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Exciting Personal Update!

22 December 2014

Hi all,
As the Christmas season is coming near (and as the year/semester ends) I am in a thoughtful and thankful mood. I'm very appreciative for all my readers and followers; your support makes each day brighter! There are also several other items I am thankful for and I thought I would update you all:

First, I've been accepted to grad school! I'll be in the University of Pittsburgh's 2015 Fall cohort and majoring in (you guessed it) Speech Language Pathology! It's been a long road and one filled with lots of hard work, so I'm glad to see it accumulate to this as it is my dream school with the classes and placements I desire most. I can't wait to see who else is in my cohort! (It's also certainly nice to not worry about CSDCAS and acceptances over Christmas break like most other students in my class will be doing!)

Second, the experiment for my undergraduate thesis is figured out and we've begun running it. I won't say too much until we've gathered more data, but it revolves around sound localization and how conflicting cues can play a role in where we hear a sound. This is exciting! I've also begun writing my thesis... going to try to take it piece by piece to lighten the load later on!

Lastly, I've decided to better my Spanish. It's not necessarily an 'accomplishment' right now, but I've at least made the decision. I got over the first hurdle today by taking an online placement exam and scheduling an interview with the director of my school's Spanish department. I really want to have a better proficiency since many clients in the future may be bilingual and I might also be living in Spain for some years seeing as my boyfriend is a Spaniard!

Do you have any accomplishments to be thankful for... or anything you're excited about?

Appreciating Small Triumphs in Speech Therapy

03 September 2014

I've always been a fairly optimistic and goal-centered person. Within these traits, though, I am focused on the small steps that it takes to accomplish each goal-- whether it's reaching the first quarter of a five mile-long run or eating healthy three days in a row. This is partially due to the fact that it means I am that much closer to my goal, but it also is a small accomplishment in itself, as it's better than if I hadn't made any progress at all.

This thought was recently brought about by an article I read from a fitness website. Like myself, the author, who ran one of the toughest competitions in the nation (the Ironman), came to the same realization: yes, we have these general goals, but we should also celebrate the mini triumphs that lead us to the end. In fact, she states it quite eloquently: "Sure, [the 7th mile] was a small milestone compared to my ultimate goal. Sure, other people around me could go farther (and faster). I knew I still had a very long way to go, but this moment was still something to be proud of-- something to celebrate.*" It is this mindset that I think we should take to our speech therapy sessions.

Each client presents his or her own challenges. For some, their goal may be accomplished in a few sessions, while others you may end up in the same spot as where you began 10 sessions prior. It is important to not only keep our morale up but our client's as well, especially in cases where minimal progress might be made in the long-term. Rather than focusing on our client's long-term goal of achieving X task over a number of sessions, focus more on the short-term goal. Furthermore, focus on the achievements from each session. Yes, maybe the client didn't correctly identify family member's pictures 80% of the time that session... but at least she got them right 40% of the time, or she was more alert or finally identified her brother.

It can definitely be difficult at times, but if we keep this frame of mind then there will be some progress in every session-- even if it's not directly related to the goal.

This is not a paid endorsement of the magazine or its contributor.
* Source: …

SLP Skills Saturday: Determination

09 August 2014

We've all seen those inspiration posters that deal with perseverance, determination and other skills needed to overcome an obstacle. Well, one of those skills is necessary in speech-language pathology as well. In fact, we need it throughout the entire process of our educational career and our job after graduation. What is it? Determination.

Rather than say why it's important, I'll give you a small anecdote of someone I met recently. Although he isn't a speech-language pathologist (he's actually a massage therapist), you can still learn from his example.

We'll call this guy "Timmy". So, Timmy went through school and got certified in massage therapy, training under one guy who has done work for a sports team. Upon graduation Timmy went out looking for jobs and eventually took one in a regular setting. Although he enjoyed this location, he would constantly think about his work with the sports team and ponder about ways to possibly do this. After some thought, he finally decided to send him resume to a well-known baseball team.

Mind you, there was no massage therapy position. Rather than hire him as an employ of the team, he first began doing personal appointments with the sports players. Over time the therapy team saw that his work was valuable and they had him work part-time as an independent contractor. This ended up giving him a great deal of work on top of his regular job, which he was still doing. As years went on, both the therapy and sports team saw him as a valuable asset and hired him as part of the therapy team.

Now, he is currently a full-time employee of the therapy team for them (and no longer does the other job). On top of that, he gets to travel with them for games, use the team's gym, and even provides services during the off season to the athletes. You can imagine what happens when they go on to the championships!

So, thanks to his determination to work with athletes he managed to not only create his own position, but prove why he is a valuable asset. I encourage all of you to have the same mindset as you... you don't necessarily have to create your own position (although, that'd be great), but just keep in mind that sometimes you have to look at the smaller strokes that eventually create the final picture. If you're stuck somewhere, try to figure out another option-- another stroke-- that can possibly lead to the end result (or perhaps a bigger, better result).

Broken Communication & The Next Great Baker

01 August 2014

A couple weeks ago I was enjoying one of my guilty pleasures, The Next Great Baker,  and was amused to find that the week's theme was communication with teammates. To be more precise, it focused on working cohesively when there is a communication breakdown, as they were in teams of four with two working at a time. There was no intercommunication between group A and group B of each team when they had to switch off who was working on the cake.  It definitely led to some interesting moments and final cakes since they were for destination weddings! One turned out pretty well, another was decent with some key concepts misinterpreted along the way, and two were not done very satisfactorily-- it was even leaning a bit! (Too bad they didn't have Italy for the destination!)

So, it just goes to show... communication is everything and it is required everywhere!

The Low-Down on SLP Grad School Visits

24 July 2014

Although I am no expert at grad school visits (I just went on my first one this past week), I've read quite a bit of tips and general information on some forums and programs websites. After this past week's visit I realized that everyone was different in their view on the process of visiting as well as their level of preparedness for the occasion. This got me thinkin'-- is there really such a thing as a one-size-fits-all way to attend a grad school visit?

