Let me walk you through a scenario that I think a lot of us speech-language pathologists have been in before. You're having a meeting about a student with a parent or another educator and someone asks you a question. However, as smart as you are (and trust me, I know you're VERY smart), you might not actually KNOW the answer to this specific question off the top of your head.
What do you do in a scenario like this?
Well, there's pretty much two roads you could travel down. The first road is one that I like to call Awkward Street. This consists of you verbally dancing around the question in an awkward manner. Awkward Street has lots of potholes. In an attempt to seem like you know the answer, you blurt out some "big words" that you think make you sound "smart" as you attempt to drive down that bumpy street. All of this is in hopes that you're able to convince the question-asker that you can't be stumped. But does this work?
Meh. Maybe sometimes.
What about the other road, though? Let's call it Honesty Street. This one consists of you being completely honest that you don't know the answer off the top of your head, but you'll find out as soon as possible. This is a much smoother street - not a single pothole to be found. To me, the honest response displays sincerity and it communicates to the question-asker that you value the question enough to NOT dance around it. And because of that value, you take the initiative to seek out a clear and concise answer. So if you ask me, it seems like Honesty Street is the best road to travel down.
But why do some SLPs choose to go down Awkward Street?
When I first started out as an SLP, I was a clinician who would choose to travel down Awkward Street every now and again because I never wanted to be seen as an clinician who didn't know his stuff. I would verbally dance around a question I didn't know the answer to because I had this false idea in my head that all SLPs should know every single answer to any single question that related to speech-language pathology. I was too early into my career to truly understand that it's OK to not know the answer sometimes.
Seriously, it's OK to not know the answer sometimes.
Before we go any further though, when I say it's OK to not know the answer sometimes, I don't mean it's OK to not know answers to basic questions like, "Mr. Raj, what's the real name of that voice box thingy inside a person's throat?" Yes, if you're an SLP then you absolutely should be able to answer basic questions like that (and for the record, the answer is larynx, LOL!).
I'm not talking about not knowing answers to basic questions.
I'm talking about not knowing answers to questions that usually revolve around something that's so brand-new that you just haven't had the opportunity to hear about it yet. Questions such as:
In the past, I would verbally dance around questions like that.
To those types of questions, when I first started out as a clinician, you could find me traveling down Awkward Street. I would buckle up and brace myself for the bumpy ride by nervously responding with things like, "Oh yeah, I've heard of X before, I mean, who hasn't heard of X . . ." Then, I would hold on to the steering wheel tightly and drive straight into a long run-on sentence where I would try to give off the impression that I actually did hear of X. What a reckless driver I was. Silly me.
So listen up.
I'm here to tell you what I wish someone told me years ago - it's OK to not know the answer sometimes. I'm writing this blog post for you. Yes YOU. I see you reading this post. I'm waving to you. Do you see me waving? You do? Good. So now that you see me, listen to me when I say this again:
It's OK to not know the answer sometimes.
Now that I've been a clinician for a while, I know that it's impossible to know it all. So now, whenever I'm asked a question that contains a bit of terminology that I'm unfamiliar with, I confidently let it be known that I'm not familiar with X. I happily travel down Honesty Street because I've come to realize that what's usually found at the end of Honesty Street is a big ol' bucket of new knowledge. Either the person explains whatever X is or you go back to your computer and you look up X yourself. Either way, you win because you gain a big ol' bucket of new knowledge. And new knowledge, well, that's the fuel that keeps us all trucking along on our never-ending road trip towards becoming the best possible clinicians that we can be.
In closing . . .
Here's what I want you to do. I want you to say the following out loud to yourself. "It's OK to not know the answer sometimes." How did that feel? Pretty good, right? Next, I want you to send a text message to your favorite SLP buddy that reads, "Erik X. Raj told me to tell you that it's OK to not know the answer sometimes." And if your friend replies with, "Who's Erik X. Raj?" – just tell your pal that he's a cool dude who loves dance parties and Spider-Man.
Earlier this year, I was doing a speech-language evaluation with an 11-year-old child. One of my favorite aspects of a typical evaluation is the student interview portion that I typically do. Before I even begin any type of standardized assessment with a child, I usually start off with a few "gettin' to know ya" warm up questions. Why? Two reasons: (1.) so I can begin to informally asses the child's ability to use and understand language and (2.) so that I can begin to know the child's likes/dislikes because that ultimately helps with rapport building.
Conversations about T.V.
Whenever I do student interviews with children, without fail, I always find myself asking, "What's your favorite show on T.V.?" And in my past experiences, that question usually kicks off nice conversations about, say, a show on the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, or something along those lines.
