Motivation, humor, and ideas that every speech-language pathologist who works with children will love!

The Scars That We Have on Our Speech-Language Pathology Brains

Today I would like chat about the word scar. S-C-A-R. As human beings going through life and living in this unpredictable world, we accumulate a lot of scars on our bodies. For example, when I was young, like, REALLY young (I was a first grader), I was playing with some firecrackers (dangerous, I know!). Well, this one time, I didn’t throw the firecrackers fast enough after I lite them with matches and on that particular day, a few firecrackers exploded in my hand. And from that, I got a scar on the ring finger of my right hand.

Ouch!

Another example of a scar that I got was when I was little bit older, like 18 or 19 years old. Back then, I used to be in a rock and roll band. As I was playing my bass guitar this one time, the music simply took over and an injury was just around the corner! My bandmates and I were in a rehearsal studio and I decided to stand on top of the drum set as I was playing my bass guitar (like I said, the music totally took over!). Well, I lost my balance and I fell down and, long story short, my thigh got cut open by some sharp part of the drum set. I had to get a lot of stitches in that newly formed gash in my leg. It hurt. BIG TIME. But, all that to say, that’s yet another scar that I have.

Scars. Oh those painful events that cause scars.

I know what you might be saying. You’re probably saying to yourself, “Man, that guy Erik Raj, he’s going on and on about scars. And he’s going on and on about firecrackers and being in a rock and roll band. How does that stuff have anything to do with speech therapy?” Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. This is how it has to do with speech therapy. As clinicians, it’s important for us to realize and remember that we obtain scars from some of the things that we do in the speech therapy room. From the mistakes we make.

It’s important for us to learn from those mistakes that gave us scars.

Here’s an example of a scar that I got once within the speech therapy room. When I was a graduate student, I had the perfect opportunity to work with a fantastic child. He had a lot of great energy and one of the ways that we could keep his focus was to have him sit down on a yoga ball. I would be behind him, he would be sitting on his yoga ball, and I would help him to slowly rock back and forth during our session. That gentle rocking would keep him regulated and on task.

But I made a mistake one day that gave me a scar.

One of the things that I did on this particular day is I forgot some speech therapy material. It was on the other side of the room – not within arm’s reach. I was supporting his back as he was on the yoga ball so I took my hands off his back for about a half a second so I could grab that speech therapy material. BAD MOVE ON MY PART. In the blink of an eye, the kiddo somehow stood up on the yoga ball and fell right down.

Oh. My. Gosh!

I felt terrible. How could I let this happen?! I turned my back on this student for only a moment and that caused him to fall. And like I said, I was a graduate student and there were those two-way mirrors and my supervisor ran into the room! The parents ran in, too! The kiddo was crying! I was crying! It was a disaster.

But don’t worry, the kiddo was fine.

My client was just a little spooked. But guess what? This experience gave me a scar. It wasn’t a physical scar, though. It wasn’t one like with the firecrackers thing or the rock and roll thing. There was no physical mark on my skin, but it’s a scar that very much exists on my speech-language pathology brain, if you will. It’s a mistake that I think about. A lot. So with all of that being said, I think it’s important for us to reexamine our speech-language pathology brain. We need to think about it in the sense that you might have some therapy related scars here and there on your mind that have gotten there because of miscellaneous mistakes that you’ve made as a clinician.

Reexamining is what it’s all about.

The good thing about reexamining our speech-language pathology brains and looking for scars, is the fact that you can pinpoint when that scar happened and then you can think about the mistake that caused that scar to be there, and that’s a powerful learning opportunity for you. Because you are growing when you’re reexamining how that scar got there. Ya know what I mean?

Makin’ it physical.

Bringing you back to the physicality of the whole scar thing, that little scar on my finger, every single time I look at it, I always say to myself, “Man, you got that scar from when you were a youngster and you were playing with firecrackers. That was a mistake, you should NOT have been playing with firecrackers, dude.” That’s me learning from the mistake. I don’t play with firecrackers anymore, and that scar consistently reminds me to not do that.

And my leg, too.

