One year down, one more to go!
On Monday I finished my last final exam, packed up, and headed home to enjoy the next two beautiful weeks off before the summer semester starts up. Bring on the relaxation!
I can’t quite comprehend just how quickly my second semester of grad school flew by. This semester challenged me, inspired me, and completely changed my perspective. As for spending my second semester in Toledo, I don’t think I could ever get tired of living here. This city in constantly offering new things to do and new places to try, and I’m already in denial that my time spent here will be coming to a close at the end of this summer. A blog post all about my past year spent in Toledo is soon to come!
At UT each SLP cohort is split into two tracks throughout the entire program; the blue track and the gold track. Being assigned to the blue track, I spent my first semester taking the classes that were geared towards the child and school-based topics of speech-language pathology. Second semester, it was time for the blue and gold track to switch courses, which meant starting a semester full of classes that focused heavily on the adult and medical-based topics (yikes!). My classes included Adult Language Disorders (focusing on clients that have experienced strokes and traumatic brain injuries), Motor Speech Disorders (focusing on clients with neurogenic disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease), and then Feeding andSwallowing Disorders (many people are surprised to find out this is within an SLPs scope of practice), along with both my treatment practicum and audiology practicum.
Anybody that knows me, knows that I definitely didn’t choose a career in speech-langauge pathology to work with adults or in a medical setting (give me all of the school-based placements!), leaving me feeling very intimidated and nervous heading into this semester. And then the unthinkable happened… these classes fascinated me!! *gasp* This semester, I completely proved myself wrong. Don’t get me wrong, absolutely nothing could replace the passion I have for working with kids, but it’s been so refreshing and exciting to realize that there’s a whole other side of this profession that I’m also passionate about.
My classes provided me with a variety of hands-on experiences throughout the semester, as well. In our feeding and swallowing class, we were lucky enough to have a professor that is actually an SLP that specializes in feeding and swallowing at ProMedica Hospital here in Toledo. Instead of attending class one week, we had the opportunity to go observe her perform swallow studies on her clients right at the hospital. (fyi: a swallow study is a test that allows the SLP see what happens in your mouth, throat, and esophagus when you swallow) If I’m being completely honest, this was definitely NOT something I was excited for prior to the observation. But I have to admit, when I left ProMedica that day, I was completely drawn in! Cue Lauren beginning to fall in love with the adult population…
Additionally, one of our major assignments in our feeding and swallowing class was to complete the online Modified Barium Swallowing Impairment Profile (MBSIMP) training course. *see below* This is the actual course that feeding and swallowing specialist are required to complete during training. MBSIMP teaches you how to administer and score a swallow study, and even though it was extremely time consuming and difficult, I feel lucky to have gained such a specialized skill as a student.
And finally, in my motor speech class this semester, I had the unforgettable opportunity to perform a dissection on a human brain! I am so grateful to the donor who allowed me to take all I had learned and expand my knowledge outside of the classroom.
This semester I felt especially lucky to be one of two student clinicians in our cohort to receive the off-campus clinical placement at Toledo’s Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center. The TBIRC provides resources, services (such as speech and language therapy or occupational therapy), and functional classes (such as art, cooking, or sewing) to adult traumatic brain injury survivors. My partner and I provided group therapy sessions to 8 adult clients and planned lessons and activities that worked on skills such as memory, naming and word-finding, recognizing facial cues and expressions, and maintaining attention. These skills, which are typically automatic for most people, are the skills that are most commonly effected by traumatic brain injuries. Our clients are so brave and their survival stories are incredibly inspiring!
Initially, I was excited for this placement simply because I knew I would be gaining experience working with adults and providing group therapy (both of which I had zero prior experience in), which I knew would prepare me well for an upcoming medical internship placement. I never had any intention of working with adults beyond the required internship. Wow, did I severely underestimate my experience at the TBIRC!
After just one session of working with my clients, I knew I had fallen in love with working with the adult population. These sessions quickly became the highlight of my week. Shortly into the semester, I even found myself starting to consider and thinking about future career options that would allow me to work with both children and adults. Having always known I wanted to work with children and never in my life considering working with this population, I was completely surprised by my own reaction to this experience. These clients have inspired me and my future career in ways I could never express.
And as if I wasn’t already loving absolutely everything about my experience at this placement, in the beginning of April we got to meet the newest edition to the TBIRC therapy team: Moses, a chocolate lab puppy!! Moses is going to do such incredible things for these clients as he becomes trained to be the center’s emotional support therapy dog!
In order to graduate with an SLP degree in the state of Ohio and receive a license to practice, we are also required to obtain audiology clinical hours. This semester for my audiology practicum, I received a placement on an audiology team with three other graduate students working in UT’s Speech-Langauge-Hearing Clinic. Throughout the semester we performed full hearing evaluations on the clinic’s patients. My parents, grandparents, and best friend Sarah even drove down a few weeks during the semester for an evening appointment, tour of the clinic, and dinner and drinks afterwards! Even though audiology was definitely not the highlight of my semester, it’s one more skill I can check off my list and one step closer to my degree!
Side note: I’m so grateful to have a mom and boyfriend that will drive down the weekend before finals just to surprise me and take me out to lunch downtown 🙂 I wouldn’t have made it through this semester without their constant encouragement and support.
Looking back on this semester, I think the biggest change I experienced was recognizing that my love and excitement for this profession lies in more areas than just the child- and school-based topics. I started this semester with my mind already made up that it was going to be tough, boring, and, quite honestly, uneventful, then ended the semester in a completely different mindset. This semester opened my eyes to the love and excitement I have for working with the adult population in speech-langauge pathology. Even though I would never trade working with children in a school or early intervention setting for anything, I love that I now have a completely different side of this profession that I’m also open to working with in the future. Now knowing that I love just about anything I could encounter as an SLP has proven once again that I’ve truly chosen the most perfect career for me.
WHAT’S TO COME
In our program, the first half of summer is dedicated to classes, while the second half is dedicated to the more intensive clinical placements. We each got to individually rank our choices from the nine clinical placements that UT has to offer based on the population and areas of SLP we’re most interested in. A few weeks later, I got the news that I was placed within my very first choice: Communication Bootcamp!! I’ll be working with kids between 4-7 years old who have trouble with speech, language, and early literacy skills. I am ecstatic to continue gaining experience working with the age and population I’m most passionate about!
For the past few months, I’ve been driving home whenever possible to shadow SLPs to explore different settings and options for both my medical- and school-based internship placements (yay for the final chapter of grad school being in sight!). Everything has been quickly falling into place and I’ve found two of the most perfect placements for me!
I’m so thrilled to share that I will be interning at Canterbury-on-the-Lake assisted living and rehabilitation facility during the Fall 2018 semester. This internship will be just down the street from my house, in a brand new facility, with the most incredible supervisor and clients; how did I get so lucky? Then, during the Spring 2019 semester, I will be finishing up my graduate school experience with an internship in the Clarkston School District at both Independence Elementary and the Clarkston Early Childhood Center! Those who know me know that for the past couple years I have been extremely passionate about working with both the autism population and early intervention population (birth-3). Independence Elementary is home to Clarkston School’s specialized autism program, while the Early Childhood Center is home to their preschool and early intervention programs. Yes, this placement really is THAT perfect! I’ve somehow found and landed my absolute dream internship experience! But really, how did I get this lucky?
It’s incredible to think that just one year from now, I’ll be graduating with my master’s degree and finally beginning my dream career. Until then, I can’t wait to see where these upcoming experiences will take me next!