From my very first clinical placement as an undergrad back in 2016 to now as a certified Speech-Language Pathologist, I’ve received some of the most exciting and unique clinical placements I could have ever hoped for! Ranging across the broad SLP spectrum from classic child speech therapy to adult transgender voice therapy, with a mix of everything in between, I’m not sure how I’ve gotten so lucky. Each of my clients, patients, and students will always hold a special place in my heart; they’ve been my constant motivation through every step of this journey in becoming an SLP. Here’s a look at my previous clinical experiences and current career!
ROCHESTER COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT
On May 31st, 2018 I officially accepted a full-time position as the SLP at both Hugger Elementary and the Early Childhood Center in the Rochester Community School District and I truly couldn’t be any happier!! This is a district and a setting that I’ve always dreamt of working in one day. After receiving job offers from a few incredible districts, I ultimately chose Rochester for the positions they offered me. There’s no way I could’ve passed up the opportunity to receive my dream job immediately after graduation. I have the best of both worlds: an elementary and a preschool! I’m so excited to begin my career as a Speech-Language Pathologist on September 3rd.
CLARKSTON COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT
I began the last step in completing my graduate school experience with my pediatric internship in the Clarkston School District at Independence Elementary during the Spring 2019 semester. Independence Elementary is home to Clarkston’s specialized program for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Prior to this internship, I had very little experience working with the challenging behaviors and needs that can be seen in students with ASD. The best part of jumping right into this program in the middle of the school year was that I had no choice but to learn very quickly. This job was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have encountered thus far as an SLP. This job could make you feel fulfilled, heartbroken, motivated, frustrated, and inspired all in one day. And if I’m being completely honest, some days it made me feel completely defeated. But the days that I got to watch them reach a new goal or accomplish a new task (like completing a new recipe in our weekly cooking class with the Occupational Therapist) made every second more than worth it! Without these kids and this experience, I wouldn’t be half the therapist I am today.
Not only did I provide treatment to the students in the ASD program, I also worked with students preschool through fifth grade. My caseload consisted of students with a variety of other diagnoses such as early childhood developmental delay, Down Syndrome, cleft lip and palate, dysphagia (feeding and swallowing disorders), cerebral palsy, learning disorders, cognitive impairments, articulation and phonological disorders, and language disorders. A caseload of 60+ kids kept me super busy! For me, this internship solidified my passion for this job and that school environment is exactly where I want to be.
UT’s Speech-Language Pathology graduate program dedicates the entire second year of their program to full-time internships; one working with adults and the other working with pediatrics. I completed my medical internship working with the adult population at Canterbury-on-the-Lake throughout the Fall 2018 semester. Canterbury is a facility that’s home to an independent living, assisted living, memory care, and rehabilitation facility, all in one enormous setting. During my internship, I worked primarily within the in-patient rehabilitation wing where patients come to receive physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy between their release from the hospital and their return home.
As my caseload consisted primarily of patients with mild cognitive impairments or a diagnosis of Dementia, I provided treatment targeting memory, problem solving, organization, reasoning, attention, orientation, and safety awareness skills. I also gained experience evaluating and providing treatment to patients with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). Working with patients and family members who have been effected by a diagnosis such as Dementia was unlike any other clinical experience I have had thus far. This job required an incredible amount of patience and empathy, plus some very thick skin when working with patients who have challenging behaviors.
Although I loved learning from all of my patients at Canterbury, my favorite part of the entire internship was working with the patients who have acquired Aphasia (the loss of ability to understand or express speech due to a stroke or brain damage). Even though these cases were among the most heartbreaking, these are the cases that made me think “this is the reason I do what I do” after every single session. Moments like helping your patient ask which channel the U of M vs. State game is on (after his wife had become visibility exhausted and frustrated spending all morning attempting to guess what he was asking) or moments like hearing your patient say “I love you” to his wife after two months of being unable to tell her are the moments that immediately brought tears to my eyes and are the moments that will continue to remind me why I chose this profession.
For my third graduate school clinical experience during Summer 2018, I was assigned to my #1 choice clinical placement: Communication Bootcamp! This is a 6 week summer camp dedicated to providing therapy to 3-6 year olds who have trouble with speech, language, and early literacy skills. My six weeks of Communication Bootcamp solidified, once again, that my true passion will always be working with children. This was my first time providing therapy to children in group sessions, my first time working with children on the autism spectrum, my first time providing articulation therapy, and my first time working to manage challenging behaviors… and oh my goodness did I learn so much from these kids! Every single day at camp my heart was so full from teeny tiny hugs, the most hysterical comments and questions, and the most rewarding therapy moments.
TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY RESOURCE CENTER
During the Spring 2018 semester, I felt especially lucky because I was one of two clinicians in our cohort to receive the placement at Toledo’s Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center, where I provided group speech and language therapy to about 8-10 adults each week. 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. 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 fell in love with working with the adult population. 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!
UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO HEARING CLINIC
In order to graduate with a degree in SLP in the state of Ohio and receive a license to practice, graduate students are required to also obtain audiology clinical hours. During my second semester of grad school, for my audiology practicum, I received a placement on an audiology team with three other graduate students working within UT’s Speech-Langauge-Hearing Clinic. Throughout the semester I performed full hearing evaluations for all incoming clinic patients. Even though audiology isn’t where my true passion lies in this profession, it’s a necessary skill for all SLPs to have because it’s within our scope of practice to also screen and evaluate our client’s hearing. This means that in the future I could be performing yearly student hearing screenings in a school setting.
Because Speech-Language Pathology is a medical profession, our graduate program was required to receive interprofessional education and training in collaboration with all other medical profession graduate programs (Med, PA, OT, PT, Pharmacy, etc.). We received interprofessional medical training once a week at the Interprofessional Simulation Center on Toledo’s medical campus through the use of standardized patients, technological simulation patients, hospital and rehabilitation simulation rooms, and education about each profession’s rolls and responsibilities on a medical team. I even learned how to take patient vitals (even though this wasn’t really relevant to my profession HA!). This experience was truly unique for an SLP program!
SUNBRIDGE PREPARATORY SCHOOL
During my very first semester of grad school in Fall 2017, I received an off-campus clinical placement at SunBridge Preparatory School. On UT’s interview day last year, I had learned a little bit about this potential clinical placement and loved everything I was hearing. SunBridge is a school in Toledo that serves many children of low S.E.S. and works to “bridge” the gap between poverty and the ability to obtain higher education. I provided therapy to two students, one in 4th grade and one in 5th, and loved every second! By being assigned students in upper-elementary, I was able to learn so much about providing therapy that focuses heavily on reading, writing, and curriculum-based interventions. Many people don’t understand why an SLP would provide intervention in these content areas, even though each of these areas fall within our scope of practice. I loved having the opportunity to provide therapy that helped these students to build skills in these academically-based language areas that also helped them within the classroom setting.
While working at SunBridge, I didn’t have access to the UT Clinic therapy materials, which encouraged me to get started on building my own collection of therapy tools. That semester my therapy bag was full of things like Connect Four, a small basketball and baseball, Jenga, prizes, sensory tools, picture cards, and an iPad, among other things!
UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO SPEECH-LANGUAGE CLINIC
For my diagnostic practicum during the Fall 2017 semester, I received a placement on a diagnostic team with three other graduate students working within UT’s Speech and Language Clinic. Throughout the semester, we evaluated (and often diagnosed) children ranging from 3-5 years old. Considering each of the clinical experiences I’ve gained during undergrad and this semester, this one was hands down my favorite yet. I loved absolutely everything that this experience entailed, from collaborating with each client’s parents, being able to use materials like bubbles and Play-Doh to evaluate (yes, you’re allowed to be jealous of my future job), and especially the age of these clients *insert heart-eyed emoji here*
CMU SUMMER SPECIALTY CLINIC
During the Summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to receive my very first client and begin my clinical journey a little bit earlier than usual as an undergraduate clinician for Central Michigan University’s Summer Speech-Language Specialty Clinic. SSC is an intensive speech and language therapy program that takes on a summer camp environment for kids ages 3-17. I felt so lucky to be assigned to work in the preschool classroom (ages 3-5) and provide a mix of both speech and language therapy to the cutest and happiest four-year-old little boy. This experience definitely came with it’s own unique challenges, but was without a doubt one of the highlights of my undergrad career. I really feel that gaining this experience during undergrad is the reason I felt prepared and confident in providing therapy right at the start of grad school.
CMU CARL’S CENTER FOR CLINICAL CARE
During my junior year at CMU in the Spring 2016 semester, I received my first ever clinical assignment. I worked along side a graduate clinician in CMU’s on-campus speech and language clinic to provide elective voice therapy to a male-to-female transgender client. So interesting, right?! I thought so too! When providing this kind of therapy, we worked with her to help achieve more feminine pitch, articulation, and resonance speech characteristics. Before this experience, I never knew SLPs could provide this kind of speech therapy, and needless to say I was completely drawn in all semester. This was such memorable first clinical experience!