I doubt there is, but from my own experience, thoughts (and advice from others) there are some things that I just would or wouldn't do. As said before, I'm no expert, but here's my thoughts:

What should you wear to a grad school program visit?
Okay, this can depend on what type of visit it is -- is it just an open house, are you doing a one-on-one visit, are you meeting faculty?-- and how laid-back the department is. Although, even if the department is laid-back, that doesn't mean you should be... after all first impressions count! At my latest visit, which was an open house, I saw prospective students wearing shorts and tanks tops. To me, that wouldn't make a great first impression. That attire is okay for visiting undergraduate programs, but graduate programs are meant to prepare you for a career, so I wouldn't do that. If anything, I'd suggest at least nice jeans and a blouse + cardigan... if you want to dress more nicely, then opt for a dress or slacks and a blouse. You don't need to go all out and wear dress pants and a blazer/jacket, but you don't want to look like you strolled in from the beach either. (Several others on SLP student forums agree with me on this as well.)

What should I bring to the visit?
Come with at least some background knowledge of the program. Know if you'll need pre-reqs if you're an out-of-major applicant. Figure out the length of the program beforehand. Find out if they have an on-site clinic. Most of your questions can be answered by a simple visit to their webpage, and if you're truly interested in going you want to show you've done the basic homework. There were quite a few at my visit that didn't know the basics of the program (and didn't look at the FAQ sheet provided), and thus asked about these when the information was in their hands and a few clicks away.
Notepad and Pen. These can be helpful when you find something interesting about the program and don't want to forget it... like a state-of-the-art lab or new technology that they are implementing. This is also helpful for writing down any questions that you have during the presentation, as well as contact information of the faculty or admissions correspondent.

When should I arrive?
Treat it as a job interview. If you know it's in a high traffic area, try to leave you house earlier. I'd suggest 15 minutes prior to the event, that way you have time to sign-in, go to the bathroom, find the room and get a seat. It's understandable that you might get caught up in some traffic, but it's always better to be there very early than late, so try to plan accordingly.

Should I come with questions?
This is entirely up to you. If you have scoured the website and know what faculty you are interested in but find that you don't have questions, then don't worry. Or, if you're just going to check out the area, the program/clinic and dynamics and feel as if you have no questions, that's fine. Just make sure you introduce yourself and perhaps mention some faculty, class or research you are interested in. You can even try to see if a student is there that is willing to give you their contact information.
If you do want to ask questions, make sure they aren't already answered on the website. Personalize them if you want-- for example, I'm interested in the medical track so I asked how we are placed in the clinics and if they offer any additional certifications in MBSS or LVST.

Hopefully some of these help! If you can think of any other visit do's or don'ts (or perhaps think the opposite about one of mine) feel free to comment below!

Why You Should Join in on #WeSpeechies Chats

16 July 2014

With the influx of social media use by academics and non-academics throughout the past couple of years there has been an increase in knowledge sharing and discussion. Recently I found out about the @WeSpeechies Twitter handle and the related #WeSpeechies hashtag. They both are responsible for weekly talks that revolve around numerous topics under the speech-language pathology umbrella. These have included discussions based on different disorders (this week's was Aphasia), while others are about topics like Evidence Based Practice (and how to determine good research).

These provide such a good learning opportunity not just for practitioners but students as well. The curator of each chat is an expert in the field and is the leader of the chat. This person poses the main questions of each chat for fellow chatters to discuss. This often leads to more questions and discussion throughout the chat and for the week that follows, which is great for learning whether you can join in on the actual chat or catch up on your own time!

So far I've only been able to join in on a few of the chats as they are typically held in one of the Australian time zones. The chats I have joined led to wonderful learning opportunities and even a few new speechie friends from abroad. (I love that it's gaining international attention. We can learn from the different and similar practices in each country.) As said before, you can catch up on the chats after they've occurred, you just have to look at the #WeSpeechies hashtag (or go to the website to see an archived version of the chat a few days later). You can then join in by adding your own thoughts to the questions or comments that others posed.

If you'd like to see what future chats are about and when they are being held (or seeing archived past chats) be sure to check out the website!

Tying in "Non-SLP" Experiences In Your Statement

12 July 2014

Like many others, I'm currently in the process of preparing for the grad school application season. (How is it senior year already?!) For some majors, this might just begin and end in one month in the middle of the semester... for speech-language pathology or audiology, this 'season' begins in the summer. There are just so many things to prepare and tick of the checklist before the school year begins. One of the items we were told to at least brainstorm is the statement of purpose (sometimes referred to as the 'letter of intent').

Although numerous students say that the GRE and GPA are weighed more heavily in the process, many agree that the statement of purpose helps play a decent role in picking out more suitable candidates. It's essentially a written elevator speech, so you want to write it wisely. There's the usual tips of: minimize the sob stories, limit cliches and over-used phrases, specialize it (or at least some of it) for each school, and focus on the prompt. A good amount of the schools, at least those in the CSDCAS system, want you to write about why you want to do this as your career and why you want to study at their school. Naturally, most of the applicants like language and helping others, so you may want to find other key points. You may also want to focus on something that stands you out from others so that you are memorable... did you spend a summer in Costa Rica or can you make handmade crafts? Consider adding a small tidbit about this special thing, but make sure you tie it in with speech pathology or your goals.

So how can you tie it in? Or what if you don't have any experience with children or disabled citizens? Focus on the key traits of the job and one experience that illustrates them. Here are some examples from my life that you can draw from:

1. Working in the school cafeteria.
 Not so glamorous of a job, but certainly something that has been needed throughout my undergraduate career! I've done several of the stations, including: dish room, cleaning tables, salad bar, the specialty station and the sandwich station. I've spent most of my time in the sandwich station, so we'll go from there.