Any time that I look down at my leg and I see that scar from when I fell through the drum set, I look down at my leg and I say, “Man, you probably shouldn’t be standing on top of drum sets. It’s not the safest thing to do.” And, ya know what? I haven’t done it since, haha! I learned from that mistake, for sure.

And yoga balls.

Every single time I see a yoga ball, seriously, I think back to that time as a graduate student and I think back to that mistake of turning my back on my client for that one moment. Seeing my client’s sad face because he was so scared that he fell down. That killed me. I think back to that moment and I say to myself, “That was a mistake and you, as a clinician, can learn from that mistake.” With all that being said, I never turn my back on my students. Ever.

In closing . . .

How about you take a moment when you have some free time and think about some of the scars that you might have gotten on your speech-language pathology brain over the years. How did you get those scars? But, more importantly, what can you learn from those scars, because that’s what it’s all about, baby. It’s about learning and it’s all about growing. Let’s all reexamine our speech-language pathology brains!

The Scars That We Have on Our Speech-Language Pathology Brains

Tech Is Great in Speech Therapy, but Don’t Become Too Dependent on It

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about technology. We, as speech-language pathologists, we love technology. I mean, a lot of us are utilizing iPads in some of our daily therapeutic practice. A lot of us are utilizing computers, the Internet, and other things along those lines. And why do we do that? It’s all in an effort to better connect with today’s 21st century learners so that we can teach them what they need to know.

Today’s children are all about technology.

Our younger clients, they can’t imagine a world without mobile phones, tablets, etc. So, that’s why it’s so important for us, as practicing clinicians, to be aware of these technologies so that we can weave them into our speech-language therapy, whenever appropriate.

But here’s something to keep in mind . . .

Technology, it’s great, but technology has batteries. And we all know the thing about batteries; batteries run out of juice. Think about it – remember that one time you needed to use the GPS app on your phone? You pulled out your phone and you looked down at it and then all of a sudden it hit you . . . you only had 2% battery left!

On no!

Then you frantically typed in the address and started your drive and you were all like, “Oh. My. God. I’ve got to get to the destination before my phone dies.”  And then . . .  BAMM! The phone dies and you don’t even have the proper cord to charge your phone in your car.

What a drag.

All of these pieces of technology that are a part of our world, yes, they’re useful, but their battery lives are limited. The reason why I bring this whole battery conversation to the table is because I think we need to be much more mindful of the fact that the iPad that we’re using, it very well might run out of juice and what do we do then? On more than one occasion, I’ve been using my iPad with a student and I’m making a lot of great progress – we’re going through the given app, there’s a lot of great conversation that myself and the client are engaged in. But then I look down and the iPad died.

Total buzz kill!

Then, I find myself scrambling. Oh no! Plan B, what’s Plan B? I’m not going to lie to you, sometimes I didn’t have a Plan B. And, I’m willing to bet I’m not the only clinician out there that didn’t have a Plan B once the iPad died. The reason why I didn’t have a Plan B is because I put too much emphasis on the technology. I depended on it too much. I viewed the technology as something that won’t fail. But of course it does. It’s technology, it’s fragile. I mean, batteries run out of juice, right? Or sometimes we might accidentally drop whatever piece of technology we have on the floor and it might break and it won’t be able to turn on again. Those are prime examples of how technology can fail us.

So what should we do, then?

The answer to that question is simple, have a Plan B. When you’re planning your next amazing speech-language therapy session, be sure to have something in the mix that doesn’t have batteries. There are many, many, many things out there that don’t have batteries that sometimes we forget about. Because right now, in this technology driven age that we’re all a part of, we’re very fixated on the tech. And like I said, tech is great, but don’t forget about the other things. Like the pencils. Like the paper. Like the markers. Like the paint. Paint doesn’t have batteries. Markers don’t have batteries. Papers and pencils don’t have batteries. These are the tried and the true. They will forever be there. So, don’t turn your backs on these things. They love you very much and you should love them, too! Hehe!

A challenge for you.

I have a challenge for you – can you go one week within your speech-language therapy world without using some form of digital technology. Is it possible? Hmm. That’s a good question. I think the answer is yes. Or at least it should be something that we explore because we never want to become too dependent on technology.

