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…
• Speechie Freebies Blog
• SLPs on TPT Newsletter
• Smart Apps for Kids – They frequently post free iPad and Android apps. Fridays are the big freebie day.
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?
Heidi Britz says
As a CF mentor, this is fantastic advice! I will be sharing your blog with my new group of CFs this week. The only thing I would add is for CFs to be kind to themselves that first year as your learning curve is HUGE!
Aw thank you!
I agree 100%–being kind to ourselves is very important!
Tanya Godbold says
I wish I would have read this sooner! Great advice!
Marisha (Road to Speech) says
#5 is probably one of the most important to remember. I am an old SLP and you can not believe how many times I have heard from teachers “you are the first therapist that has ever talked to us and asked us what we need from our student”. #4 never forget they these people really run the school when it comes to supplies or replacing a broken chair or changing a light.
Marisha (Road to Speech) says
I completely agree! Thinking about those little extra pieces is easy (and usually fun), but it can make a big difference.
Hi! Im a new speech therapist and I think what scares me the most is setting the treatment goals. To know exactly what he needs snd not miss important parts
Marisha (Road to Speech) says
I know the feeling! I promise it’ll get easier with time! In the meantime, SLP Toolkit (slptoolkit.com) is an AMAZING tool. They have comprehensive assessments and progress monitoring tools that help me feel more confident about my goals.
Also, remember #10. You learned a. lot. in grad school. 🙂 You know more about communication than the majority of people you’ll be working with. You’ll surprise yourself with how much you know/remember!
Lindsey Fontenot says
I just stumbled upon this blog and I’ve got to say, it makes me feel a bit more ready to tackle my CF! I am most nervous about the initial learning curve of going from student to professional—and all that comes with that (scheduling, IEPs, etc.). On the other hand, I’m most excited to meet my future students and get materials together!
That’s so good to hear! You’ve got this, Lindsey! 😀
Andria Adegbesan says
I’m a brand new SLP and am definitely the most nervous about the learning curve…specifically how to respond when someone asks me a question in which I am not sure of the answer to (this scares me sooo much 😣). I’m most excited about working with my students and coming up with fun/creative ways to target their goals!
Aw! You’ve got this, Andria!
The good/bad news is that you’ll always get those kinds of questions! 😀 I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “That’s a great question. I don’t know the answer, but I will find out!”
Best of luck!
I am starting a new job in the schools as a CF and need some advice –
I am replacing an SLP who just retired, and am thankful that she left everything in the room, however, there are many things I will not use. I have a small room to start with and barely have any room for my materials. The retired SLP will be a sub in the building, so I feel like I can’t donate/pitch everything. Really the only items I will reuse are school supplies… everything else is just taking up space. Any advice?
If the retired SLP won’t be providing therapy, I would do whatever you need to serve your students best! (If she will be providing services, I would check in before donating.)
I was in a similar situation (inherited TONS!). I created a Google Doc with pictures of my materials and the SLPs in my district signed up for what they wanted. It was like Christmas for them! If the retired SLP is still involved in the district, she might even like to see other SLPs benefitting from her materials!
Makayla Martin says
This is a great post! I would like to do my CF in the schools. I do have a rather technical question. Did you have to apply for a provisional license from your state licensing board and also your department of education? The department of education is the one that I am not sure how to get licensed with as a CF. Thanks!
Great question, Makayla! It depends on your state! I’d recommend contacting your Dept of Education for clarification!
Hello, thank you, this was so great to read! As a school slp, do you/are you able to participate in after school activities or any other school events?
Thanks, Jacqui! I’m not currently at a school, but I did participate in after school activities/events! 🙂