Key traits: communicate clearly with others, patience when filling orders, understanding dietary or cultural restrictions, being friendly to all customers

Experience: Some international students have dietary restrictions that I must follow. This has included taking off gloves (since they touched meat) and looking at ingredients on food items. Their accents may be difficult to understand, or their culture requires one to not look people in the eye for reassurance, so patience when asking for repetitions is necessary.

2. Freelance Writing. 
I dabble in freelance writing in my free time. This has ranged from blog posts for other websites to articles of varying lengths for an Asian pet supply company's magazine.

Key traits: prompt replies, professional correspondences, adjusting to different styles of writing, researching topics in further detail, international client base, adhering to deadlines

Experience: Throughout my experiences as a freelance writer I have had clients from a variety of countries. Each client has had different views of time and deadlines that I had to adhere to. Some projects have required interviews and exchanges with professionals in the related field to gain knowledge. These experiences have strengthened my level of professionalism, my ability to work independently and in a group, as well as molding my writing to the style they desired-- whether it be a short, witty introduction or an informational piece on pet dental hygiene.

Both of these examples showcase novel ways to view ordinary tasks and would help make me stand out to potential schools. Remember, everything requires communication, so you're already one step ahead! All you have to do is try to find other key characteristics that might illustrate how you can either  (1) adapt to grad school education (like writing notes and papers), (2) prove that you'll be a good clinician (hence the multicultural cafeteria experience), (3) demonstrate what brought you to this point, or (4) has helped you prepare for your future goals. I'm not sure if I'll use either of these, but at least these may help you with your statement!

Building Up Your Professional Network

08 July 2014

We all know networking is important in any business, and that doesn't exclude speech-language pathology. But how are we supposed to find ways to build our professional network while partaking in classes and extracurricular activities? It can sometimes be an issue, especially for those that transfer (like me) or just aren't sure how to go about making professional contacts. Luckily, you can make a professional contact from almost anyone at any place and any time! Even if the person isn't a Speech-Language Pathologist, they can still be a valuable resource for other jobs or connecting with related professionals. Each person is another step closer to more people, as each connection shrinks your six degrees of separation.

The Usual Places:

Of course you can start with friends and family. Some might be in your field of study, others may not. Either way they may have a doctor or related professional in their network that can help you down the line. For example, your friend's mom might work at a school that is looking for a speech therapist when you graduate. Or she can even put in a good word for you when they aren't hiring so they can keep you in mind. Also consider your current job. Your boss and other coworkers can be valuable resources for information on available jobs elsewhere, and your boss can be a great reference. (So be a good worker and stay off your phone!) Another option would be the supervisors of your observations or volunteer experiences. The SLPs you shadow are of course a great place for networking, and if you manage to get a volunteer position or long-term observation scheduled there, they can be even more valuable. The longer, the better as they will get to know you at a deeper level. If you happen to stay in the area for grad school, then perhaps you can do a clinical placement there, which is good for CFY references (or doing your CFY there!)... This is wishful thinking, but helpful either way.

Of course there are also your professors and classmates. Going to office hours, volunteering in the lab, doing a thesis or small research project, or being a teaching assistant can be great ways to get to know your professor. Once they know you well enough, they can be a reference or even tell you of good schools or employment options to look into when the time comes. Classmates are also great. Even those who aren't in the major (catching on to the theme?). All of them can have ties.
One example: I recently rented an apartment with 3 nursing majors. They told me of patient care technician jobs that had openings where I would do basic care that didn't require certification, just a high school degree. It's not 100% SLP, but it is still in the medical field and hands-on with patients, so those jobs could've helped with my resume. If I hadn't roomed with them I wouldn't have known that the hospital had jobs like these!)

One Step Further:

Your school's career development office in an invaluable resource! I can't stress this enough. If your school has a well-made career development office, then you should be able to find some internships through them. There probably won't be any for SLP, but definitely some for related fields or organizations that aid disabled people. Interning at these places is sure to expand your connections. Your career development office might also have  alumni or local connections for students to talk to. Mine has a database that you can search for professionals that are alumni of the school that are willing to talk to students. If you can find something like this in your school, use it and find a professional to talk to and get to know.

ASHA also has some mentoring and development programs. If you look at their site, there are some for minorities, research, learning about a speciality, or just to learn more about a certain aspect of SLP. If you sign up and happen to be accepted, these programs can provide a great professional network for you to learn from.

Social media like Twitter, LinkedIn,and even blogs or forums can help you find like-minded people to talk to. Twitter now has a host of chats and hashtags related to our field that you can follow and partake in to learn about this field and maybe make a few friends and professional contacts. In fact, I recently participated a WeSpeechies chat and talked to a few students and professionals from Australia and abroad! Many blogs are also on Twitter, so you can talk to their author and catch up on info they post about. LinkedIn has several groups that even students can join. If you'd like more information on all the social media outlets you can check out this post and also this one.

Special events like talks, conventions and networking get-togethers have a plethora of professionals that you can meet and chat with. The linguistics club that I'm a leader in recently had Bill Labov speak (he's a big name if you're in that field), so I actually got to meet him! If you're interested in a specific subfield of SLP like neurogenic disorders or autism, then consider going to a talk that a professor or professional is giving. Just look for details from a local organization or your school's Neuroscience department (for neurogenic topics). If you like the person's research, then go up an talk to him/her and discuss how you can get involved. Of course, conventions, like the annual ASHA convention, ASHA Schools Convention or your state's convention will have many professionals that you can talk to. Like I said, if you are interested in a specialty, try to find a convention of a related organization to meet other professionals with a non-speech pathology point-of-view.

*Of course, as with any relationship, this isn't a one-sided thing. Don't expect that talking to someone one time will give them the drive to help you find a job or give a reference for a grad school interview. They might not even remember you if you met at a convention. You should bring something to the table or continue talking to them and discussing their research, if applicable. Don't go hoarding contacts either, you want to have strong connections, not 1,000 acquaintances.

