On the last day of my internship in grad school, I literally packed up my car and drove over to a small town in Western Washington to start my first year of working as a speech-language pathologist at an elementary school the very next day. The beginning of the year was definitely a crazy and stressful time, but I made it through (and you can too)!
What’s a Clinical Fellowship?
According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Assocation, the Clinical Fellowship (CF) is “the transition period between being a student enrolled in a communication sciences and disorders (CSD) program and being an independent provider of speech-language pathology clinical services.”
Here are some of my top tips for new SLPs working in the schools…
1. Consider Joining a Few SLP Groups on Facebook
They are a great place to ask questions. It was also helpful to see the kinds of questions that other people were asking. Here are three Facebook groups that I follow:
• School-Based Speech and Language Therapy
• Preschool Speech Language Pathologists
2. Follow Other SLPs on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest
All three platforms are a little different, but they are great sources of therapy ideas, materials, and freebies. Jenna Rayburn has a LONG list of SLP Bloggers on her website (click here) and Meredith from Peachie Speechie also put together this wonderful resource (click here).
3. Stay Organized
Figure out what works for you. If you need ideas, there are TONS of organizational materials on Teachers Pay Teachers (and here on my blog!). It’s also helpful to ask other SLPs in your district what strategies work best for them. If you can stay organized, it will make busy IEP/progress report months much easier.
4. Make Friends with Your Janitors and Office Staff
These people can be incredibly helpful. Get them on your side. I definitely was not above bringing them treats a few times.
5. Get to Know Your Teachers
It makes such a big difference if you can get teachers on your side. Consider starting the year off on the right foot by involving teachers in the scheduling process with a Speech Scheduling Party. Join them for lunch. Participate in some school activities. Check in on how they (and their students) are doing. I promise it’ll make a difference!
6. Consider Joining SpeechPathology.com (or Find Other Ways to Get Help)
I used this resource A LOT. Whenever I got a new student on my caseload that I wasn’t quite sure about, I would look up a webinar or two and play it while I was prepping materials. I got great therapy ideas and updated evidence to back up why I chose a certain approach. Since I’m more of an auditory learner, this was much more palatable than digging through research articles (although I tried to keep up with some articles, too). It is $99 per year, but it’s worth it!
There are some FREE resources out there too.
• SLP Summit – A free online conference for SLPs!
• Autism Internet Modules – Fantastic autism resources. They have videos on hundreds of topics (e.g., social groups, the Incredible 5-Point Scale, video modeling).
• LEADERS Project – There are SO many model evaluations and video modules on this website. It’s amazing. Check it out.
Another strategy is to talk to other SLPs. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Set up meetings with other SLPs in your grad school cohort (or in your district) to share ideas. No one says you can’t meet over dinner and wine!
7. Don’t Feel Like You Have to Buy All the Stuff
I definitely bought WAY too many materials last year. I probably didn’t even really use half of them.
Check out this membership for SLPs. It will save you so much time. It includes TONS of resources, as well as support from other awesome SLPs.
8. Take Advantage of Freebies/Giveaways
Here are a few resources to take advantage of…
If you follow your favorite bloggers on Facebook and Instagram, there are plenty of giveaways there, too.
I also made a list of essential freebies here.
9. Make Time to Have Fun
It’s easy to let your new job take over your life, but sometimes you just have to stop (even if everything isn’t perfectly done)! You’ll be a much better SLP for it.
10. You Can Do This!
You just spent so many years studying all this speechie stuff. You had intense clinical rotations/internships. You got through it all (alive, at that!), and you got your degree! If you are working in a school, you will likely know more about speech and language than anyone else on staff. Even if you don’t feel like it now, you are an expert. You know A LOT!
Now I have some questions for you!
For the CFs: What are you most nervous about? What are you most excited about?
For the CCCs: What advice would you give to an incoming CF?