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The 1000 Piece Puzzle: Picking Your Perfect SLP Grad School

13 Jul

Ahh, the joys of being a junior in the education system again. This period in anyone´s education career, high school or undergraduate, can bring on many questions and fears, as well as anxiety and excitement about the future. At least I can say I´m ‘experienced´with this, as it´s my second go around. I get to have to fun of diving into the university searching once again, investigating the options and questioning them later on until I´m certain Ive picked the best ones. At least I have figured out my passion in life and now it is simply finding the best school for my needs and interests, so that helps take a load off my short stature.

There are some similarities in looking for an undergraduate and graduate program, which do make the process somewhat similar and easier to navigate. But as with everything, even grad school searching presents some new challenges as well, such as: Do the ratings count? Medical or Educational focus? What makes a program superb and-or well-known? Are smaller, lesser-known schools just as good? What about online programs? … and I can probably list 100 more questions that have been gnawing at me since I began my search. (I´ve even had some dreams lately regarding graduate school. So the ´fun´just doesn´t end!) … Before you begin to worry, I´m completely fine! It´s simply that my mind loves to keep on thinking, even when my body wishes it´d rest for some well-deserved, non-SLP related sleep.)

I´m certain others are are in the same situation as myself, anxious to begin their search and visit programs, so I´ve complied a list of characteristics that may help narrow down one´s higher education pursuit and create a humongous, personalized grad school puzzle.

Location: There are actually quite a few things related to location that might weigh heavily in one´s decision on graduate school. First: the type of environment the school is in. Some may prefer city life or suburban/rural. And even within that… you may want the suburban feel, but with access to a city for entertainment and clinical opportunities. For me, I know I´d like to stay in the Eastern US due to proximity to family (although going abroad would be sweet). Second: Climate. Each area of the US and Canada is home to it´s own climate. If you´re a hot-weather-lover from Florida who hasn’t seen snow in your life, perhaps attending a university in Canada or New Hampshire isn’t for you. Even along that, you may be accustomed to Pennsylvania´s humid heat, but not Arizona´s dry heat. Third: Connections. Some opt to attend a university in the general area where they wish to work and live beyond graduation. This is great for building local professional networks before graduating!

Online vs In Person: Similar to the location puzzle piece, you may want to consider if you are able to travel and live in a different setting than you are now. Would you rather stay home, find clinical placements in your area and be near the ones you love? Maybe you have a family to take care of and your partner has a steady job that you’d rather not leave. Keep in mind, you may have a higher aptitude for learning in-person than online, or you may not have the self- motivation for solely studying online. Also, due to the increased popularity in online programs over the past few years, they have become quite competitive to be accepted into! Some are also fairly expensive, and don’t allow for research or other educational/funding opportunities.

Results: Check the program’s outcomes on the Praxis, employment and graduation rates. How many of each cohort graduate, pass the Praxis and are employed after obtaining their CCC’s. These are indicators of how well-prepared their students are with the education the school offers.

Size of Program: There are two things under this category that go hand-in-hand: school size and cohort size. Do you want to attend larger or more well-known university? Does having a more recognized school on your resume matter to you? …What about the number of students in accepted into your cohort? Each program allots for a certain number of acceptances, and even then only a fraction of those attend. Cohorts are generally small in this field, but they can still range from something small like 15/20 to a ‘larger’ group of 30/40 (some may be larger, I’m not sure.). All cohorts have their own sense of a family and level of tight-knittedness, depends on how large of a group you feel comfortable with!

Faculty-Research: Make sure the faculty are interested in the same disciplines as you are, especially if you want to research on the side. By having faculty interested in similar things you are, you are open to a wealth of knowledge that you can access and present questions to. If you wish to learn more about bilingual populations but no one in your school is well-versed in that, then how will you gain the knowledge you need to work with that population later?

Cost: For a number of graduate students this is a major issue. Most schools have a lower in-state tuition, which may want you to seek education in your state. Some schools offer great scholarship or assistantship packages. You have to keep an eye out for these types of things when you decipher the patterns in the graduate school puzzle. Of course, some also place cost lower on the pedestal if the clinical placement options are great. It’s up to you to weigh which is more important.

Thesis Option: Do you wish to do a Master’s thesis to research a specific topic you’re intrigued in or to begin your publishing career to build up your doctoral application? Some schools only offer the comprehensive exam option, so you’ll want to make sure it has this option. ALSO make sure the professors are well-published and well-known in their respective fields, and preferably still publishing and researching. You want them to hold PhDs, as well. These are those little color indicators in the puzzle that tell you this school is great for research and still cranking it out with engaged faculty.