Perception of Words and Their Weight

05 July 2014

Have you ever thought about how certain words, and more specifically the sounds within them, play a role in our perception of what that word symbolizes? Part of this concept is called 'sound symbolism', where certain sounds can convert different perceptions. It's an interesting topic, and has been researched by several different fields. It's even recently caught the eye of a Reader's Digest writer, Alison Caporimo, who wrote a little ditty on this concept in the December 2013 issue (page 55).

She mentioned that researchers from NYU used the pseudo-words 'frish' and 'frosh' to describe a fake product and asked subjects to rate which they thought seemed like more of an ice cream brand. Can you guess which fake word subjects felt more keen to eat as a snack food? Frosh.

Now why is this? Caporimo goes on to state that these researchers believe that it is due to something deemed as the "Frequency Code". This term has been used by other researchers, even  as early as 1994 by John J. Ohala, a UC Berkley Linguistics professor. It is used to describe the phenomenon of associating front vowels (like 'i') with smaller (and thus healthier) things. Following suit, this is why words with back vowels like 'frosh' sound heavier, creamier and/or bigger.

It does make sense, as our oral cavity is much smaller when creating the front sounds, which could partially be the reason why we associate words with these sounds as 'smaller' or 'lighter'. Whereas, when we create sounds that are further back, our oral cavity is larger and we even open our mouth more, relating to larger, heavier objects that take up more space. At least, that's what I think.

Although this concept isn't 100% speech-language pathology related, what do you guys think? Conjure up some words that fit this or even some that don't. I believe most food brands follow suit with this. John J. Ohala even mentions in his article that it is seen cross-linguistically and he showed similarities in the vowels of words meaning "large" and "small" across several languages, it's worth a check (Table 22.2, page 336).

This does come with a  disclaimer that the author of the Reader's Digest article didn't mention who the NYU researchers were or provide a reference. I tried to find who they were for referencing through some online research, but couldn't. I did find John J. Ohala's article that discusses this concept, and other linguistic phenomena, that contribute to sound symbolism. There is a research article by two Marketing professors, one of which is from NYU, that used the terms 'fresh' and 'frosh' in their research... so perhaps that is who Caporimo is referring to? I've added it below.

Reader's Digest Article:

John J. Ohala, "The frequency codes underlies the sound-symbolic use of voice pitch" :

Eric Yorkston & Geeta Menon, "A Sound Idea: Phonetic Effects of Brand Names on Consumer Judgments" :

* I'd also like to thank my lovely mother, who is an avid reader of several magazines and found this article. She's always looking out for linguistics and speech/medical related articles for me. :)

There is also a disclaimer that I wasn't paid by any of these people or their affiliated organizations or publications. This is solely a reflection of my own interest in this subject and the desire to share this information with others.

Those Hidden Fees of Grad School

11 June 2014

It's getting to be that time of year again for seniors of undergraduate speech-language pathology programs-- application season! I'm not sure about all programs, but my school already gave us a pep talk in April about how to prepare during the summer. It's crazy how many things need to be done, or at least  thought of during summer. Of course, some students, like myself, like to find things to research in their free time and have already been looking at certain points of the checklist already... like interesting grad schools. I know that some have thought of this, and others haven't. I attribute my searching to two things: I just like to look up things, and I consider myself 1/2 undergrad 1/2 post-bacc since I came into this degree as a transfer (from Linguistics). So, I've always been on the more self-driven side of my peers and researching everything about SLP within my first year of the program since I was transferring.

Anyway... sorry for that tangent. It has a purpose though! These searches, including those on forums like gradcafe, have led me to realize there are many more things to consider besides the tuition of grad school itself. These "hidden" fees can be enough to change your decision once you realize how much they can add up!

1. Cost of an apartment

Many undergrads don't get an apartment until their junior or senior year. Some may even be lucky (or maybe not lucky when you consider the amount of their loans) enough to live in a dorm their entire undergraduate career. With an apartment comes certain fees, which you should consider:

-Each city has a different "average" rate: For example, Pittsburgh can be about 500 for a shared and 6-700 for a single. Boston on the other hand? Mad expensive!

- Utilities: Don't forget the cost of utilities. If you're living in a studio, you have to pay them all yourself (unless some are included in rent). This can make your monthly payments go from $50 in a 4-person apartment to $150 alone depending on what utilities you decide are necessary (TV and Internet plans)

-Transportation: Find an apartment in an area you deem an acceptable distance from campus. Walking is always cheap, especially in the city. Some universities give you free public transportation with your ID, so you may not need a car. So, consider if you'll need a car (+ gas) or if you need to pay for public transport or not.

2. Factor in General Travel

Will you be living close to family and friends, or will they be hours (or even states) away? Do you plan on visiting them occasionally or for holidays? Then search the cost for gas for train/bus/plane travel to and from your house to see if you can afford that X times a semester while you are in school.

3. Supplies:

Think about any supplies you need. These include: books, furniture, kitchenware, physicals or clearances, school supplies, lesson planning supplies, and any other "small" things that might add up.

4. The Big Move:

If you are planning on going cross- state or cross-country for school, then you might rack up even more costs. Will you be able to fit everything in your car or in your checked luggage? Or will you need to rent a moving truck? How much will the gas or tickets cost to do this?

These are just several of the hidden costs that grad school has. For some, these can make or break the decision for going to a certain school, while others think about the long term investment. Of course, if you manage to get a scholarship, assistantship or other form of reimbursement that helps alleviate some of the cost of grad school, then these may not weigh as much on your decision.  Either way, good luck to all in my current position and hope you find your best match!

If you can think of any other hidden costs, feel free to comment!

