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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: