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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:
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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.