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Life of a school SLP

I have finished my 14 weeks of student teaching and will truly miss the 60+ kiddos I got to work with in preschool through 5th grade. I also worked with an amazing speech-language pathologist (SLP) who taught me so much about working with kids, collaborating with other educators, problem solving, and being flexible. Being flexible is a huge deal, especially when you have a constantly changing caseload.

Although there were stressful and frustrating moments, I have many sweet and funny memories from my time student teaching. In case you didn’t realize it, kids are hilarious. The world would be a boring place without their energy and curiosity.

Here are just a few examples from this semester:

  • While giving an articulation screener, I showed a preschooler a picture of a squirrel. “What’s this?”

“A gurl.”

I repeated what he said to confirm with my SLP that I was transcribing his speech correctly. “Gurl?”

The preschooler looked at me in disbelief. “No, not girl. Gurl!”

Silly me for confusing squirrel and girl.

  • One sweet kindergartner insisted on breaking the no-talking-in-the-hall rule every time she saw me. “Hi! Hi! Hi, speech teacher! That’s my speech teacher!” Super cute. It got to the point where her classmates would say, “Hi, so-and-so’s speech teacher!” whenever they saw me.
  • I loved how kids were excited about coming to speech or language group. Kids I didn’t even know would ask if they could come with me. However, 2nd graders were slightly less enthusiastic. Sometimes we spent more time debating why we needed to do speech than actually doing speech.

One day, one of the 2nd graders came in and started saying his words without being told. I was pleasantly surprised. About halfway through his work, he said, “You know what? I’m not arguing about speech today. Do you know why? Because things take longer when you argue. It’s faster to just do your job.” He acted as if this was a new revelation and not something I had told him every day for the past 2 weeks.

  • I also had an older student who wasn’t thrilled about working on s and z in speech. We had several conversations that went something like this:

“I don’t know why I need to come to speech. I just don’t say words with s and z when I’m not in speech.”

“Well, it’s pretty hard to avoid all s and z words. What happens if you need to ask for a pencil in class?”

“I’d just say I need something to write with.”

“Hmm…something has an s in it.”

“Ugh!”

“And what’s your teacher’s name?”

“Mister…ugh!”

“And your best friend?”

…pause…”Dang it!”

As we walked back to class, he started spinning in the hallway. “I’m dizzy!”

Instead of telling him to stop, I pointed out, “Oh, dizzy has your z sound in it.”

He stopped. Long pause. “DANG IT!”

  • In one of our language groups, we built a model ferris wheel after reading about George Ferris and how he invented the first ferris wheel. This turned out to be a challenging project.

While working on it, one of the students asked, “What’s that word we learned? The one when someone is stronger?”

“Advantage?” I guessed.

“Yeah, that’s it. Miss Emily, will you help me with this? I think you have the advantage.”

(Proof that kids really were learning!)

  • I worked with a preschooler who had a hard time even saying vowels. We worked on vowels with two of the consonants he could consistently say: p and b. So, one of our target words was “poopoo” (after all, it’s very functional vocabulary for a preschooler). The first time we worked on it, I had him say it 5 times. “Poopoo. Poopoo. Poopoo.” At this point, he stopped and started giggling uncontrollably. Super cute.
  • One of my favorite conversations with some 3rd graders:

Me: “If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you pick?”

Student 1: “I would want to meet my great great great … [there were a lot of greats] … great grandfather.” He proceeded to tell a story about what it would be like to meet a caveman during the ice age. The students then had a debate over whether there were cavemen before or after the ice age.

Student 2: “I would pick Adam and Eve, so I could stop them from eating the fruit. Then there wouldn’t be sin in the world.”

Student 1: “Oh, dang it! I wish I had thought of that!” He was sincerely disappointed in himself.

Student 2: “Well, maybe it wouldn’t matter anyway. There are so many people in the world that someone would probably mess it up eventually.”

  • I worked with a hilarious, sweet student with autism who brought so much energy and excitement to school.

We had a rule that she had to finish her work in 30 minutes. Otherwise, she wouldn’t get a break playing with the toy animals. One day, she finished in 31 minutes. So close, yet so far. I had to tell her that she didn’t earn break.

Instantly, she plopped down on my lap, laid her head on my shoulder, and burst into tears. I have to be honest, it was hard not to laugh at her dramatic response.

We talked about how next time she could work hard and get break. She seemed to accept this and calmed down.

Suddenly, she burst into tears again and wailed, “ANIMALS ARE RUINED!!!”