 

These are only the edge pieces of the puzzle. Be sure to check back soon for the filler pieces that you may want to consider for completing the puzzle for your perfect school! Good luck to all you #preslp and #slp2b students in your endeavors!

Keeping the “Information Itch” at Bay: Resources for Knowledge

4 Jul
English: Books available for Guantanamo captiv...

English: Books available for Guantanamo captives to read. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I have a tendency to have trouble not pondering about academics outside of the school year, I’ve managed to find some ways to stay current and read up on some issues within our field. It’s a good way to stay on top of things, become aware of novel(or recurring) issues within the academic and clinical side of Speech-Language Pathology, as well as soothe the itch of entertaining myself til the school year. Like I said before, I’m a nerd, which is good for this profession, in a sense.

Of course one way I’ve managed to keep the beast at bay is through reading other blogs. It’s interesting to see all the different perspective that professionals and students can have about SLP in general, their specialty, or research. In fact, one blogger, Rachel Wynn, has called her fellow bloggers together to spend some time delving into current research and posing their comments on the article they read [1]. This is quite exciting, as she herself points out that many working SLPs often get caught up in all their work, and don’t have much time to peruse through research, which is why she encourages a post once a month, and then she will collect it all into one post for others to skim through other research for information. It’s quite a great, collaborative idea! Besides this, simply reading other blogs and their take on news, research, techniques, apps or daily happenings in SLP is superb as well. I love seeing all the activities that SLPs come up with. If you want to read some blogs, go to the right side of my page where you’ll see some listed; I actually follow many more that aren’t shown due the amount of blogs and space on this blog design. If you’d like to see more, just e-mail me and I’ll share others! You can also check out the top blogs in any Google search. All of this information will help me in my clinical placements, as well as when I’m a working SLP!

There are also some print materials that aid my SLP-information-itch. If you’re a NSSLHA or ASHA member, you should receive e-mails when a new volume of the latest journal are out, as well as have access to them when they are archived [2]. These include the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (AJSLP) and the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research (JSLHR). Some members may also have access to the American Journal of Audiology (AJA) or Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools (LSHSS). Students are also subscribed to Contemporary Issues in Communication Science and Disorders (CICSD) Journal, which has more articles/research relevant this population [3]. All of these have fascinating research on a variety of topics and have different frequencies of publication, ranging from biannual to every other month. If you do not have the means to have a membership, I do believe that abstracts are free, and there is a $10/article fee or $25 to access all archived articles for a day. So if you’d rather just skim through the archives to read the abstracts and purchase those that strike your fancy, then that could be an option as well. But having a membership does serve well, especially for those in school, as you have unlimited access to research for classes!

Another benefit of membership is the access to Special Interest Groups (SIGs) [4]. These are groups where professionals collaborate and discuss themes pertinent to their specialty. Of course you can join more than one of the nineteen groups, but it does cost some money. These groups range from “Aural Rehabilitation and Its Instrumentation” to “Issues in Higher Education” to “Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders” to “Telepractice”. There are plenty more dealing with audiology and it’s components, fluency, gerontology, multiculturalism and language, among others. I’m personally part of “Language Learning and Education” and ” Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) Populations”. If I had more money, I would’ve joined a few others as well, since many of them sound interesting! The ones I’m currently in are great, provide so much information… anyway, back to the meat of the post. What these groups offer information-wise are online “Perspectives” which are journals specific to that SIG’s theme, as well as access to discussion boards. I actually get the discussion board correspondences sent to my e-mail. These are extremely helpful, as members bring up issues within the field, as well as for assistance with an issue they are having, which can be helpful to you now or in the long run. Just another way to stay up-to-date on happenings that arise in the profession/ your specialty.

Besides research, there are also newsletters that can help you maintain and gain relevant information. They are also great sources for knowledge on other professionals and sometimes tips for a certain event or problem. The ASHA Leader tends to be more for professionals, but, as I keep hinting at, this can help students learn stuff they might not learn in class as well as shed light on the profession itself. For students, there are also a couple of publications:  NSSLHA In The Loop and NSSLHA Now! Newsletter that publish articles geared towards students within the Communication Science and Disorders realm. They even post CFY listings and accept some articles written by students, so if your creative juices are flowing and you are knowledgable about something of student interest, then have a go and see if you get published! (The CICSD also accepts student research and has a mentoring program.) As with the research journals, these are also archived, just follow the link listed below [5].