But this child wasn't a fan of T.V.
When I asked that particular student to share with me his favorite thing to watch on T.V., he looked at me in an eye-rolling pre-teen kind of way and stated, "Um, yeah, I don't watch stuff on T.V. because T.V. is boring."
"Come on, really? You mean to tell me you don't watch ANYTHING on T.V.?" I jokingly shot back at him.
"Nope. I only watch stuff on YouTube." Said the proud lil' guy.
That was an opportunity for me to learn something new!
If there's one thing I like, it's when I discover new things from my students that I could potentially introduce into an upcoming speech-language therapy session. This YouTube aficionado, I knew I could learn about a bunch of new YouTube channels that I probably didn't know about. He happily shared with me all of the different YouTube channels that he was a fan of. One of the channels he was gushing about was called The Slow Mo Guys. He exclaimed, "Mr. Raj, you have to check them out." So I told him that I totally would when I got home.
Open your mouth.
As I continued on with the evaluation, I got to the oral mechanism examination portion. Because I wanted to make sure that everything oral-motor was structurally sound and adequate to support speech, I asked him to open his mouth so that I could take a peek. He opened up and as I was checking everything out with my mini flashlight, he said to me, "Ya know, Slow Mo Guys have an episode all about the uvula thing."
Uvula?! Whoa! Cool!
I truly loved how that 11-year-old was able to connect the whole "uvula thing" to the quick oral mechanism examination that I was doing. But even more, I LOVED how when he spoke about those Slow Mo Guys, you could just see in his eyes how PUMPED he was. After asking him if that uvula episode was appropriate for school, I decided to check it out right then and there on my iPad, with him at my side. "My friend, these Slow Mo Guys, they sound beyond awesome so I don't think I can wait until I get home to check 'em out!" I beamed.
I was impressed!
The whole gist of the talented Slow Mo Guys is that they have an amazing high-speed video camera. They use it to film something that moves quite fast - then they slow the footage down (hence the name of "The Slow Mo Guys!"). So in the case of their uvula episode, they used their video camera to film a person's uvula as he was gargling water! Then, they slowed down the footage and it showed the uvula thrashing around in slo mo while the silly Slo Mo Guys provided some hilarious commentary about how weird it looked! From a speech-language pathologist's point of view, it was SO RAD to see that uvula moving around like that! And the student in front of me, I could tell that he was SUPER excited because he saw how SUPER excited I was. It was a wonderful experience and it really helped to pave the way for a successful evaluation.
Don't be afraid to learn about new things from your students.
As I write this blog post, I can't help but think about all the other times that I've incorporated a Slow Mo Guys video into a therapy session over the past few months - tons of times! And it's all thanks to that one kiddo who told me about them during an evaluation. Each time I've showed a Slo Mo Guys video, my students loved it and they seemed to enjoy answering my various questions about the video (all of the questions OF COURSE always connect directly to the students' goals and objectives).
Big thanks to that student.
Here's why I'm so jazzed: I didn't read about the Slow Mo Guys on an SLP blog. I didn't hear about the Slow Mo Guys from a speaker at a continuing education event. I learned about the Slow Mo Guys from a student. An 11-year-old student. I believe it's important to emphasize that I found out about that YouTube channel from him because it goes to show that not only can we, as educators, teach youngsters, but those same youngsters can teach us, too. Through their sharing, we learn about new and exciting things. It's crucial that we recognize the reciprocity that exists within the client-clinician relationship. It's not symbiotic; it's mutually beneficial. We all can learn new things from our students. Every single day. We just have to let it be known that we, as adults, want to know about new things from the children we have the privilege to be surrounded by.
In closing . . .
Do me a favor. Sometime in the next couple of weeks I would like for you to genuinely ask a few of your students this simple question: "Tell me about something that excites you that you think I might not know about." Who knows what you might be introduced to - maybe you'll learn about a new book, band, or maybe even a YouTube video! Then, check it out together with the student, right then and there on your iPad or computer (of course, make sure it's appropriate for school). Be in the moment and express to the youngster how happy you are that he/she has shared that with you. Because when someone chooses to share something they like with you, it shows that the person cares for you. And on the opposite side of that coin, when you actually check out what the person likes, it shows that you value that person's opinion. As educators, we should always be doing as much as we can to clearly communicate to our students that we value their opinions because their opinions really do matter. Am I right? ;-)
Have you ever seen a dinosaur splish splash' around in a swimming pool before? Or how about a dinosaur playing some rockin' beats on his very own rock and roll drum set? If you answered no to those questions, well, you've never seen Ralph the Rex! That particular Twitter account is one that I've been keepin' my eye on for quite some time now because it features something a lot of my students love - dinosaurs!