Life Lessons from Reading

21 May 2014

Ever since I can remember my mom has been a reader. It's always a guessing game as to how many books she'll bring home from the library. At times it's been as high as 10! She even will take out audio books and listen to those in the car, or bring a magazine to read while waiting in line at the market. Although her hardcover books are usual of the murder mystery genre, her magazines and audio books almost always have a scientific, medical or animal-related focus. (She just loves to continually learn facts.)

She's always had little tidbits from these audio books and magazines that she shares. One of the latest audio books, which I had the chance to listen to while driving with her to visit my grandmother, is very interesting. It's called Brain on Fire and it's written by Susannah Cahalan.

So far, we've learned that she was your average girl in her mid-20's. She began to have hallucinations, seemed Bi-Polar, had numbness on her left side and later had speech issues. She forgets all the things that happened in this time period, so the information stems from family notes and doctor's records. All of her tests came back negative except for her white blood cell count, which meant there was an infection or inflammation somewhere. Eventually it got to the point where she was in the hospital, at times acting catatonic, and with no end in sight. Doctors couldn't figure out her issue, and at times she seemed to get better but would then do a 180, knocking needles out of doctors' hands and having inappropriate emotional responses.

The point we're at now in the audio book seems to show that there might be a light at the end of this tunnel. She now has a new doctor on her team that knows she is somewhere inside her body. After looking through her medical history, a new doctor decided to do a simple test that is used on patients with mental disorders and dementia to pinpoint where in the brain their issue might be stemming from-- The Clock Test. She was instructed to draw a clock by hand using her memory, and in the end all of her numbers were scrunched to the right side. This could explain why she has no feeling on her left side, some speech issues (which got to the point of monopthizing all words and breaking them into one-syllable segments) as well as pinpoint where her inflammation might've been.
That's as far as we are now... but it's quite amazing how the body can work that way. You'll have to read the rest for yourself to figure out what happens and to see what caused these strange behaviors in such a short amount of time!

Here are some examples of The Clock Test:
Photo credit:

Besides the severe speech issues, she also demonstrated precipitative dysgraphia, which they described as her need to sometimes re-tracing certain words or symbols over-and-over. For example, when doing the clock test she traced the number "3" several times.  I found that an interesting disorder/symptom.

Some life lessons to take from this:
-Always read and strive to learn more
-Don't judge a patient solely on their outward expressions
-Sometimes simple tests and procedures can give the solution
-Look at the whole picture, not just several parts
-Don't give up at first glance; Progress takes time

Why Join in on Research

09 May 2014

Undergraduate speech-language pathology and audiology students are constantly trying to find ways to craft the perfect resume and sprinkle in a variety of extracurriculars to show that they are a multifaceted and culturally-sensitive person who can do well in every program. One way in which a handful of students are sticking out from the rest is through writing a thesis or assisting in research. Even if the thought of research puts you off when you initially hear it, there are quite a few benefits that you can gain from doing research (besides putting it on your resume!)

The first pro that comes to mind is that you can learn more about a topic that interests you. Do you  enjoy working with children that have Autism, have an interest in dizziness and how that relates to the auditory system, or find dysphagia interesting? If you have any interest at all see if there is a professor in your school conducting research. You don't have to go head-in and do a project or thesis, you can begin with attending lab meetings or writing a paper based on research you find to learn more about these areas.

Once you've gotten your foot in the door and decided you want to learn more about the research process and your desired topic, then you can really see what goes on behind the scenes. You'll get to see how the entire research process unravels from the conception of an idea to gathering data and interpreting it to writing the paper (and possibly sending proposals for publication). It's invaluable experience.

If your school has poster sessions (or you managed to get it accepted into a convention's poster session) you'll learn even more. It'll give you more strength in speaking and writing skills, as well as critical thinking as some attendees may ask questions about your work that you haven't considered.

Even if you don't conduct research but just assist in a lab or write a paper on the subject, there are still ways that you can benefit. One thing that ASHA and the profession keep encouraging is evidence based practice. This means that you do therapy that is backed by research that shows it will provide positive results. Helping in a research lab or conducting research will help you learn how to decipher bad research from good research and good research from great research.  Being able to do so will not only help you in your clinical practice, but ultimately aid your patients by giving them therapy that is proven to work.

These are just some of the benefits that I have found from assisting in a lab and writing my own thesis. As you can see, it's more than a resume booster!

Related post on  why I think there is a shortage of academia and research SLPs.

My First Poster Session!

29 April 2014

So, I have some personal news today... I recently entered into my school's student poster session. I was one of a few in the Student Research category and, on top of that, I was the only one from my major in the entire poster session, so I was slightly nervous...but there is good news-- I won my category!

My poster discussed the most recent experiment we did in my lab and was titled "The Cocktail Party Effect in Simulated Cochlear Implant Processing". The research was focused on the localization abilities of cochlear implants through a simulation that normal hearing listeners participated in. Our result were mixed but shed some light on possibilities of why we received that outcome. I got to discuss our project, the theories behind it, the outcomes and the meanings of these outcomes to students and faculty from a variety of disciplines. It was a great learning experience as I had to find novel ways to discuss certain items if they weren't clear, so I got to practice my public speaking skills!

I'm very excited to see what opportunity will come up next. This year will be especially exciting as I get to write my own thesis, so stay tuned!

SLP Skills Saturday: Being Social Media Savvy

19 April 2014

*This post has outside links to the related items discussed below. None are paid endorsements, just opinions and items I find helpful.

We are in the information age. Quite possibly, the fastest way we can obtain knowledge and information if through the internet. This information sharing platform has boomed over the past several decades, which has allowed for a massive amount of collaboration between those in our profession. We just love sharing ideas and thoughts! That's why this SLP Skills Saturday is focusing on the idea that SLPs need to be savvy with social media. After all, there is a wealth of information and networks available through the various social media platforms.

There are several "big" players in social media that you should consider looking into. Each have different eases at which you can read the information you want, or ask for information from others.