But wait . . .

I’m not saying don’t use email during that week, because I think we have to use email. I mean, I’m constantly sending emails to different colleagues and sometimes I’m sending emails to parents, so that’s not what I’m speaking about when I bring up this non-tech challenge. What I’m really speaking about is the optional technology that you might use, face-to-face, with your client. Maybe it’s a computer? Or a laptop? Maybe it’s an iPad?

iPads are great.

Trust me, I love iPads but I want to remind you that iPads are not the end-all be-all. We need to not be so dependent on technology. We need to remember the other, very valid, non-digital speech therapy materials that exist in our world and we need to make sure that we utilize those as much as the other digital therapy materials that we are all so accustomed to using nowadays.

In closing . . .

As always, I love having these conversations with you. So, after you go a week without using technology, please feel free to reach out to me and let me know how it went. Was it hard? Was it easy? Was it easier than you expected it to be? These are great conversations for you and I to have because through our reflective discussions, we can grow and we can learn from one another. Cool? Cool!

Tech Is Great in Speech Therapy, but Don’t Become Too Dependent on It

The Connection Between a Blank Canvas and a Child Who Receives Speech-Language Therapy

When is the last time you thought about a blank canvas? Maybe if you’re an avid painter who enjoys dabbling in art projects on your off-time, the chances are quite high that you’ve recently thought about a blank canvas. But if you’re not in the world of art, you probably never think of a blank canvas. Now me though, well, I’m not really that huge into art, per se, but I actually do think about the words blank canvas quite often. And in my mind, those words relate to the world of speech-language pathology and the great work that we do, as clinicians.

Something clean and something fresh.

When I think about a blank canvas, what usually comes to my mind is emptiness or a lack of color. A blank canvas hasn’t been drawn or painted on yet. It’s clean and fresh. Unmarked. And when I think about my students, especially those that are brand-new to receiving services from me, I always try to keep the words blank canvas in the back of my mind.

Blank canvas.

You see, in my experience, sometimes when we have new students on our caseload, we can’t help but hear about that particular student’s backstory. We can’t help but sometimes hear the potential “gossip” that might be attached to the student. Maybe a teacher might say to you, “Oh, did you hear? So-and-so is coming to our school next year. You have to watch out for so-and-so because of his behaviors.” Or maybe maybe something like, “Oh, she’s a tough one to handle – good luck!”

In my opinion, that’s pretty unfair.

Whether we realize it or not, we’re taking in that type of “gossipy” information and in doing so, we’re creating a real bias in our minds. The way that I view situations like that is we take a blank canvas and we automatically start to paint a picture of who the child is WAY BEFORE we’ve actually ever interacted with the child. And what a shame that is, ya know? Who are we to start to paint the picture of a brand new child without actually meeting that child? Why would we use OUR OWN paint to create the child’s portrait when we could actually wait and use the paint that the child actually has and is always more than willing to SHARE with us? I want to use the child’s paint, not my own.

What’s the rush to paint the portrait of a new student?

Why don’t we truly get to know the child first before we start painting our portraits? In my heart of hearts, that makes the most sense, but I can’t help but notice that sometimes we don’t do that. For example, maybe a new child moves into your school district, and along with that child, he or she might have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP might have some progress notes in there or some sort of narrative that walks the reader through who that child is, as a communicator, who that child is, as a student, and everything in-between. With instances like that, I believe that it’s wise for us to remember that those different pieces of writings, they’re written through the eyes of a certain person – the writer. And here’s the honest truth, sometimes people write things that are actually inaccurate.

Wait. Before you freak about about the word inaccurate.

By no means am I saying that the assessment scores are incorrect, nor am I saying that anyone is intentionally lying when they are adding their piece to the IEP. What I’m saying is that, in my experience on more than one occasion, I’ve read IEP reports that, for example, might have an informal observation paragraph in there and the narrative reads a certain way. And of course, I read that informal observation and I start to imagine how this child might be, either behaviorally or in regards to communication abilities. But then, once I actually meet the child, it seems like what the initial educator saw during that informal observation is WAY different than what I see now that I’ve met and interacted with the child.

