a child to understand the meaning of sound and spoken language.

Yeaaaah….so…..about that?

After a few weeks at my CF I finally asked my supervisor, “Um, so, this is really embarrassing but…if a kid has receptive language delay…what do you DO for that?”

She, luckily, is a kind and non-judgmental human and gave me some tips. Which I now pass onto you!

Make a word sandwich: Say it, Show it, SAY IT

Use a slow speech rate

Exaggerate key words and speech sounds

Support comprehension with signs, touch, vision, music and any other modalities/senses

Use simple language, give plenty of repetition and experience with new words

Model response expected then repeat the direction

Give visual cues when giving directions

And the part that I’m bad at: reduce cues to assess comprehension

How can someone be bad at that? It’s my natural inclination to point, or repeat myself WAY too many times. My supervisor and I were watching a video of me doing therapy last week and Lord Almighty if I told that kid to “Get the cup”  one more time he probably would have punched me.

I need to improve my scaffolding. To say the least. My supervisor gave me a way to kind of…think about what I’m doing.

Step One: Give child direction “Get the cup!”

If child does not respond, Step Two: Repeat yourself and give them an extended period of time to respond.

If child does not respond, Step Three: Point to the cup and say “Get the cup!”

If child does not respond, Step Four: Hand over hand, help the child get the cup, and say “You got the cup!”

Also consider things like, is the child doing something else when you prompt him? We noticed that I was telling my kiddo to get the cup while he was pretty focused on cleaning up. It would have been more beneficial for me to wait for him to finish what he was doing, then prompt him.

And don’t prompt the child to do something that hasn’t been the focus of play or isn’t in his line of vision (unless you’re testing object permanence which why would you be doing that? Get back in your scope!) I’ve been known to do this when trying to do the PLS (it’s all, “Get the child to identify a duck” and I’m like “Crap where is the duck? ‘Find the duck!‘” and the duck is over on the table behind a book and the kid is doing a puzzle or blowing bubbles.)

Also be thinking, is the child not responding to me because of a processing issue or because he doesn’t understand the language?

Hopefully since I just shared this with you, it will stick in my brain a little better. And Liza – I’ll write about Deaf culture after my ASL course on Thursday because that’s our last day talking about culture specifically!

NP: The Lumineers – Stubborn Love

 

I don’t even know where to start.

20 Feb

It has been a really, really long time. SO LONG. MONTHS. I wish I had a valid excuse but basically it is cold and I’m sleepy and I’m busy and I don’t wanna go to the library to blog. I’ve had so many things to share, and I can’t even begin to pick a topic. I think the last thing I blogged about was CFs and swallowing therapy and how I suck at dealing with behaviors. I still suck at dealing with behaviors. I’m working on it OKAY?!

But I’ve been doing so many new things and meeting so many people and I learn something new every day. I think my most challenging area since my last blog has been AAC! Oh yeah my friends. Can I just tell you – in grad school and undergrad I was all, “UGGGGH AAC.” Now I eat-sleep-breathe AAC. And I enjoy it! It still scares me and confuses me and and overwhelms me and I’m still learning an INCREDIBLE amount. It seems so daunting! AAC is changing every day and that stresses me out – how am I supposed to stay on top of it? How can I make sure my clients have the best system for them when I might discharge them and find out about a new system the next day? I DON’T LIKE THAT.

So currently, my caseload is right around 30 plus evals. Which feels kinda crazy-pants some weeks, so I feel really bad for people in schools and hospitals who have more than that. Don’t forget, my friends: ASHA says no more than 40 but I know you all are doing way more than 40. Average is 50ish. Max is 110ish. SCARY.

Anyway, so about half my caseload is adults. I see two adults with acquired disabilities, and the rest have developmental disabilities. I’m not seeing anyone for swallowing currently, and I see one adult for cognitive-communicative tx, and the REST are AAC. So I’m seeing like 12 adults for AAC. It is a LOT of work. My adult clients require way more planning than my kiddos. The kids are challenging, but in a very different way. I’m doing some AAC with a couple of my kiddos but it isn’t the ONLY thing we’re working on. Basically my desk looks like the birthplace of AAC on most days:

DESK EXPLOSION

DESK EXPLOSION

So what am I doing with these clients? Some I’m working on developing low-tech communication books and wallets. So far I’ve successfully created two functional and effective communication books for clients who use ASL, but have difficulty communicating with hearing individuals (specifically group home staff and workshop employees.) I’m learning a lot about interacting with the Deaf community, and I’m taking a sign language course right now. It’s…interesting. We’ll get there one day once I catch up on this blogging business.