Facebook  has always been one of the major platforms. This is for more than catching up with friends... there are many groups on Facebook! Some for SLP students, others for professionals and students, and they are far and wide in what they cover. There are those like that can help students with questions, while others have discussions for professionals (that also let students in). For example, some groups are for dysphagia, apraxia of speech, private practice, medical SLP, school SLP... basically you name it and there's a group for your interest. These can provide you with lots of information as to what is "big" in that subfield. You can also find pages for your favorite blogs on Facebook (like Look Who's Talking!)

Discussion Boards are extremeeeely helpful. You'll find answers to question already have or ones you hadn't thought of. I believe Speech Room News has a discussion board. There's also the SLP reddit page for any questions or thoughts on the field and grad cafe for questions/concerns on getting into grad school.

Twitter is also a VERY big one in this field. So many researchers, companies, organizations, clinicians, bloggers and students are on Twitter. They post articles, blog posts, interesting facts, employment opportunities and just general thoughts on their twitter handles. Besides following and interacting with others through tweets, you can follow many hashtags and chats. Some examples are:
#slpeeps    #slp2b    #slpbloggers   #slpchat   #wespeechies   #researchtuesday

Wespeechies actually holds chats almost every Tuesday, usually at 8 pm AST. They discuss a variety of topics and SLPs and SLP students from around the world join in. You can check the schedule here:

Blogs, like this one, are another social media tool you should be savvy with. You don't need your own blog. Or you don't need an informational one like this; rather, you can have a personal one to just record notes or personal triumphs. Just do a search for SLP blogs and you'll find many-- by (under)grad students and clinicians in a variety of settings. There's even one on Special Education Law. Search for blogs by related disciplines. These all have many activities and ideas related to our field that you can use when you eventually get to grad school and the work force.

An easy way to follow many blogs is through Bloglovin' which LookWhoSLP is a part of. Just search or you favorite blogs and "follow" them. Then you'll see all their new posts in a feed.

You should also consider the proper etiquette that should be followed when using these different social media and how they reflect on your professionally. 

End of Semester Thoughts

07 April 2014

Wow, how is it almost the end of the semester and my first "official" year in my undergraduate speech-language pathology program?  I'm surprised it's even been 4 years since I graduated high school FOUR YEARS?! For me even high school went quick, and now the post-high school years have gone by just as fast, if not faster! This has been a year of many firsts, which was exciting. It's led me to think back on what all has gone on and what's yet to come.

Here are just some of the thoughts I've had:

1.5 months until I go to Spain!

I need to start studying for the GRE. Yikes!

Really, where has the time gone?

I'm so glad I got to know more people in my program :) 

I had no idea there was that much stuff involved in speech motor acts or language development.

Can't wait until I can do more observations and volunteer at the children's hospital!

I'm gonna miss my roommates when they leave me after graduation :(

How can I begin to narrow down the list of school to apply to?! Ayy!

I'm so nervous for my first poster presentation!

Speech science wasn't actually that hard.

(Okay, well for some it was, either due to the intricacies of some concepts that built on stuff learned in A&P of Speech, others because of cheating (more on that later). People always said that this was one of the hardest classes, but I guess that differs for everyone as I not only understood it but enjoyed  it! )

Okay, really... how has 4 years gone by?

What is everyone else thinking as summer comes closer?

Other Options in Speech Pathology: Materials or App Designer

28 March 2014

For those who want some money on the side, desire a new challenge or don't feel that therapy is for them there are other options that you can take with your degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology. In a new series "Other Options in Speech Pathology" I'll take a look into some of these various paths that you may wish to take.

One idea that quite a few speech pathologists have taken up recently is developing and selling materials that others can use. These are typically items that can be used in therapy, like lessons and apps, but others sell classroom design items, tote bags and t-shirts... so the options can be endless-- if you think it, you can sell it!

One of the most popular websites that clinicians use sell their materials is Teachers Pay Teachers. You can post your items on the site, have sales, and you even have a chance at being placed on the spotlight to gain more attention. There are plenty of other websites as well, like Etsy, where you can sell items, but Teachers Pay Teachers probably has the most recognition for those looking for or selling materials.

Another great part about creating and selling materials is connecting to fellow speech pathologists and others who you might work with in your setting. Throughout the year some speech pathologists get together, each pitching in one of their products, to make a super bundle of items that will be sold to raise funds for a charity. One such time this happened was for the Oklahoma tornado that affected several online bloggers.

So, if you've got the creative genes and want to share your materials (or apps!) with others, you should consider this!

I'm not sure what program they use to make their materials, nor do I have access to royalty free images... but I took a stab at this using Paint some time ago. Take a look!

Finding Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Speech Language Pathology

20 March 2014

Disclaimer: You might not want to do in-depth research if you aren't interested in the entire research process, a certain topic or possibly entering academia in the future. Now, that doesn't mean you shouldn't do a research or independent study project to learn more about a topic, as that may help you decide where you may want to specialize as time goes on. I encourage that! Doing smaller projects, a paper or assisting a professor can also let you get to know that faculty member more personally. I'm only saying that you may not want to do more in-depth research, like an undergraduate thesis, if you don't see yourself doing research or academia down the road, as this involves much more time and effort... but is a great learning experience!

With that said, there are several ways that you can gain any amount of research experience as an undergraduate. You just have to show interest in the topic and person and show your dedication. First,  consider subjects that interest you, they don't have to be directly related to SLP. For example, you can look into fields like education, supervision, neuroscience, genetics, psychology, or interdisciplinary collaboration. Then, find a local person that researches this, whether it be a faculty member, local hospital researcher, non-profit researcher, or a program. If you are going to do work under/with a specific person, look up their publications.  Make sure that their subfield of research is what you are interested in, or close to it. You also want to read some of their work so you can see their methods and show that you've done you're homework on them and can discuss some of what they've done. Don't just call or e-mail and say "hi!" they want to know why you're interested and that you are willing to do the work, which involves knowing their studies. After that, contact them!