Subjectivity.

Sometimes educators might write things that don’t truly reflect who that child is. They aren’t doing this with malicious intent. No. No way. When things like this happen, I believe it’s because of subjectivity. When we view the behaviors of a child and we report on those behaviors, our reporting (or style of reporting) is based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, and/or opinions. And sometimes, those things can get in the way of what’s really there.

Blank canvas.

So, when I think of the words blank canvas, I’m always reminding myself to not think too long about who that child is, in regards to the given document that I might read or in regards to the “gossipy” information that I might hear. The words blank canvas reminds me to think about seeing the child for who he or she is once I get the opportunity to actually meet him or her. I feel like that’s something that we should consistently be reminding ourselves, as caring speech-language pathologists.

And trust me – I’m no saint.

My friends, we’ve all been there before – myself included. I’ve painted a portrait of a child prior to meeting that individual because I’ve read or heard things. But lately, I’ve been stopping that because I’m keeping in the back of my mind the words blank canvas. Every single child is fantastic, and every single child deserves the words blank canvas attached to them when they’re newly placed on our caseload or they’re new additions to our therapy world.

In closing . . .

Do me a favor and try this out. Think about the words blank canvas for a few days and connect that process to your particular work setting. Do you feel like consistently saying the words blank canvas to yourself might be a much more effective way to view the new students that you don’t yet know? I think so!

The Connection Between a Blank Canvas and a Child Who Receives Speech-Language Therapy

Did You Know That Speech-Language Pathologists Are Also Chameleons?

Do you like getting compliments from people? Sure you do! So with that in mind, I’d like to take this moment to give you a compliment, right here and right now. Are you ready? My compliment to you is this – you are a chameleon.

A chameleon?! What?! Do you think I look like an iguana? How rude!

Sorry, sorry. Hold on. Let me back up. Ya see, when I tell you that you’re a chameleon, it’s actually not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. It’s a fantastic compliment!

Oh, it’s fantastic?! All right. Well, tell me more, then.

In my opinion, all speech-language pathologists are similar to chameleons and that’s a good thing because chameleons are a very unique animal. Ya see, chameleons, they have a spectacular ability to adapt. Think about it – their skin – it can blend in and match along with it’s surroundings. So if chameleons are standing next to, say, a bunch of grass, their skin color turns a shade of green because they’re able to acclimate to their surroundings. The same goes for chameleons that are standing next to desert sand. In that situation, presumably, their skin turns a sort of tan color. Why? Because they are able to adapt with no problems, at all. How cool is that?

Chameleons are the kings and queens of adaptability.

And SLPs, we are kings and queens of adaptability, too. In my honest opinion, adaptability and SLPs – the two really go hand in hand. We, as clinicians, are so fortunate to be a part of a field that allows us to work together with so many different people in so many different settings. And, the fact that you’re able to mentally do that so effortlessly, I believe that’s what separates you from so many other educators and healthcare professions. You have a unique gift that’s hard to come by. Your ability to adapt to so many different environments is something that should be celebrated.

Hooray for adaptability!

Here’s a scenario that you might have experienced within your work-place environment. First thing in the morning, you might be working with a child who has some articulation difficulties. Then, maybe the next hour you might be working with a child who has some expressive and/or receptive language difficulties. Then, maybe in yet another hour you might be working with a child who stutters. Can you see how often you have to “change your skin” to “match your new surroundings?” You’re adapting your clinical knowledge to sync up with what your given client is struggling with, all in an effort to help. And you’re able to do all of that in the blink of an eye. Wow. You’re magical! You make it look so easy! Go you!

Fantastic creatures, for sure!

So, that’s what I mean. When I called you a chameleon, it’s a good thing. Not a bad thing. Chameleons are fantastic creatures and SLPs, we’re also fantastic creatures.

In closing . . .

Do me a favor. Share this blog post with one of your colleagues that you admire. And let that person know that he or she is a chameleon. I believe that it’s a compliment worth giving and worth spreading because it reminds us just how good we are at what we do. So, hold that chameleon head up high. You rock!

Did You Know That Speech-Language Pathologists Are Also Chameleons?

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