A couple of clients I’m helping to obtain high-tech speech generating devices for. One client my goal is a Dynavox Maestro, the other a NovaChat7. I’m also trialing a Springboard Lite with a client.

Some clients I’m going more mid-tech with – Go Talk 20, 7 Level Communicator, Three Message Platform Communicator etc.

Some devices I’ve trialed include: Dynavox Xpress, Dynavox V+, Dynavox DV4, NovaChat7, Springboard Lite, Alt Chat, Tobii C12, ProxTalker, Go Talk 4, Go Talk 20, 7 Level Communicator, One Message Communicator, Three Message Platform, Four Message Communicator. The DV4 isn’t made anymore, but we have one in a cabinet and I like using it during evaluations because it has a large screen and “exploratory” pages that assist in evaluating category skills, access skills, identification skills etc. Someone today referred to it as a dinosaur, but I think this ol’ dinosaur still has a place.

Also of course, I’ve been working with the iPad and apps. I don’t LOVE the iPad the way everyone else does. Don’t get me wrong: it is awesome and there’s so many things that can be done with it in therapy and in terms of using it for a communication device. My main beef with it is that damn 60 minutes piece that focused on its use with people with autism. I think just about every person I see for AAC has asked if they can get an iPad. I’m like:

WELL, you certainly CAN but I can’t promise that insurance will pay for it or any apps on it (probably not). And I also can’t promise that using it will be successful or that it will be appropriate for the person using it. The iPad IS NOT a be all end all.

I’ve also been downloading free AAC apps for my Android phone and there are SO MANY. I think I want to start reviewing them and sharing what I think here on my blog. So get excited for that. I think it is a great idea especially for home-health therapists to be able to just pull out their phone and try an AAC app with a client.

You may be wondering how I get my hands on all this good stuff.  First of all, my workplace has an AWESOME Resource Center that has SO MANY AAC and AT products. It’s great. I just be-bop down there about a million times a week and borrow devices. Also, I utilize DATI a LOT.  In fact I’m on their wait list right now to borrow a Dynavox Maestro. DATI is a life-saver! They’re so incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. LOVE. And of course, if I need to I can always contact companies directly and ask them if they know of a device I can borrow in the area (I tweeted at Saltillo and they were so helpful in my hunt for a NovaChat. Thanks Cara at Saltillo!) I think I’m pretty in what is available to me.

I think one of the more frustrating things about AAC is actually GETTING a device. The process is so long. I wrote up an explanation for families for the steps it will take to get a device. I found that families were coming to the evaluation and expecting that their loved one would have a device by the next time I saw them. And while I don’t want to discourage anyone from coming to therapy to get a device, I also don’t want them to be surprised if it takes a long long lonnnnng time.

My letter to families and caregivers

My letter to families and caregivers

I think overall, the learning curve for AAC is a little intense, but I’m getting there. I tell people that I’m learning just like they are and that it is definitely a trial-and-error process. If you have any questions, ideas, suggestions, stories – WHATEVER – about AAC, please share!

PS – I’m obsessed with the NovaChat7. OBSESSED.

addendum: my biggest struggle

18 Oct

I wrote post a few weeks ago about my difficulties with children who displayed elopement behaviors in my speech therapy sessions.

A lot of therapists shared a lot of great ideas with me! At that time I had seen a child I was having a good deal of trouble with about four times. I’ve seen him three times since then and I wanted to give a little update.

My supervisor came to observe me at that fourth session (which went horribly), and she came to observe me today, and she said there was a NOTABLE difference. So what happened?

First, I rearranged the setup to reduce the chance of him escaping. (Basically I cornered him.) Secondly, I offered him choices so I could better follow his lead (i.e. – “Do you want crayons or cars?”) Thirdly, I worked really hard at allowing his siblings to be a part of the play rather than trying to prevent them from wanting novel toys. This also allowed me to see what happened when my client had to take turns or share (not pretty.) Not going to lie, the first few sessions after that post were a LIIIIIITTLE wild. A lot of tantrums, a little aggression, and more elopement. But I had to create routine.

When I saw an increase in behaviors I got a chance to do some functional behavior assessment. Turn taking and sharing lead to the aggressive behaviors (pushing, hitting) and tantrums. I saw the elopement during transition between toys and tasks, and when he was told no, or that he had to wait (especially in regards to turning on the TV.)

So, to decrease the aggression and tantrums, I really encouraged mom to make turn taking and sharing a major part of play and home routine. If he only has to share once a week of course he’s going to be upset. It needed to be established that this was an expected behavior.

In terms of elopement I had to improve my transitioning. I realized what I was doing was letting him play with a toy, then saying “ALL DONE” and putting it away. That means all of the sudden his object of desire has been removed and he’s got nothing new to entertain him – OF COURSE he’s gonna run! So now I preface the transition “In a minute new toy. Soon it’s time to clean up.” Etc and I bring out the new toy before I take away the old one.