Lastly, I’ve become aware of two other opportunities for free-time knowledge quests. First, there’s the ASHA Podcast Series which entail interviews with professionals making strides in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology [6]. I have yet to view these, but once I do I’ll tell you what I think! Second, there are other e-newsletters that ASHA provides which cover several different themes that pertain to all professions under ASHA’s scope [7]. I’ll try to read these over and see if any of them will be added to my reading list. Some seem interesting, so we’ll see!

If this post won’t help your ‘information itch’ then I’m not sure what will! Hope you find some that tickle your fancy and enjoy! Also, if anyone has suggestions of other places for interesting/relevant information, please share!

Related Articles/References:

[1] Blogging About Research : from Rachel Wynn at “Talks Just Fine”

[2] ASHA Journal Archives

[3] CICSD Archives

[4] ASHA Special Interest Groups ‘Perspectives’

[5] ASHA Leader ,   NSSLHA Now! Newsletter  and  NSSLHA In The Loop

[6] ASHA Podcast Series

[7] ASHA e-Newsletters

It’s A Glottal Thing

30 Jun

Today I have an extremely small anecdote to share, but the linguist in me found it rather amusing. Let me take you back to a few days ago…

I had just sat down with my boyfriend on these unique benches in the local airport. They’re an odd shape, almost a horizontal cross-section of a boat with a dorsal fin in the middle for back support. My boyfriend had already taken out his laptop and I was in the process of mimicking his motions, as we had an hour to kill.

In the midst of sorting through my rather large tote (brought to be used as a beach tote for towels at our destination) I hear a rather odd noise. Of course, airports are a mecca of odd noises, even a small one like this. Several languages and dialects are being spoken, plates and cups are clanging on the tables, there’s pitter-pattering of small and large feet alike… so this shouldn’t have been out of what I’d normally expect, especially as I’ve heard similar utterances before.

All I heard was ” Now I thought I told you before…” What caught my attention was the extreme glottal stop usage of the man’s dialogue. Or perhaps his accent made it sound harsher and more apparent in speech. I can’t quite tell, but he was somewhere from the United Kingdom. Despite hearing British/ Welsh/Irish people talking before, I had never heard this much glottal-age in such a short sentence. (For those who might not be aware of what a glottal stop is, it is the ‘noise’ you make when saying things like ‘uh-oh’ or ‘button’, it’s more prominent in British English. It’s that quick “stop” you make in the middle of uh-oh. I’ll post a video below to help.)  I’ll attempt to transcribe it, but forgive me as it’s been a year since I’ve transcribed anything, and vowels aren’t my strong-suit. This is what it sounded like to me:

Aj  θɔʔ  aj  toʔd  ju  bifɔʔ

All I know is, I swear I heard that darn glottal stop at least 3 times. I even thought he pronounced it at the end of both ‘I’s too, but I left that out as it’s most likely my mind on sensory overload. Either way, my inner linguist is fairly satisfied right now, despite leaving the Basque country, a linguistic paradise, for the time being. Does anyone find it amusing to hear less-common American English (or your native dialect) IPA sounds? What’s your favorite IPA sound?

*Note: I’m not disrespecting British people at all, so i hope it doesn’t sound like that! It’s just amusing to hear accents. 🙂

Here’s a link to the promised video: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uS4YZ_a3_ig     I think he does a decent job at explaining how the noise is made and giving examples.

What’s Up Wednesday: Stroke/ Broca’s Aphasia Headway!

26 Jun

Stroke affects a cast population of people every year. Sadly, numerous stroke sufferers have long-term effects, including speech and language issues. This holds especially true for those who had a stroke in the left hemisphere, where the majority of our communication abilities originate. When there is damage done to this side of the brain, it can lead to Broca’s Aphasia, which is associated with non-fluent speech. In these cases, the person knows what he/she wants to communicate, but doesn’t possess the ability to utter out the entire utterance. In turn, only words or short phrases come out. Other related deficiencies include spontaneous speech, reading and writing, and other communication issues.This condition affects the sufferer’s entire life, as the ability to communicate is vital to daily interactions, which can render the person incapable of holding a job or conversation. Luckily, there has been a decent amount of research on the matter, and one researcher from the University of South Carolina, Dr. Julius Fridriksson, Ph.D. along with his team have found a technique that may be suitable for those with this condition.

