Monday, January 1, 2018

Dear school SLP in 2018,

Dear school SLP in 2018,

     My hope for you is happiness this year!

     Recently I was casually scrolling through posts on an SLP Facebook group I love and came across a post that felt all too familiar. The original poster was questioning whether she should stay in the profession because of burnout and feelings of overwhelm and insecurity with aspects of the field. Nearly 150 fellow SLPs had commented, most acknowledging their own similar emotions. In fact, descriptors I read in the comments included: stressed, incompetent, unprepared, unconfident, unintelligent, overwhelmed, anxious, unsupported, alone, unknowledgeable, tired, pressured, inexperienced, isolated, uncomfortable, exhausted, disrespected, unappreciated, uncertain, inadequate, worried, intimidated, doubtful, unproductive, impossible, frustrated, and unhappy.

These descriptions weighed heavy on my heart. I knew that I personally have felt these emotions in an ebb and flow throughout my career, but I had no idea there were so many other SLPs feeling these things right now and many who contemplate leaving the schools and often do.

Nationwide, it's no surprise why we are feeling this way. Large caseloads, tight schedules, a broad scope of practice, paperwork demands, researching and incorporating evidence-based practices, a lack of understanding from colleagues (or administration) regarding our role, a lack of support from administration, and dealing with difficult behaviors of students (or colleagues) are many of the reasons that lead to our burnout and overwhelm.

So, how can we help each other and ourselves to ward off these negative emotions and avoid burnout? We need to focus on what we can control. We know by looking at the field of psychology that the cognitive-behavioral triangle is research-based. The triangle shows that thoughts, feelings and actions are all interconnected and influence each other.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) claims that we can elicit change by changing our actions through exposure or by changing our thoughts. Let's use the example of AAC here. There is a recently made popular acronym in the speech world FOUAAC: fear of using AAC. CBT says that in order for us to conquer our FOUAAC, we can continually expose ourselves to its use and/or say positive things to ourselves about it. (ex: I can do this. I am making a difference. This student is learning.) To even be able to do this, however, we also need to practice mindfulness. Being mindful is when you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad, without believing there's a 'right' or 'wrong' way to think or feel in a situation. That being said, we also need to be careful of our negative personal commentaries. Positive self-talk is a powerful tool to override negative thoughts that may be bringing us down. So, instead of "I'm the worst SLP. I'll never get the hang of AAC", we can change this to something like, "As I learn from using AAC with my student, I am becoming a better SLP." Positive self-talk is not wearing rose-colored glasses, but rather it is finding the positive in every situation that will allow you to find hope and possibly even joy.  

Practice self-care

Self-care is activity we do to take care of our mental, emotional or physical health. It is a basic human need. When a baby cries of hunger, this is self-care (activity to meet a basic need). Self-care will look different for everybody depending on their interests. It may take trial and error to find what works for you. Although exercise is great for physical health, you will need to find a style that suits your interest and personality. Example time. Although I really wanted to love it, I found that CrossFit was anxiety-inducing for me, but yoga and elliptical running worked well. Also, it's important to note that self-care is not selfishness. The self-care wheel below has some excellent points for the school-based SLP to remember professionally:
-take time for lunch
-set boundaries
-do not work overtime
-leave work at work
-do not work during your time off
-get regular supervision
-get support from colleagues
-take mental health days
-learn to say no 
-plan your next career move
-take a class
-take all vacation and sick days

Ok, I realize that some of these are more difficult for us to achieve than others in our unique field. Think about which ones you are doing well, and which you might be able to improve upon or get creative with. Remember self-care is NOT selfish!

So, if you're hungry, eat. If you're tired, rest. If you're lonely, talk to someone. This brings me to another point...

Seek help

Find a mentor in the field. Maybe it's your CF supervisor. Maybe it's the lead SLP in your district. Maybe it's another SLP you've met through social media. Just ask! If they say no, choose positive self-talk. It's not a reflection of you. Keep looking! You will find him/her. 

