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Category Archives: Speech Therapy Motivation

The Number One Personal Quality of a Speech-Language Pathologist

As the summer season fades away and autumn starts to tiptoe up to our front steps, most of us lovingly welcome the seasonal transition because autumn brings many lovely things with it. From pumpkin-flavored things to Halloween-themed things, this time of the year is a favorite time for many individuals (myself included!).


Oh, and sometimes with the change in seasons, you might also find yourself getting a bit sick. Did you know that October is officially the kick-off month of the flu season in the United States?

Visiting with doctors.

The chances that you might get a bit sick with the sniffles during this time of the year are pretty high. And the chances that you might visit a doctor to help you with your sniffles; that’s pretty high, too.

Personal qualities of a health care provider.

As a speech-language pathologist, I can’t help but notice that sometimes doctors don’t have the best “bedside manners.” Sometimes when I have the sniffles and I visit a doctor, sometimes they aren’t as warm as I’d hope they’d be. And let me be clear, not all doctors are like this, but some certainly are so it forces me to think about interactions, as a whole. The ways that we, as health care providers, interact with our clients are important to think about because our chosen approach and attitude to interacting can (and does) set the stage for improved/effective care and client satisfaction.

SLP personal qualities.

As I mentioned in the video portion of this blog post, my friends and I recently got into a great discussion about what’s the one personal quality that every SLP should have, in order to be the best clinician who provides the best services? Maybe it’s being encouraging when we interact with our clients. Maybe it’s being patient during these interactions. Maybe it’s being appropriately humorous. How about being self-aware? Imaginative? Empathetic?

Which one is THE ONE?

The answer to that question is quite simple: there isn’t an answer because there isn’t a magical ONE. If we want to think about our SLP “bedside manners” and how we interact with our clients, we need to fully understand that, in regards to the aforementioned personal qualities, we need to have a combination of all of those, and more, if we hope to be the best clinician who provides the best services.

Think about your personal qualities.

For anyone that knows me, ya’ll know that I’m all about reflecting. I’m all about taking an honest look at myself, as a clinician, to evaluate how I’m doing. When I do these self-evaluations on myself, I always come across some aspects that I know I can improve upon. During my most recent self-evaluation, I came to the realization that I could afford to be more organized because my organization isn’t as strong as it could be. Organization and the act of being organized, that’s a legitimate personal quality and it’s one that I want to improve. I want to be more organized (particularly with my therapy filing cabinet and my whole filing system) because I know it will set the stage for improved/effective care and client satisfaction when I interact with my clients.

Find the colleagues that are doing it right and mirror what they’re doing!

Maureen Wilson is a good friend of mine and I’ve learned so much from her over the past few years. The moment that I said to myself, “Yo! Erik! You need to improve your organization . . .” Maureen was the first person I thought of. She’s an SLP organization champion – as evidenced by some of her more recent blog posts like I Heart Organization, How Do I Make A Speech Therapy Schedule, and What You Should Be Bringing To An IEP Meeting. So since reading the blog posts that I’ve just mentioned, I’ve adopted some of her ideas into my world and I’ve totally been reaping the benefits from the new organized me!

You can improve your personal qualities if you want to.

I’ve come across a lot of people in my day say things like, “Oh, personal qualities are so deeply engrained in you that they’re all pretty set in stone.” Well, I respectfully disagree with that notion. Humans can change if they want to. If you’re a doctor that doesn’t have the best “bedside manners,” you can work on empathy and other aspects that relate to “bedside manners.” And if you’re an SLP who feels he’s a bit unorganized, you can absolutely work on organization. All personal qualities can be improved; you just have to want to improve.

In closing . . .

As an SLP, what personal qualities do you want to work on so that you keep on growing as a clinician? Maybe you want to work on some of your “bedside manners?” Or perhaps you want to work on being more organized? The sky is the limit with you, so let’s make sure we keep on having conversations with on another that encourage clinical growth. Cool? Cool!

The Number One Personal Quality of a Speech-Language Pathologist

Attention Speech-Language Pathologists: It’s OK to Not Know the Answer Sometimes

Attention Speech-Language Pathologists: It’s OK to Not Know the Answer Sometimes

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:

  • “Everyone is talking about the brand-new method to teaching articulation called X. I’m wondering if you think it would work with (student’s name)?”
  • “I’m sure you’re familiar with the brand-new approach to promoting social skills called X. I’m wondering if you think it would work with (student’s name)?”
  • “I’ve heard about this brand-new structured literacy program called X. I’m wondering if you think it would work with (student’s name)?”

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.

All Speech-Language Pathologists Should Think About Their Comfort Zones

All Speech-Language Pathologists Should Think About Their Comfort Zones

I’m a huge fan of comfort zones. I mean, who isn’t? Who doesn’t like to be in situations where you feel secure or at ease, without any stress? Comfort zones are great. But here’s the thing, growth doesn’t really happen when you’re chillin’ in the C-zone (C-zone stands for comfort zone. It has a nice ring to it, don’t ya think?).

A new client of mine.

A few weeks ago I took on a new private client. This terrific middle school-aged boy has an awesome smile and heart of gold. I’m truly enjoying my time getting to know him and we’re having a blast in therapy, but what makes all of this a bit challenging for me is the fact that none of his goals and objectives relate to articulation or stuttering. This reality is a bit out of my ordinary because historically, an overwhelming majority of my private clients have been either kiddos with articulation difficulties or kiddos who stutter.

Ya gotta think about your C-zone.