But it's not just any dinosaur. Ralph's got talent!
Ralph the Rex is a Tyrannosaurus rex that's well-versed in so many different activities! From skateboarding to working out, I often wonder if there's anything that this talented prehistoric animal CAN'T do? And here's the best thing of all, he seems to always have a video camera pointed at him as he does (or attempts to do) odd things you'd never picture a dinosaur doing. So with that being said, there's a massive amount of video footage of the talented Ralph the Rex that can be consumed for hours and hours.
Loads of videos means loads of speech therapy possibilities!
We all know that introducing our students to wide-ranging types of therapy materials is always the way to go. So, how about in addition to the random dinosaur toys and worksheets you're already using in therapy, you also introduce some Ralph the Rex video clips? They are FREE to watch and let me tell you, the students on your speech therapy caseload, they'll absolutely get a kick out of watching and talking about all the wild Ralph the Rex antics.
WH questions galore!
Recently, I was able to easily weave a handful of these Ralph the Rex video clips into a session where my student was working on asking and answering WH questions. These videos were a real breath of fresh air because there's only so many times you can show your students WH question flash cards and/or WH questions apps. Ya know what I mean? Seriously, these videos broke the tedious repetition and routine. Ralph the Rex helped my student to ACTUALLY WANT to continue working on perfecting his understanding of WH questions.
Here's my favorite video clip!
Give this car washing video clip a watch and ask some of these WH questions to a kiddo:
Short and sweet!
Just like Ralph's arms, all of his video clips are short and sweet. Each video clip is between 20-30 seconds in length. And that's great news for us clinicians because our time is VERY limited. So rest assured, you're going to be able to show 3-5 video clips of Ralph the Rex within your given speech therapy session without having 'em eat up too much time. Hooray for quick video clips, am I right?
In closing . . .
If you want your speech therapy to go from "dino-snore" to "dino-mite," Ralph the Rex has your back. His video clips are totally where it's at and I know that you will be able to incorporate them into your speech-language therapy world. Have fun exploring the video clips and let me know how it goes!
You know how sometimes you and a friend will be texting each other funny jokes throughout the day? And you might text a joke to that friend and then she replies with "LOL" or some emoji that implies that she's laughing? Well, whenever I receive a response like that, I always ask myself, "Did she REALLY just laugh out loud or did she just type that out because that's what we're conditioned to do in this Internet-centered culture we're all a part of?"
In case you didn't know, "LOL" stands for laugh out loud.
Most of the time when we do the whole "LOL" thing, we aren't REALLY laughing out loud. When we type "LOL," we're communicating to the sender that her most recent text message was interpreted by us as a humorous one. 99.9% of the time, none of us REALLY laugh out loud - at best, we crack a smile and internally chuckle at what we just read or saw.
But sometimes we actually DO laugh out loud.
In the few instances where a text message does make me literally "LOL," I find myself wondering about what's the best thing to type out to truly let that person know that I did, in fact, laugh out loud?! I just don't know.
Cut to @phoneticspeak.
Recently, a buddy of mine texted me a link to @phoneticspeak's account on Instagram. And let me tell you, this was the perfect example where just typing "LOL" to my buddy would NOT do my reactions any justice. The moment my eyes landed on @phoneticspeak's Instagram account, I was laughing so hard that I had tears in my eyes! My laughs were loud and real. SO LOUD AND REAL! The text message I sent back wasn't just "LOL." It was, and I quote, "LOOOOL WOW LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL X 10000 4E!"
Phonetics all over the place!
In short, @phoneticspeak's Instagram account is a terrific collection of pop culture pictures that all have a speech-language pathology twist to 'em. And what's the SLP twist, you might ask? Well, all the words within the pop culture pictures have been phonetically transcribed! If you're anything like me, seeing the visual representation of speech sounds in something other than a textbook or diagnostic report, that gets me so pumped and excited (I know, I'm such a nerd! Hooray for phonetics!).
Here are five of my fav @phoneticspeak pictures:
In closing . . .
Listen, if you're a speech-language pathologist (and I know you are because that's why you're reading this SLP-related blog post), you NEED to follow @phoneticspeak's account on Instagram. Calling that particular Instagram user hilarious and creative, those words are understatements. Serious understatements. (Keep up the great work, @phoneticspeak.)
P.S. If you're looking for other cool SLP-related accounts to follow on Instagram, I wrote a blog post last year titled 9 Creative Speech-Language Pathologists You Should Follow on Instagram Right Now.