Also I’m increasing my affect, I’m working REALLY hard at taking center stage, and trying to make kids WANT to pay attention to me. It feels really stupid sometimes but that’s what these kids need! You need to be better than the toy they have.

Another factor in this kiddo’s behavior SEEMS to be sensory related. I noticed when he was eloping he was crashing, jumping, throwing himself around – more so than your average 2 year old boy. He’s a rough player. I spoke to one of our OTs and she gave me the run down on sensory processing and integration and he seemed to fit the profile. So the last few sessions I’ve been LETTING him take some sensory breaks, and I’ve been providing some sensory input. Deep pressure, squishes, squeezes etc. At first he did NOT like it and resisted, but today he allowed it for a few minutes and seemed to be seeking continuation of the deep pressure.

What it is really coming down to following the child’s lead and PLAYING. Watch behaviors and do your ABCs (antecedent, behavior, consequence.) Make changes as needed. Really look at what you’re doing and analyze how the kid is reacting to your actions. There is a reason for behaviors, you can figure it out!

NP: Mumford and Sons – I Will Wait

PS – when it comes to the TV, sometimes I let him turn it on and I’ll kind of narrate what he sees for a minute. Then I transition him back to play. If he continuously tries to turn it on I have to say “I’m sorry, not TV time” and prevent him from turning it on. Sometimes he’s okay with that and sometimes he does NOT like that and I see some elopement or tantrums, but I just say “I’m so sorry that you’re angry – let’s do XYZ.” He recovers either way. I play it by ear and how easy he is to redirect that day. The TV is a hard one when you’re in people’s homes, but it is OKAY to ask to turn it off or lower the volume.

PPS – I did all of the above in SPANISH. Booyeah.

The Visual Swallow Study

15 Oct

As previously stated, I’ve been doing a LOT of visual swallow studies. Mostly with group home residents who have developmental disabilities.

What am I doing exactly? I don’t have access to FEES or MBS, so I’m basically doing a bedside evaluation. The outcome of which is USUALLY: refer for a FEES or MBS, refer for skilled speech language services to train in safe swallow strategies, diet modification, meal time modification, or no changes!

So here’s how it goes:

1. I generally start with an oral motor examination. This tends to be slightly difficult because this population of older adults (usually 50-60ish) with developmental disabilities didn’t HAVE access to early intervention – and in some cases any intervention at all. So the cognitive skills, the ability to follow simple one step directions with verbal, visual, and tactile cues: not really present. Sometimes they are able to imitate me and in some cases they are able to follow directions (but not always – I don’t count on it.) So at the least I try to get in and check out dentition and structure (size of tongue in relation to oral cavity, lip seal, tone etc.) It’s important to note whether the patient is able to follow directions because this is going to be a major factor in whether I think they’d benefit from skilled speech therapy services focusing on compensatory manuevers.

2. I check out language skills. As with the cognition – a lot of my patients don’t have strong receptive or expressive language. I want to be able to say in my report what their language is like, how do they communicate.

3. I chat with caregivers while the patient is eating. I want to know: Where do they eat their meals? What diet are they on? What kind of supervision do they receive? Have they had previous swallow studies? Previous swallow difficulties? Do they have special tools for eating? (Divided plate, cutlery with handles) Do they avoid giving this person any types of food and why? Is how they’re eating today comparable to their normal habits? What kind of prompts are given to this person and what is their response? Have they seen any signs/symptoms of aspirations/penetration?

Also in the group homes in Delaware the patients are given a “Choking Risk Assessment” – I like to get a copy of that report as well as their most recent nursing assessment. Often times what the nursing assessment says about the person’s diet is different than what the caregivers report and that is important to know.

4. While I’m chatting I’m also checking out the person eating their lunch. I note all foods and drinks trialed and response. Rate, signs/symptoms of asp/penetration, time to initiate swallow, prompts required and response to prompts, peri and inter oral residues, laryngeal excursion. Do they talk while they eat? How is their voice? How is respiration? Rotary chew? Tongue thrust/delayed swallow pattern?

5. Then if I see anything that concerns me, I try out some strategies. If they have the cognition I may try a superglottic swallow, chin tuck, head turn – whatever I think would work best. I might try to encourage small sips, small bites, alternating bites and sips. Here I also check comprehension – do they have a concept of “small” or “slow”? Or are we just saying “Small bites!” over and over to no avail? I’ll try out some different prompting strategies and see how they respond. I may try breaking their meals into smaller portions or bites.

6. I summarize my findings and discuss with caregiver. Generally I provide them with an outline of the National Dysphagia Diet (circling the one I recommend), a list of typical swallow function in older adults,  and I may give them something to try out like a visual pacer they could laminate.

7. I write!

Now, I have about an hour for an actual evaluation and it pretty much takes that entire time. Honestly the most common dysphagia I see with this population is RAPID stuffing of food and gulping of liquids. Very impulsive and highly motivated by food. I have never in my life seen this before so the first time it was a REAL SHOCKER. I try to avoid diet modifications because I think diet has a major effect on quality of life, but I will do it for the safety of the person. Usually with the rapid stuffing I recommended 1:1 supervision, with consistent prompts to slow, wait, stop, chew, etc. I also recommend that meals be presented in portions – just a little at a time! Liquids included! They don’t need their entire meal at once. And often cutting food into small bite sized pieces helps slow them down a little.

I’m really enjoying these evaluations so if you have any questions please feel free to ask! Or give me ideas! I love ideas!

Checking in so you guys don’t think I died

15 Oct

YO.

Okay so listen, I still don’t have a computer (or internet) in my home and sometimes I just don’t want to blog from my tiny QWERTY phon keyboard. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have things to share!

1) A mom said I wasn’t kid friendly. But to be fair we ALL know that I have NO poker face whatsoever. I’ve been told this again and again and I just cannot get my face under control. Anyone who has seen my pictures on Facebook knows that my face does exactly what it wants. And I’m an open book anyway so that really doesn’t help. Talk about your heart on your sleeve – more like my heart is on my face.

2) A mom told me I was really connecting with her kid! See – people have good things to say too.

3) One of my adult patients was really into hair. And hugging. And patting my arms.

4) I’ve been doing so MANY swallow evals and I’d love to tell you about them in another post I’m just giving you a quick and dirty run down so hold your horses!

5) I did an AAC eval and I’m starting AAC device trialing this week – see number four for elaboration.

6) I’m trying to talk @kimabts into being a wug for Halloween.

uh. This is a wug.

7. It’s almost my three month anniversary at my job and as such I’m almost done with segment 1 of my CF! Holy guacamole!

8. I got strep for the first time! Yay early intervention! Also all of the children have rashes. Delightful.

9. I always thought I was really good at singing songs about my life activities but now that I’m in EI I can sing anything! WITH a tune. SOMETIMES in SPANISH.

10. My desk collapsed at work and someone came and put a traffic cone next to it. If they were smart they’d just make me wear a traffic cone around my neck at all times.

Yeah. Cone of Shame. Also I was almost crushed by speech therapy materials.

Also if anyone knows of a “communication board” to use with adults in the hospital setting tweet at @kimabts and let her know. I don’t really know any more details than that so don’t ask me ask her!

Okay now I’ll write about visual swallow studies and AAC. And maybe CFs. We’ll see. I only have an hour on this computer in the library.

NP: You Da One – Rihanna

I BLOGGED I DID IT. AND I’LL DO IT AGAIN.

4 Sep

My mom got me a laptop in 2006. It did its duty. It got me through undergrad AND grad school.It was there for me. My thesis was typed upon it. We had good times, my laptop and I.

And then it started BSODing and I had to reinstall all the things on it and now I don’t have internet or Microsoft Office or ANYTHING. Blah. I’m typing this on Notepad right now. When I’m done I’m going to save this post to a flash drive and then take it to the library so I can upload it to wordpress. GHETTO.

Anyway, as you all know I started my big girl job in July! And this week I finally got my temporary SLP license and began working for realsies. In the meantime I have been having SO MANY adventures! Boy adventures! And friend adventures! I got another TB test (is there a cut-off for how many of those you can get in a lifetime? I’m concerned.) I backed into a woman’s car! I had a bat in my apartment! And Mr. Socks, the neurologically damaged Russian Dwarf hamster, passed away and I buried him in the backyard with a stolen shovel.

Typical.

My first day out in the community doing home health went really well though. I saw three kiddos, all with rec/exp language issues. It was a little nerve-wracking going into people’s homes but the families were all so welcoming and gracious that I relaxed quickly. My first day with the kids I just probed issues noted in their IFSP and took notes so I could make goals. One kid slapped me in the face but I figure, if that’s the worst that happened I will take it!

This week I will start doing group therapy and have five kids on my caseload from that. I also have some adult dysphagia evals scheduled and have been exploring our AAC options. We have three iPads in our facility so I’ve been learning more about that and if you have favorite apps that you’d like to share with me – PLEASE DO! There is some funding available to us to buy apps and our community resource person can download free apps anytime.

NP: Santigold – Lights Out

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!