My SLP just smiled and said, “Well, she’s making progress. She used to say Christmas was ruined even when there wasn’t anything related to Christmas.”

  • After reading a book in language group, I asked the students to draw pictures of the story. When I asked one student about her picture, she said, “I drew a picture of the city council. That’s you. You’re the chairperson.” She pointed to a girl in a rainbow dress.

You know you’ve arrived when a student draws you as a key character in a story wearing a rainbow dress.

  • On my last day with the kids, I gave them each a pencil with a note that said, “You’re a sharp student.” I had to explain the double meaning behind “sharp” to most of the kids. When I gave it to one of the students, I told him, “Sharp can have two meanings. You can have a sharp pencil. Do you know what else it can mean?”
    He looked down bashfully. “Yeah, it means you’re really handsome.”

 

Can you see why I’m going to miss these kids? And now I’m starting my next school adventure. During December, I’m subbing for an SLP at another school. I’m actually getting paid to do this work! I’m very excited and nervous.

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Rejoicing in suffering

Last week, four of my speech pathology friends and I piled our stuff into a car for a road trip. Risking fog, snow, and tumbleweeds, we drove to Colorado for the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA)  annual convention. We joined approximately 14,000 other women (oh yeah, and a handful of men) for several days of nerding out about speech-language pathology and audiology. It was so fun to go on this adventure with some great friends and to learn more about this amazing field I’ve chosen.

I’ll spare you the nerdy details about the sessions I went to about co-teaching, counseling parents, treating patients with spinal cord injuries, and working with kids who have craniofacial anomalies.

One thing that stood out to me was the opening session by Kelly McGonigal on stress and dealing with challenges in life. She discussed several research studies that looked at how people cope with trials in life. Research shows that we are better able to deal with stress if we acknowledge it instead of trying to avoid it. One interesting study had participants sit with a family member or close friend who was about to have surgery. Half of the participants were told to think about how stressful the situation was and to take their worry out on a stress ball. The other participants were told to focus instead on the other person and that person’s pain. Instead of a stress ball, these people were told to hold their loved one’s hand.

Results from these studies showed that the best way to deal with challenging situations is to acknowledge the stress, think about the purpose behind the situation, and to focus on other people and their pain. When we do this, we still perceive pain but not as much as when we try to ignore it. Also, studies show that thinking this way results in neurological changes in our brain. People become more resilient, hopeful, and stronger because of these trials.

As Kelly McGonigal used words like “perseverance” and “hope” to describe how difficult situations can make us better people, I thought of these verses from Romans:

IMG_1690God promises that trials will lead to perseverance, character, and hope. He is able to promise this, first of all, because He is God. He gives us the Holy Spirit to supernaturally bless and strengthen us in the middle of stressful situations. After listening to Kelly McGonigal, I was struck by the idea that He can also promise this because he has neurologically set us up to respond in this way. When we are in the middle of stressful situations, God has given us a way to positively cope with trials by focusing on others and persevering to become a better person. He takes the bad and turns it for good. That doesn’t mean we won’t feel pain, but He’s given us the means to grow despite the pain. As a result, we can rejoice in our suffering.

We live in a world where science is too often viewed as the rival to the Bible. I was thrilled and encouraged to discover another example of research aligning with God’s Word.

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More than Conquerors

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“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, not powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39 (ESV)

Is there a power stronger than God’s love? Paul follows this question by listing several trials and struggles. This isn’t just a theoretical list. Paul experienced all these things himself. So when Paul answers his own question with a resounding NO, he’s speaking from experience. Paul doesn’t just think God’s love is more powerful than persecution and danger. He didn’t hear about it secondhand. He KNEW God’s love is more powerful because he experienced God’s love at work during difficult times.

As Paul expands on his answer, he says we are more than conquerors. For so many years, I quickly skimmed over Paul’s answer and explanation because it seemed obvious that God’s love is powerful. I never stopped to think about what it actually means to be MORE than conquerors. We know a conqueror is someone who has fought and won a battle. But what does it mean to be more than a conqueror?

When we have God’s love fighting for us, we don’t just barely overcome challenges. We are without a doubt, completely, and utterly victorious. This is victory unlike anything else we’ve experienced or heard of. It’s so incredible that Paul has to make a new word to describe it by combining two Greek words. It means to “conquer completely, without any real threat to personal life or health” (MacArthur).