By no means am I saying that I can’t handle what this particular child’s needs are. I absolutely can, but this is the perfect example of how I made the decision to think about my C-zone. If I wanted to stay comfortable, I would have simply not taken on this new client. And that would have been a real shame because he and his family needed me. So, I made the decision to get out of my C-zone because not only did I want to grow my clinical abilities, but I wanted to do everything I could for this boy. I could see his potential. I knew that this flower could blossom as an effective and confident communicator. He just needed a bit of water and sunshine from me.

Getting out of your C-zone is a win/win.

Because of this kiddo, I’ve had the opportunity to correspond with therapists and other professionals that I would have never corresponded with. They’ve all been terrific with giving me feedback on my therapy ideas. They’ve also directed me to a massive number of resources that I would have never thought to check out. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve helped my client a lot. This whole experience has been such a positive one and I can’t help but say to myself, “What if I chose to stay in my C-zone?” What a missed opportunity.

Staying safe.

Recently, my good friend Mary Huston and I were chatting about comfort zones and she said it perfectly. “Comfort zones are very . . . safe. I think most people prefer to be in a comfort zone, not because it’s a good place, but because it’s a known place. Change is scary, very scary, but without change things become stagnant and stale. In order to grow as a person and LIVE, we have to accept that fear of the unknown and if not embrace change, accept it.”

Let’s do something scary.

Let’s be brave. I want all of us speech-language pathologists to step away from our C-zone so that we could continue grow. But believe me, I know the whole “let’s be brave”thing is waaaaay easier said than done. Don’t worry – we don’t have to do something CRAZY. How about something a bit on the smaller side? Perhaps you could administer a brand new diagnostic that you’ve never administered before. Who knows, it very well might turn out to be your new favorite diagnostic. That doesn’t sound too scary, does it? That’s totally something we could do to step away from our C-zone. Pretty good first step!

Let’s do something a bit scarier.

Something else you might want to think about is presenting. Have you ever presented some speech-language therapy information to your colleagues before? If the answer is no, I believe you should think about doing it. Submit a proposal to present something at any upcoming speech-language-hearing conference, just like Kim from ActivityTailor.com did. Or better yet, team up with a colleague to present together because two heads are always better than one. In my humble opinion, presenting in front of a live audience is one of the best ways to step away from our C-zone. Totally a step in the right direction!

In closing . . .

I just want you to know that you’re a spectacular speech-language pathologist. And you know what else? I can feel it in my bones that you’re just getting started. So do me a favor, over the next few weeks, I would love for you to think about your own C-zone. Are you a bit too comfortable right now? If so, this is the ideal time to try something new so that you can grow, both professionally and personally. Take on a new private client like I did. Or start a blog like some of my colleagues have done. From administering new diagnostics to presenting at a conference, the possibilities to move away from you C-zone are endless. The only thing that matters is moving forward. If you’re moving forward, that’s what it’s all about.

3 Ways to De-Stressify Your Speech-Language Pathologist Brain

3 Ways to De-Stressify Your Speech-Language Pathologist Brain

Between eligibility meetings, in-classroom observations, formal speech and language evaluations, consulting with classroom teachers, and so much more, it’s no wonder why us school-based speech-language pathologists are so stressed these days. We have a massive amount on our plates, and with each new academic school-year year, there seems to be even more plopped onto our already overflowing plates. It’s so wacky, right?

Yeah, I’m TOTALLY right.

Don’t worry, friend. I feel your pain. So in an effort to help you de-stressify your brain (is de-stressify a word?), I’ve come up with three surprisingly effective (and surprisingly simple) ways that help you to knock the stress right out. And here’s the great thing, all of what I’m about to tell you can be done while sitting right in your speech therapy chair. I promise you, each one of these stress-busting examples will take no more than a few minutes of your time. Guaranteed.

1. Look at some cute pictures.

I dare you to look at this cat picture and not smile. I dare you. See, it’s totally impossible. Even if you are stressing out thinking about an upcoming (and potentially messy) IEP meeting, the pictures on StuffOnMyCat.com, and other websites like it, will absolutely de-stressify your brain (again, is de-stressify a word?).

2. Listen to your favorite song.

I read somewhere that the average length of popular radio music is something around 4 minutes. So with that being said, don’t fret over that last phone conference you just had with that unhappy parent. How about you take a 4 minute breather to pop in some earbuds to rock out to your favorite tune. Don’t have a song in mind? Let me make a recommendation: Budapest by George Ezra. This track is 3 mintes and 36 seconds of pure goodness that can absolutely de-stressify your brain (yeah, I’m pretty sure de-stressify is not a word, I’ll have to ask someone about that).

3. Try a hand massage.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if every school building in your district employed their very own massage therapist? If I were president, I’d add that to my agenda for sure! But until I get elected to office, we’ll have to make due with the next best thing: a hand massage. Seriously, just close your eyes and clear your mind. Then, with your one hand, start rubbing the base of the muscle on your other hand, right near your thumb. It’ll feel like Heaven AND it’ll even start to ease the tension you didn’t even know you had – like the tension in your neck and shoulders. Now if that doesn’t de-stressify your brain, nothing will (I just asked my wife if de-stressify is a word – she said, “Maybe.” I don’t know, I’m still pretty skeptical.).

In closing . . .

Let’s make a conscious effort this academic school-year to not get as stressed out as we used to. Life’s too short to stress out, ya know? Instead, let’s look at some cute pictures, listen to uplifting music, and massage our hands. And imagine if we did all three of those things at the same time? Whoa! We would probably scare the pants right off of stress! Hooray for scaring away stress!

P.S. I just went on the Merriam-Webster dictionary website and looked up the word de-stressify. It’s official: it’s not a word. Dang. Good word though. If I were president, I’d also add that to my agenda for sure! Getting the word de-stressify into the Merriam-Webster dictionary. LOL!