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

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.


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?

6 First Names That Have Strong Connections to the Field of Speech-Language Pathology

6 First Names That Have Strong Connections to the Field of Speech-Language Pathology

Your first name is a word that’s very important. That word is a special and beautiful label that’s usually given to you by loving family members, such as your mother or father. Because I’m a speech-language pathologist, I think about words, like first names, much more often than my non-SLP friends and this slight obsession with words often leads me to think about first names in a unique and fun SLP-ish way.

Did you know that some people have SLP-ish first names?

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed certain first names and how they trigger my SLP heart to smile wide. Sometimes, in my SLP mind, some first names seem to have strong connections to the field of SLP, and people who have those particular first names don’t even know it! So, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you a few unknowingly SLP-ish first names that I’ve come across.

Name: Stan

In the real world, Stan is most likely short for Stanley or Stanford. But in my SLP mind, Stan is short for standardized assessment. Standardized assessments are important evaluation tools that have established statistical reliability and validity. And we all know how important reliability and validity are for our job, am I right? So with all of this being said, I think that Stan is a magnificent SLP-ish first name to have. Kudos to anyone named Stan!

Name: Miles

The average person might think of the jazz musician Miles Davis when he or she hears the name Miles, but not me. My SLP mind immediately sees Miles being short for milestones (for example: developmental milestones). Whether it be developmental milestones for articulation and/or phonological processes, or language norms for school-age children, we reference developmental milestones daily because of how helpful they are to our clinical practice. So with all of this being said, I think that Miles is super SLP-ish first name to have. Kudos to anyone named Miles!

Name: Art

As a common short version for Arthur, to my SLP mind, Art is the short version of articulation. One of the things that SLPs are well-versed in is the world of speech sound disorders. We are, hands down, the go-to if you’re experiencing a difficult time articulating certain sounds that make it hard for some people to understand you. We’re the ones that can help you improve your articulation. So with all of this being said, I think that Art is spectacular SLP-ish first name to have. Kudos to anyone named Art!

Name(s): Mandi or Max

Speaking of articulation, anytime I see the first names Mandi or Max, my SLP mind automatically sees mandible or maxilla. Because I have the opportunity to work with loads of children who have articulation difficulties, I often find myself teaching loads of vocabulary to them that relates to the primary bones of our face; and mandible and maxilla are absolutely two words that my clients learn. So with all of this being said, I think that Mandi and Max are awesome SLP-ish first names to have. Kudos to anyone named Mandi or Max!

Name: Asha

I don’t think any SLP would disagree with me when I say that anytime I meet a person with the first name Asha, my SLP mind sees it as the abbreviation for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for thousands upon thousands of SLPs in the United States and beyond. As a certified member of ASHA for a number of years, I can honestly say that I’m a huge fan of the organization for all of the good that they do. So with all of this being said, I think that Asha is a cool SLP-ish first name to have. Kudos to anyone named Asha!

In closing . . .

Can you think of any other unknowingly SLP-ish first names that you’ve come across? How about Ana – short for anatomy? Or Dia – short for diagnosis? Maybe even Ned – short for Ned’s Head (a favorite SLP-ish therapy material of mine!). As always, I truly dig hearing from each and every single one of you, so please feel free to hit me up at any point in time! Yay! 😉

The Diagnosis Doesn’t Define the Person, the Person Defines the Diagnosis

As a speech-language pathologist, there’s a saying that I say to myself on a daily basis and it just might be my most favorite saying in the history of all sayings. The saying is the diagnosis doesn’t define the person, the person defines the diagnosis. I’ve been hearing that saying for years. It first started to wiggle its way into my world when I was in graduate school and ever since then, the saying has resonated with me a TON!

But I’ll be honest with you, sometimes I forget about the saying.

For example, not too long ago I was working with a student who had a difficult time properly articulating the /R/ sound. We all know that the /R/ sound can be quite tricky for some children. And to make matters trickier, this child had a rather unique way of attempting to make his /R/ sound. So there was a lot that I needed to think about when figuring out a plan of action to help this motivated youngster with his articulation, as it related to perfecting his /R/ sound.

Invisible speech therapy toolbox to the rescue!

So here’s what I did; I busted out my invisible speech therapy toolbox and I tried all of my usual articulation tips, tricks, and strategies.

And what happened?

Well, not much happened. With everything that I was throwing his way from my invisible speech therapy toolbox, NONE of it was working. I was both confused and frustrated (and so was the child). But here’s the real kicker – I actually caught myself thinking, “How is all of this stuff not working? This is an /R/ student. You know /R/ students. /R/ sound, /R/ student – you’ve been there, you’ve done that. Get yourself together! Come on, Raj! Get in the game!”

Shame on me for saying things like that to myself!

When I was saying that stuff to myself, it hit me, I was making a VERY real mistake. I was forgetting about my most favorite saying in the history of all sayings – which is the diagnosis doesn’t define the person, the person defines the diagnosis! What I was doing was automatically categorizing that child as an “/R/ student.” (Big mistake!) I was actually looking at the diagnosis and was like, “Oh yeah, the diagnosis, clearly that’s defining the child.” (Again, big mistake!) When in reality, THE CHILD defines the diagnosis, not the other way around. I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten about the saying of the diagnosis doesn’t define the person, the person defines the diagnosis. (How embarrassing!)

It’s all about the individualized approach!

We, as SLPs, really do understand the power behind individualized approach and the idea that we should always view the person in front of us as an individual, not as just a diagnosis. So, in my temporary moment of insanity, when I was actually looking at that child as an “/R/ kid,” I took a step back and I said to myself, “Yo, Mr. Raj, get your head where it needs to be.” I collected my thoughts and looked at that child as an individual, free from that “/R/ kid” label. Then, I re-tried some of the stuff that I pulled from my invisible speech therapy toolbox because I knew I was in a much better headspace, at that moment in time. And low and behold, within a few minutes, he was actually able to make a bit of progress! He wasn’t cured, but he sure was showing me much more of what I was hoping for. His /R/ sound was moving in the right direction!

How did you get closer to having him show you a more improved /R/ sound?

Here’s what I think: it wasn’t necessarily because of the tips, tricks, or strategies – for me, I believe I got him there because I reminded myself that the diagnosis doesn’t define the person, the person defines the diagnosis. That was THE foundation that needed to be in place for any of my tips, tricks, or strategies to actually work. Reminding myself that the diagnosis doesn’t define the person, the person defines the diagnosis, was HUGE for me and I want it to be HUGE for you, too. So, say it with me so you can continue to memorize it. The diagnosis doesn’t define the person, the person defines the diagnosis.

In closing . . .

The saying of the diagnosis doesn’t define the person, the person defines the diagnosis, can be applied to so many aspects of our field. And that’s why I love it so much. It’s a saying that rings true for every single person that we have on our caseload. Whether you work with preschool-aged students or senior citizens, or anything in-between, the saying of the diagnosis doesn’t define the person, the person defines the diagnosis, will always place you on the correct path. Always.

The Diagnosis Doesn’t Define the Person, the Person Defines the Diagnosis

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