Because we have God’s powerful love, we know we win the battle against the curse of sin in this world. No matter what anyone accuses us of, we have God’s love defending us. We can face tribulation, anxiety, regret, exhaustion, discouragement, and temptation without fear. No matter what sin I’ve committed in the past or what struggle I’m facing today, I have God’s endless love. Christ already won the victory, and now he’s chosen me to be more than a conqueror with him.
That is powerful love.

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Magic in a mug

I just dumped 500 calories in a mug, shoved a piece of Easter candy into the middle, topped it with chocolate chips, and microwaved it for a minute.

It was disgustingly delicious.

I now plan to eat all my Easter candy in this way. Every. Single. Piece.

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Waiting…

Every weekend I tell myself I should make time to blog. Spring break would have been a logical time. But no, I decided to put it off till the week before our monstrous motor speech exam. I should be studying right now.

In addition to perfecting the art of procrastination, I’ve learned the challenge and the power of waiting. I’ve come to realize that to teach someone to speak well, you first have to learn to listen well.

What does listening and waiting look like in the clinic? Here’s a frequently occurring example of what it looks like with a preschool client:

While playing with Mr. Potato Head, I hold up two pieces and say, “Do you want the arm or the nose?” And then I wait.

1 second…

2…

If she answers this, how can I make the task harder? Maybe I’ll use a foil next time…

3…

Why hasn’t she answered yet? What will I do if she doesn’t answer?!?!

4…

What kind of support should I give her? She needs help!

4 1/2 …

The parent and supervisor watching me on the other side of the one-way mirror is probably wondering what in the world I’m doing!

5…

I REALLY WANT TO SAY SOMETHING TO HELP HER!!!

6…

“Nose.”

Hallelujah! Good /n/ sound! Give that girl the nose!

Do you realize how long a few seconds can be when you’re waiting for someone to respond? But wait time is so important! Not just in speech pathology, but in life in general.

This semester, I’ve loved studying Psalm 130 where verses 5-6 say,

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Waiting isn’t just sitting around doing nothing. It isn’t forgetting the thing you’re waiting for and doing whatever you want in the meantime. Waiting is exhausting because it involves actively and expectantly watching for something. If you ask someone a question, you have to look at them expectantly, wait, and listen if you actually want to get a response.

Jesus told several parables about waiting expectantly for his return.
I also love the example the disciples set for us in the beginning of Acts while they waited for the Holy Spirit. They didn’t go back to their old day-to-day life or go off and party. They “devoted themselves to prayer.” They waited expectantly and actively!

The more I’ve thought about waiting, the more I’ve realized how dominant the theme is in the Bible! Hebrews 9:28 and II Peter 3:13-14 also tell believers to eagerly and diligently wait for Christ’s return. Wow! I believe Christ will return someday in the future, but am I really expecting it to happen at any moment? Am I anticipating and longing for his return? Am I ready?

Waiting is hard, and I definitely don’t have it all figured out in any area of my life. But when you finally get what you’ve been waiting and watching for, it’s so rewarding!

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Moments

I’m already a third of the way through my second semester of grad school. There are many days when I wonder if it’s physically possible to get everything done even though I’m often on campus for 12+ hours. Through the chaos, stress, and exhaustion, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.

For an assignment in stuttering class, I had to talk to 2 strangers in public while stuttering. The poor barista in Starbucks had to slow down and wait quite a while for me to finally get out my order. As much as I dreaded the assignment and disliked doing it, it made me realize what a fast-paced world we live in. We rush from place to place and use “I’m so busy” as the ultimate complaint and excuse. But how many amazing moments do we miss by being so busy? So I wanted to take time this weekend to stop and marvel at the “ordinary” moments of life.

  • Mondays are crazy class days. We have aphasia, motor speech, and dysphagia which means 6 hours in class. In dysphagia, we learn about swallowing disorders. Have you ever stopped to think about how you swallow? We do it 100s of times a day. So much has to happen to make sure the food is chewed, doesn’t come out your nose, is efficiently swallowed with no residue, goes down the esophagus and not into your trachea/lungs, etc. We have an amazing Creator.