 

What he has come to find so far in his preliminary studies, is the possible viability of a technique called speech entrainment. Within this technique, the part that relies on audio-visual feedback seems to prove most promising. The process involves the client to watch and listen to a speaker who talks slowly on an iPod and mimic the speaker simultaneously. Over time, the video portion is taken away and the speaker attempts to speak via audio. In his study with 13 patients, they all went through a 3 week period and practiced speech every day. By the end,the ability to produce spontaneous speech increased, which is superb considering this population of patients rarely see that type of success. So this technique seems to provide some hope for Broca’s Aphasia patients!

 

If you would like to read more, here is the article: http://speech-language-pathology-audiology.advanceweb.com/News/In-The-News/New-Technique-Helps-Stroke-Victims-Communicate.aspx

Dr. Fridriksson also gave a talk on TED about his research and gives some background on Broca’s Aphasia. It includes video of patients talking with this condition, including one who is a severe case and got better after the therapy. It shows his talking with and without the audio-visual feedback, which is neat to watch. It’s only 15 minutes, so here’s the link:  http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Cy6S7aMmUYo

Tips For A Good (School) CFY

24 Jun

As I mentioned a few days ago, I complete my first class on a Continuing Education Unit (CEU) website. It was so exciting! I guess that’s partially because I’m a nerd and enjoy learning. The course I decided to begin with was ” Launching Your School SLP Career With a Great CF Experience” presented by : Jean Blosser, Ed.D., CCC-SLP. Despite the title exclusively stating “school”, she iterates that these same principles can be applied to those in the medical-side of SLP as well. You might have to change a student for a client or recess duty for other responsibilities while she talks, but Jean makes it very clear that you can transfer these ideas to different settings.

Over all, I was thoroughly pleased with the course. Jean was able to delve into some of the key components of having a good CFY experience, particularly dealing with the mentor- mentee relationship. She actually created this seminar to be aimed at both parties, so aspiring/current mentors and future mentees could benefit from the information. I’m glad she did, as this relationship often makes or breaks the CFY. She delves into what could be considered the key parts of this partnership: finding the ideal mentor, important steps/goals for the experience, why the school setting may be challenging, what the mentor can help with, tips for creating and fostering an enriching partnership, communication strategies and benefits of mentoring. All of these are superb points to tackle, some I wouldn’t even have thought of! Jean also includes several examples of students and their mentoring journey, which help bring her lecture to a higher level of connectivity with the person taking the course.

My notes!

I’ll provide some of the helpful hints she discussed in her seminar:

Communicating doesn’t require that the mentor always be commenting/ constructively criticizing the mentee. Rather, both can partake in training sessions together and discuss their opinions, or the mentee can teach the mentor the material. They can discuss scenarios and ask for advice on what to do. They can role model or demonstrate an assessment or treatment technique or therapy scenario for discussion…

-Find/provide helpful resources for effective therapy services. The mentor can suggest different media that the mentee can utilize for therapy plans, such as: delivery philosophies, state/federal/local regulations and guidelines, school curriculum, and websites. The mentee can show the mentor some as well, or ask for advice on a source or technique.

– Non-ASHA mentor qualifications. ASHA does lay out the requirements that a student should look for in a mentor, but Jean also lists some additional, creative and insightful “requirements” as well. For example, sharing the same interests or backgrounds may be helpful, especially if the mentee has a specific career goal he/she wishes to achieve. Along the same lines, having similar personality and learning styles will aid the partnership. Willingness to communicate on multiple platforms is also ideal, as well as flexibility, as one form of communication may not always work or schedules may change.

Mentee responsibilities are also a key aspect of this joint partnership. The mentee must recognize that mentor comments shouldn’t be taken defensively, rather constructively. If the mentee feels that goals aren’t being met, he/she should try to discuss/reconsider previous approaches with the mentor. One item I think that is worth highlighting is the idea that the mentee should write down what the mentor says and paraphrase it when talking to the mentor to make sure it is correct.

There are also several supplemental papers that she included with the course. These are helpful for both mentor and mentee in building an ideal relationship and therapy environment. I know I’ll be keeping them handy for when I head into clincal sessions as a graduate student and when beginning my journey finding a CFY mentor.

I’m very pleased I chose this course, and I’m excited to begin my next one!

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