Welp, hello from Indiana! This past weekend I packed up my car, said “goodbye” to Fayetteville, NC, and drove my little puppers and me to Elwood, Indiana. This week I started my newest journey as a travel SLP. Oh man, what a new experience this has been. As if that wasn’t enough, I am in a completely different setting than I am used to. I am currently the only SLP on staff. The clinic I am at is an ABA clinic, specializing in the autism population. A lot of the children we see here are here all day. It is considered an intensive program and the primary goal is to get kids into the school system. The kids here are incredible, as is the staff. However, it has not been easy navigating this brand new world. There are PTs, OTs, RBT, BCBAs, and then me, the sole SLP.
I’ve had so many questions, so many concerns. Do I target feeding? What’s the referral process? How do I handle this? Who do I go to with that? Where is my office? (Oh yeah, I have an OFFICE!)
I’m learning when it comes to interdisciplinary care, there are simply questions that need to be asked. Why are you doing that? What is the purpose behind the schedule? These are just two of the many, many questions I find myself asking the RBTs as they work with kids I’ll have on my caseload. I have Googled every day different terms I’ve heard them use. I’ve found myself trying to find where I fit in, because sometimes I feel like they’re probably doing my job better than I could. Hey quick question, I hollered at one of the OTs as she walked past my office. I then proceeded to ask her if she had a kiddo of mine on their caseload and if they were targeting feeding with this kid. She said they had that child on their caseload, but they weren’t targeting feeding. I nervously inquired if I could move forward with feeding therapy. She laughed, probably seeing how nervous I was. “You’re the professional. That’s your specialty and where you’re trained, not me.” My shoulders relaxed and I felt a surge of confidence. I am the professional, I said to myself proudly. The moments following that interaction were tackled with a different kind of confidence. I started making my way into kiddos’ rooms, observing and interacting.
As a newly licensed SLP, fresh out of my CFY and diving head first into a brand new setting, it has been hard to have that confidence, especially when other disciplines are involved. They speak a different language to me. They have a different knowledge base than I do. So, what can this placement be? An opportunity to learn from amazing professionals. In the past four days, I have learned more about ABA than I ever did in my time during grad school or my CFY. And you know who will benefit most from this? The kids. The more I know about their day-to-day, the more I’ll be able to tailor my therapy to meet their specific needs.
You know what’s also hard to navigate? (Other than life, of course). Freaking relationships, man. Not only am I embarking on the journey of a new relationship, but we’re doing the whole thing long distance. Like, really long distance. You know what’ll test a new relationship? 9 months apart. You know what’ll also test a new relationship? Insecurities, past hurts, current stressors. It’s difficult to navigate new relationships, just like it’s difficult to navigate a new job. It’s a lot of uncertainty. In comes this human that you’re like “wow, I dig you” but then you don’t have them quite figured out. You tread cautiously, not sure how they’ll react in certain situations. Their heart speaks a different language than yours. You’re an expert (somewhat) of your own heart but man, you feel like you know nothing of theirs. Now, in the past I don’t really know how I’ve handled it. To be honest, I think I was too busy trying to figure out the language my own heart was speaking that I couldn’t bear to try to decode another’s.
Oh but now, now I ask questions. I discuss. I find the “why”. I confidently know the language of my own heart and I am better able to answer these questions when they are asked of me. Being the “professional” of my own heart, simply knowing what my own heart needed, has been empowering and has allowed me to slow down and start learning the language of someone else’s. It is so important to stand confidently in the ways in which we know ourselves, our hearts, our jobs. You know you better than anyone, act like it. Own it.
Okay, damn. I’m actually super proud of myself for finally writing a post that actually pertains to both my job and my personal life. I can only hope there are more to come! I have decided to include more “speechie” posts on here, considering the title is “The Messy SLP”. I will say, the word vomit will continue. I can’t stop that. I’ll just sprinkle in some speech stuff every so often!