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  • Twice a week, I go to India to work with one of the most grateful, hardworking men I’ve ever met. Through the wonders of telepractice, I help him with his English pronunciation and language skills. The fact that anyone can learn English as a second language amazes me. Every time I tell him a rule for English, I also have to say, “But there are a lot of exceptions…”
  • I’m also working with a bubble-loving preschooler. She can’t walk, but she doesn’t let that dampen her joy for life. When I do something silly, she covers her mouth with her hand and giggles. Too cute.
  • My third client is a sweet elementary student. For her, every complete, intelligible sentence is a huge victory. She reminds me not to take the ability to communicate for granted.
  • I’m so thankful that I’m not on this adventure alone. I have 34 fantastic classmates to laugh, brainstorm, commiserate, cry, eat donuts, study, make Boardmaker cards, and party with. No one else quite understands the hatred for the spinning wheel of death on the HIPAA computers, the joys of Spurtle Turtle, or the humor in our corny speech pathology jokes.
  • Last but not least, my family is pretty awesome. They tell me how much they missed me after I’ve been gone for 13 hours and put up with me when all I seem able to do is sleep. My mom spoils me with yummy food and clean laundry, and my dad is always there to help with any computer problems (and any other woes that come up).

Don’t miss out on the incredible moments in your life this week.

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I haven’t failed

Week 4 of the semester is in the books! Grad school is testing my time management and organizational skills, but I’ve been enjoying the challenge. No matter how prepared I am, I never know what to expect when I greet my little client at the door. There have been ups and downs for all of us as we learn how to apply what we’ve spent years learning. We’ve decided that, at this point, our job is to make mistakes and then learn from them. As Edison put it…

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This quote rings very true for me right now. I’m not sure if my client has learned anything yet, but I certainly have! There’s so much to think about in a treatment session. What behavior should I model? What should I do in response to the client’s actions? Was my utterance too long or was it something he could imitate? Did I give him enough time to respond? How can I keep his attention on the activity for longer than 3 minutes? Am I accurately collecting data? Which behaviors should I reinforce? How do I get him to stop rolling on the floor or running around the room? Am I using an effective strategy or should I try something different? Should I let him clean up or make him play for another minute? Am I smiling and having fun or am I checking my watch too often? Should I let him sit on the floor or make him come to the table? Even little things like seating arrangements at the table are significant and require planning and thought!

But then there are those precious moments when I think, “This might actually be making a difference!” Right now, those moments are few and far between, but they remind me that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

This upcoming week, we have our first exams AND STATE CONVENTION!!! WOOT WOOT!

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The graduate adventure begins…

Three weeks ago, I joined 33 other speech-language pathology students as we began our graduate program. Since then, we have organized and stocked our desks with office supplies, chocolate, textbooks, snacks, and colorful markers (Target made quite the profit off us the past couple weeks). We’ve also started classes and successfully conquered our first neurology quiz.

AND we’ve been entrusted with other human beings and expected to help them become better communicators. They call that clinic.

While the 12-hour days can feel long at times, I feel blessed to be at this place at this time with these people. I love it. Looking back over the past 4 years, it’s amazing to see how God has brought me to this point. My freshman year, I did not enjoy college and basically chose to major in speech pathology because I didn’t know what else to pick. Now, it’s second nature to use terms like…Screen shot 2014-09-06 at 12.35.31 AM

 

I’m nerding out right now just thinking about speech pathology. When you stop and think about it, it truly is extraordinary how God made us to communicate with each other (and Him!) through speech and language. The human brain is amazing!

So this next week, take a moment during your busy days and mundane tasks to notice the extra in the ordinary of your life. And once you find it, go ahead and nerd out over it. Trust me, it’s fun.

 

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In the garden

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The first harvest from our garden! Two lil’ cherry tomatoes!

For those of you who have been enjoying produce from your garden long before now, don’t judge me too harshly. I love working in the garden, but our garden usually doesn’t start producing until late summer. Typically right before the first frost. I’m blaming it on the limited light our garden gets. So getting TWO tomatoes before July? That’s pretty exciting.

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All the world’s a stage

Clear your throat and open your eyes. You are on stage. The lights are on. It’s only natural if you’re sweating, because this isn’t make-believe. This is theater for keeps. Yes, it is a massive stage, and there are millions of others on stage with you. Yes, you can try to shake the fright by blending in. But it won’t work. You have the Creator God’s full attention, as much attention as He ever gave Napoleon. Or Churchill. Or even Moses. Or billions of others who lived and died unknown. Or a grain of sand. Or one spike on one snowflake. You are spoken. You are seen. It is your turn to participate in creation. Like a kindergartener shoved out from behind the curtain during his first play, you might not know which scene you are in or what comes next, but God is far less patronizing than we are. You are His art, and He has no trouble stooping.

You can even ask Him for your lines.

from Death by Living by N.D. Wilson

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