As mentioned, there are various opportunities. My program is sometimes difficult for finding research opportunities in the department, so some look at related disciplines within the school. I know several that have done projects in linguistics, psychology and neuroscience. That doesn't mean you can't loo within the department if there is a professor you really look up to, just talk to that person! There are also other programs your school may have like summer research grants/programs, independent study, or even just attending lab meetings. These can all help get your foot in the door.

There are community opportunities as well. Try hospitals or local residential schools. They sometimes have research labs affiliated with them or summer research opportunities for students. (If not maybe a volunteer spot in the speech department!) You may also want to look at some organizations. Some non-profits or other nationally recognized agencies have researchers that you might be able to contact.

Lastly, there are national programs. Try looking up some national undergraduate research opportunities (doesn't have to be in SLP!). One that comes to mind is Fulbright who has ties with international research facitilies that undergraduates can take part in.

Side Jobs in Undergrad

18 March 2014

Numerous undergrads on the forums and FaceBook groups always seem to be worried about having enough experience for grad school applications. To go one step further, they all want to find experiences that are speech-language pathology related, which chimes to the ring of ' children, camps, babysitting, and school' to many of these students.... Don't get me wrong, when I first found out about this major and realized the difficulty of being accepted I was like this as well! (Occasionally, I still am.) But I'm here to debunk a myth that has circled around many student groups: It doesn't have to be 100% speech-language pathology related. Sure, if you manage to snag a volunteer position at a speech clinic, that's great! Realistically, though, these are few and far between. Also, some students know they don't want to work with children... so why force yourself to volunteer at a camp or work in a daycare if that's not your thing?

Luckily, communication is part of everything, so you can tie almost any job into speech-language pathology even if it isn't the "golden" daycare job or Best Buddies membership. Actually, I think some graduate programs might look at you as a more well-rounded person. After all, we all love speech-language pathology but that doesn't mean 100% of our time has to be devoted to it... Many clinicians spend their free time elsewhere, whether it be hiking, making crafts, name it!

One example: I haven't done this, but it was once a potential job: patient care technician. These people work under the supervision of a nurse and do all duties that don't require a nursing degree. It mostly requires the dirty work of taking care of a patient and sometimes assisting in taking vitals and such. This job would demonstrate the ability to aid different patients, working under supervision, working in a fast-paced and medical environment and taking care of others... all of which are necessary for speech-language pathology as well.

Another example: I work at the school cafeteria. How is that relatable to speech-language pathology? I communicate for 5 hours straight making sure every order is perfect, no matter how odd the order is. I have to listen to each customer, adjust to any limitations, understand their culture may require different practices (like changing gloves that have touched meat), and work under a time constraint. This job requires me to be on my toes and sometimes ask for repetitions, all while either working with a teammate or filling 15 orders by myself if the teammate has to do another task. This has prepared me for graduate education and working as a clinician since there is a multicultural client base as well as different work settings that require varying levels of independence.

When the Travel Bug Bites: Speech-Language Pathology Travel Opportunities

03 March 2014

We've all been there... you daydream while staring into the snowy abyss that is outside of your window, wondering of the places to which you'd like to escape. Whether it'd be for a short term or perhaps longer than a year, you just want to explore other cultures and places. But what about your job? For the shorter opportunities that may not be an issue, but if you want to stay longer you'll have living expenses, let alone money for activities. Luckily this is a fairly flexible career path that can let you go after some of these dreams. Here are some Speech-Language Pathology travel opportunities to take you abroad and within the US to get rid of your cabin fever:

Shorter Opportunities
If you'd like, you can participate in short trips that some organizations put together. Most of these last from several weeks to a few months, which is perfect for any time constraints you may have. It is important to note that most of these are volunteer positions, and may even require travel expenses.

Operation Smile- Operation Smile has trips to other countries that need SLPs, generally those with experience with Cleft-Lip and Palate. Click here for more information!
Special Olympics- If you want to get more involved with people who have handicaps and want to see them achieve great things, try getting involved with the Special Olympics. Click here for more information!
Doctors Without Borders- This is a great company that sends medical and therapeutic specialists on trips to assist those who may not get adequate healthcare. Click here!
English Summer Camps- Some cities around the US have these, but for those that want to travel abroad, this can work as well. Certain countries require a TEFL or CELTA certification, while others do not.
Other Summer Camps- There are camps throughout the country that relate to disciplines within our field. There are ones for children with Autism, those who stutter, as well as other disorders. So, if you'd like more experience with these populations while getting out of your town you should try this option!
Portland University- This university has a summer trip to Quito, Ecuador specifically for Speech-Language Pathologists and those with at least a B.A. You'll get to take Spanish classes and visit places that serve communication disorders like hospitals, schools and non-profit organizations. The only caveat is that you have basic Spanish skills before entering.
United Planet- This organization has some speech therapy related missions that you can participate in.
Speech Pathology Group: Children's Services International- There are opportunities to volunteer locally or abroad for varying amounts of time, depending on what they need.
Travel SLP- For those who have less obligations that require them to stay in one place, this could be an option. There are many staffing agencies and companies that have short-term travel positions for SLPs. Most pay for travel expenses and housing, and once the position is done, you are able to pick up a new one somewhere else. You can be sent anywhere within the US.

Longer Opportunities
For those who can 'afford' to take more time or wish to live abroad for a possibly undetermined amount of time, there are still some opportunities for you. These can last several months to years, depending on the local economy and need.

