Friday, February 29, 2008
Yesterday I did my first three observation hours. I got lost getting there and getting home (in the dark, lolz), but my supervisor is an angel and talked me back to the right road, and I listened to the SOAP song and felt empowered. I observed 3 children. Child #1 had started therapy in August as a non-verbal child. I did not know this until after the session and I was really surprised, because Child #1 was talking up a storm! I thought he was just there for articulation, but man. Angelic Supervisor is a miracle-worker for sure. Child #2 had a cochlear implant. Very simply, cochlear implants can help some deaf children regain some measure of hearing. Child #2 had just discovered Star Wars and was extremely inquisitive, often interrupting Angelic Supervisor to ask questions about the toys they were using and activities they were doing or to tell her that he had recently acquired a Wookie. He was darling. Child #3 was the sister of Child #2. She was extremely animated; she talked with lots of inflection, facial expressions, and gestures. I was really hungry at this point, but she kept me amused by pointing out how her mispronunciations just "wouldn't make sense" and telling a very interesting story involving twins, triplets, a party, and a person in a wolf costume.
I love this. I really do. I feel like speech pathology is where God is calling me to be. I've got my Psychoeducational Assessment textbook open next to me right now, but it's so dry in comparison to all of the exciting linguistic wonders I've heard about in the past 24 hours that I just can't focus on it. Everything that I'm learning is coming together...at least for the moment. I hope this novelty doesn't wear off. I'll need the excitement to carry me through.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Yesterday in Speech Science we had a sound level meter, and we were measuring different sounds. Our professor told us to hold the meter 2 inches away from a hair-dryer to find out how much noise was right next to your ear while you were drying your hair. It measured 92 dB. The human voice is between 60-70 dB. 92 dB is LOUD, folks, especially right next to your ear. That's loud enough to cause damage over a period of time. Be mindful of your ears! The same thing applies to earbuds. All that volume funneled directly into your ear is dangerous. There is so much noise in the world today that we just don't think about, and our ears are not equipped to handle that constant bombardment.
What does a speech-language pathologist do?
Speech-language pathologists evaluate and treat speech, language, communication, and swallowing disorders.
Aren't speech and language the same thing?
Nope! Speech refers to spoken communication, like greeting your neighbor on the sidewalk. If you write your neighbor a letter, you're using language, but you're not speaking it. A person can have problems with speech, such as making certain sounds, but not with language. Speech-language pathologists, or SLPS, can help people with both.
How can you have a swallowing disorder?
Swallowing is actually a pretty complicated activity that involves lots of muscles working together. If the timing is off or a muscle is weak, a person can swallow into their lungs and get some nasty respiratory infections. An SLP can spot this problem and help correct it.
I remember SLPs from grade school, but I don't want to work in a school.
Schools are just one of the many settings in which an SLP can work. Nursing home patients often need speech services after a stroke to help them re-learn how to speak or swallow. You can work with infants and toddlers with speech and language difficulties before they reach school age. Hospital patients may need speech services, including pre-mature babies, patients with brain injuries, and stroke victims. There are many therapy organizations that offer speech services, and you can even open your own private practice. Hospice organizations may employ an SLP to help a terminally ill patient communicate his or her last wishes and enjoy favorite foods. You can teach future SLPs in a university setting, or conduct research about new practices in the field. There is an incredibly wide range of opportunities from which to choose!
I had no idea you people were so versatile.
Yeah, we're a pretty talented bunch!
Is it hard to get a job as an SLP?
It is exactly the opposite. According to the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA), the profession of speech-language pathology is expected to grow faster than normal until at least 2014. Medical science is growing tremendously, and pre-mature babies and accident victims have a much higher survival rate, and they often need communication assessment and/or services. There is a greater awareness of the importance of speech and language, not to mention federal laws that mandate providing speech and language services to children who need them, and so more problems are being noticed earlier. The population of elderly adults is also increasing, and the risk of hearing and/or communication impairments in persons of advanced age can be considerable.
I bet you have to go to school forever, don't you?
Not necessarily! Although you can get a doctorate in speech-language pathology if you choose, you can practice with a Master's degree. If you go to school full-time, you can complete the program in as few as 5 semesters. You can also take classes online.
Wow! I can get my Master's degree without leaving my house?
Why would you want to do that? The clinic hours are the most fun and instructive part of your educational experience! All four hundred of 'em! I know it sounds like a lot, but since our profession covers such a broad range of populations, you need to be prepared for the challenges that face you when you begin to practice on your own. You will work with clients of all ages and needs. You will have a fully-trained supervisor checking up on you and providing you with guidance and feedback. Your first year in the field is called your Clinical Fellowship year, and another SLP will be checking up on you and observing you periodically in case you have any questions or concerns.
Well...okay. I'm interested.
Of course you are!
How do you I find out more?
I'm so glad you asked! The American Speech, Hearing, and Language Association (ASHA) is the number one resource for speech-language pathologists. This organization sets the standards for the speech-language pathology profession. ASHA gives you a license to practice, defines the scope of practice for SLPs, defines a code of ethics, and holds you accountable for unethical and unprofessional actions. It's also a resource to find and network with other SLPs or SLP students and to find out the latest research in your area of interest. Their website is www.asha.org.
I know someone who might need the services of an SLP. What should I do?
http://www.asha.org/public/speech/ is a section of ASHA's website designed for public use. It answers four basic questions: "What's 'normal'?, "What if my loved one has already been diagnosed?", "What if I have concerns?" and "Where can I get help?" I would especially recommend http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/default.htm as a resource for a concerned parent of a child. Children develop at different speeds, and sometimes parents can worry when the neighbor's daughter is talking more than their son and both children were born on the same day. Most of the time it's completely normal, but when in doubt, always ask the communication expert and speech professional: the speech-language pathologist!
This is based on what I hear a lot of time when I tell someone I'm going to be an SLP. When I tell them I'm interested in working with children with autism, I get, "Oh, like Rainman?" I've never seen Rainman. I really need to get around to doing that. I do try to tell them that all children with autism are very different and Rainman is not the status quo by any means.