There are just some things that they can’t teach you in school, no matter what field you’re preparing to go into. There are some things that you have to learn on the job, some knowledge that can only be explained by experience. Here are a few of the things that I wish someone had told me before I became an SLP!
1. You won’t know all the answers right away. When you get out of school, you might feel like you are ready to answer any question someone might ask right away, or like you already know just the right thing to do when faced with a challenge during therapy. It’s important to be okay with the fact that, while you learned a lot in school, there are so many different aspects to this job that you have to see to understand. Since we meet such a wide range of clients, we are always taking in new experiences. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t know what to do right away! Step back, take a deep breath, and then go find the answer.
2. It’s so helpful to find mentors! I’ve found it invaluable to talk regularly with more experienced clinicians. Whether it’s problem solving a certain situation, getting fresh ideas, or simply having someone to tell you that everything is going to be fine, you should be willing to ask questions and be open with someone in your field. Seek out someone to engage with who knows more than you do, who has been doing this for longer, and who you can talk to.
3. Prepare for the plan not to work. Especially when working with kids, you can never truly predict if your perfect lesson plan is going to pan out like you’d hoped. Planning is definitely something I need to do for sessions, but I’ve learned that if the child doesn’t respond how I’d hoped, I just roll with it! There are other ways to facilitate communication and meet goals that might not have been in your “plan,” and flexibility is key.
4. Listen. I know many speech therapists, and we all just love to talk! While it’s great to be an excellent communicator, I’ve found that I have to intentionally be quiet sometimes. Wait, and listen to the child. What do they really want to say? Give them a chance. It’s just as important to listen to the parents and guardians you’re working with. They need to feel heard, and they can help you figure out what might work best for their child.
5. Celebrate the small victories. Sometimes I get consumed with specific challenges I’m facing, and I don’t take the time to really appreciate the small moments of success. When you’ve helped a child communicate in some way, big or small, always take a minute to experience joy in that.
Just enjoy the ride! You’re stepping into an amazing field where you can make a different and have fun every day, and that’s always something to be proud of.