Military-  Even if you didn't go through military training, they have positions for civilians to work throughout the USA and abroad at military bases. These often are pediatric-related positions, but there may be opportunities to work with military personnel who have acquired injuries as well. The best option is to look into the Department of Defense or I believe there is a way to be on a mailing list so that when openings come up they can e-mail you, asking if you'd like to take a position at X city or country.
Bilingual Schools- If there's a certain country you've always wanted to go to so you can practice the language and see the culture, try looking into bilingual schools that have English-speaking children. (Or if you're a bilingual SLP then you can work with both populations.)
International Schools- These can be a great option, as expats and some natives will send children to international schools to learn English and the local language as they go through their education. They may be in need of an English-speaking SLP for expat families. One place that may help is the International Schools Services.
Sterling Overseas- This is a company that can place SLPs overseas in educational facilities. Click here!
Mutual Agreement- ASHA has agreements with other professional organizations in Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand that can assist you in moving to these countries and not worry about getting re-certified. This isn't a placement service, you'll still have to find your own job, but it states that your certification is recognized in these countries and will help you in that process.
Teach English- While working at a foreign military base or international school you may want to pick up extra cash. Or perhaps you want a break from SLP and focus on teaching English. Many countries are in need of native English speakers (and often don't mind if you don't know their language, as they want it to be English immersion for the students). As stated above, some require a certification, while others don't. You'll also want to look into expenses vs. salary; many Asian countries you'll save money while in Europe you'll break even, etc.
Accent Reduction/Private Practice/Tutor- There are chances to still work as an SLP abroad through accent reduction. Many foreigners not only want to learn English, but lose their accent so that they are understandable as well. If you'd rather not do that, then you could look into forming your own practice there, but be sure to figure out all the laws and regulations with that (as well as be sure that you can handle it.) Make sure it's near the population you want (bilingual, accent reduction, expats...). You can also choose to tutor English on the side.
Teletherapy- Of course, there is the growing trend of telerehabilitation. This just requires a computer with good connection. You can determine your hours, although for the pediatric population this will most likely be after school hours. Other than that, if you can find adequate work or do extra stuff on the side, then you can live almost anywhere!

These are just some of the opportunities that I have found. Be sure that if you look into a company that goes overseas or offers placement services to make sure that there aren't any hidden issues. Look into the Better Business Bureau or on online forums to see if there are any complaints against them.
ASHA has more non-profit organizations that you can look into at this link:

Undergraduate Weighted Grade Tracking Chart

26 January 2014

As I'm trying to reinvent my organization yet again (I'm so particular, especially with note-taking.), I've come across something that has been often overlooked in my records-- grade keeping. It seems that around finals time every semester I begin to freak out and don't figure out what I'll need to get on the exam ahead of time. Instead, I freak out a few days before, collect all my grades and figure out their weight and how much percentage that grade comes to in my cumulative score. That's why I've decided to be proactive and try to find a good technique to grade keeping and knowing how much I need to get on the final ahead of time.

Now, I'm not saying this isn't fool-proof, but I think this chart has promise, which is why I'm sharing it with everyone. Basically, you have a separate one for each class, and it'll have the date, assignment, grade, what that assignment's weight is out of everything, what the weighted percentage of that assignment is, and your total weighted grade. Here's an example (download link at bottom of post):

So, say that your class has 4 reflections worth a total of 20% of your grade... that makes each reflection 5% of your final grade (written under "Weight"). Since the grade on 'Reflection #1' is 25/25, that is equal to receiving the full possible 5% for that assignment ("Weighted Percent"). Since this is the first assignment logged, the "Total Percent" (your total percent so far in the class) is 5%. 
Now let's say you have 4 quizzes, worth a total of 60% of your final grade... that makes each quiz worth 15% of your grade individually ("Weight"). You only receive an 8/10, which is equal to 12% (of the total 15% available). So 12% now goes into "Weighted Percent". Now, add this to the percent above in "Total Percent" to get 17%, which is now what you currently have in the class.

Does this make sense?? I've attached the sheet to this post for anyone that wants it. Hope you find it helpful! Doe anyone else have some organization/ grade keeping tips?

CLICK HERE for the download link!

It's also available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I'm currently working on a few new items... but check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store! :)

Common Undergraduate (and Beyond) #CSDProbs

23 January 2014

Each major has it's own issues and commonalities that students realize as time passes by. I'm not sure how many other majors have, but Communication Science and Disorders certainly has many! Even the graduate life and working career of a Speech-Language Pathologist is filled with similarities that occur often. In fact, one way I spend my down time is skimming through the "What Should We Call SLP" Tumblr site, finding amusement in the gifs and their captions that capture the life of a student and clinician. (I suggest you do,too!)  To go along with this and the #slpprobz #csdprobs hashtags, I've come up with some of the most common issues, especially for undergrads... which can sometimes make your face look/feel like the one below!

1. Everyone shows up to class 20 minutes early. Finals also seem to mandate an unspoken 30-40 minute early arrival.

2.You suddenly become aware of your tongue movements and swallowing -- or get scared to death when others cough while eating.

3. You have an organization system with things labeled, color coded, in protective sheets and in individual binders based on subject. These are then kept for future classes that build off of that material.

4. Half  of the class is dressed perfectly for your 8 am and the other half looks like they rolled out of bed 15 minutes ago. And at least half of your classes are at 8 am.

5. People think you need to be in a psych ward for saying sounds to yourself while walking.

6. You've come to realize English orthography is horrible, despite that you can say words in other languages with the IPA.

7. Watching videos of kids while the class giggles at the cuteness is a fairly regular occurrence.

8. Once Junior year begins, everyone has a friendly but competitive nature that escalates as senior year begins. Getting a 'B+' is often accompanied with an empathetic " aww, next time" since everyone wants a 3.99 GPA.

9. Simply being in NSSLHA isn't enough. Everyone has their hands dipped into 8-10 things, some "bragging" that they've been volunteering in a camp for 6 years while those that just found out about the program freak out about only having 2 years experience tutoring kids.

10. You learn some really odd vocabulary and acronyms. Sometimes they seem dirty, other times you wonder how you can say them, let alone a patient.

There's many more, and if you can think of any feel free to comment!

Martin Luther King Jr Day!

20 January 2014