Schedule time with SLP friends. Some of this is for your personal and emotional well-being. Being the only one in a school who does what we do everyday is LONELY! Make sure you are chatting with your SLP colleagues as often as possible. Go out to lunch! Text, call, email, Facebook instant message them. If you haven't connected on a personal level with your SLP colleagues, find like-minded SLP friends through social media. Trust me, they are out there. 

Still don't have the help you feel you need? Contact your local educational service center. They should have SLPs who can help you. 
Contact your state board, your state speech-language hearing association, your state department of education, and ASHA. All of these agencies are in place to help you, the school-based SLP, succeed. 

Sweet school SLP friend, when you begin to focus on the things you can control such as practicing mindfulness with positive self-talk, genuinely engaging in self-care, and seeking help from others, you will find freedom from discontentment. You will find clarity, creativity, and ultimately joy in this wonderfully complex, challenging and beautiful life-giving profession. You are a life-changer! You are valued, seen, and appreciated!

With love,

P.S. This letter in no way seeks to diminish the possibilities of mental health disorder. If you feel you are experiencing negative thoughts and emotions due to depression, anxiety, etc., please consult your physician. 

P.P.S. This letter also acknowledges that some environments may be toxic and hazardous to your health. If you find this to be true, please give yourself permission to seek out a safe workspace.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Minecraft inspired speech room

If you live anywhere other than under a rock, chances are you've probably heard of Minecraft.  If you're a school-based SLP, you probably have students who play it. And if you're like me, you have both students and sons who are obsessed with it. See exhibit A:
Yes, I made him a Minecraft Creeper cake. I stole this idea from 

We SLPs are always looking for ways to connect with our students and engage them in conversation. What better way to engage them all year long than surround them with their interests. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Right? So I give you the Minecraft-inspired speech room. 
The door. It's a little busy, but I like it. The little signs, block letters and penant were all downloaded from ZisforZebra's TpT store. It's an editable pack, y'all. Get it here:

And this grammar chart is directly from ZisforZebra's editable pack as well:
Don't you love that fun duct tape?!!? I do!

Tissue boxes.

Hand sanitizer that says 'germs are creepy' on the other side. My amazing student intern created this.


Above the homework chart.

Saw a really cool Minecraft bulletin board on Pinterest. I just had to give it a go. It says 'mine for speech and language' in the clouds.

 I plan to have my students complete and post this visual aid as a reminder of their speech/language goals for the school year. We will post them around the bulletin board. You can grab my goal visual aid for FREE at my TpT store here:

And don't forget to grab my FREE student desk reminder card featuring Steve here: 

One last look at it all. That's son #2 at the PC. No, he wasn't playing Minecraft right then. 
So there you have it. I hope my students love it. Most of all, I hope it will motivate them to work hard on their speech/language goals! I have a great group this year (as I do every year) and we are ready to craft our speech and language skills! 

P.S. I plan to use Liz Haider's Minecraft therapy materials next week, too. Get them here:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Welcome to FFSS!

Hi there! My name is Katrina, the freckle-faced speechie. 
I'm an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist hailing from Circleville, OH, home of the Pumpkin Show. We're serious about our pumpkins, can you tell?
 Learn more here:

So, I've decided to jump on the bloggin' wagon and see where the bumpy road may lead. My goal for FFSS is connection and growth for myself and readers. As my tagline "faith*family*speech*language*love" indicates, this blog is not solely dedicated to all things speech-related. Because it will often be my heart leaping onto the screen, I will also blog about my faith and family from time to time. Speaking of which, here's a recent family selfie:
Oh, the little one is also a boy incase you're curious! Yes, I live in a testoster-home (not sure who coined that term, but I LOVE it)! 

Now that you know a little of me and my heart, I'd like to know more about you! Leave a comment about who you are AND what you'd like to gain from reading this blog. 

Thanks for stopping by!