Watch the video version here on YouTube!

Leave a review on Apple Podcasts to help us appear higher in searches and reach more parents, teachers, and others interested in these topics. Thank you!


Episode Summary

Burnout is real for parents, children and speech-language therapy practitioners alike, but there are strategies to engage and enable everyone to thrive! On this episode of All About Kids, Host Zach Grossfeld invites Erica Fernandez, a bilingual pediatric speech therapist, to share her top tips for staying both fresh and effective. She’s also got ideas to help new SLPs make inroads and transform lives, even under stressful conditions (like the pandemic!) or when language and cultural norms pose barriers. Erica is able to bust through roadblocks because of her unique (and infectiously positive) mix of expertise, openness, warmth, and deep insight (as the daughter of Dominican immigrants and the first in her family to attend college and acquire an advanced degree). She introduces us to practical strategies for keeping therapy on track, bringing parents into the process and minimizing stresses that erode therapeutic efficacy over time. You’ll come away with great ideas to help survive grad school, build confidence as a new SLP and set boundaries to keep you fresh and inspired by the work, year after year. Most of all, for Erica, there are the kids themselves. What could be more fulfilling than seeing them progress? “(We) come into this practice out of a desire to help others. It’s part of our career and our identity,” says this dynamic bilingual speech therapist. “So seeing any progress in the client you’re working with is so fulfilling.”

Want to listen to the entire AAK podcast archive? Visit this link to tune in using your favorite streaming platform. 

Episode Notes

  1. Erica shares her origin story – and what propelled her choice of career:
    1. High school debate as an accidental portal.
    2. An early (and immediate) interest in voice disorders.
    3. Pre-graduate school classroom experience that revealed the need for bilingual speech pathology specialists.
  1. A Portrait of Erica:
    1. First-generation Latina.
    2. Parents from the Dominican Republic.
    3. First person in her family to attend college (and secure an advanced degree).
    4. Influenced by her mother’s devotion to learning.
    5. “Parents who don’t have higher-level education don’t know the path to obtaining certificates and titles and licenses … I had no idea the journey to get to my career. It’s not always linear.” (Erica)
  1. Step-by-Step: How Erica achieved her long-term professional goal:
    1. Obtained a bachelor’s degree in communications disorders.
    2. Pursued a master’s degree to satisfy NY Dept. of Education requirements.
    3. Overcame a heartbreaking series of grad school rejections.
    4. Applied to (and secured a spot in) a teaching fellows program that ultimately paid for her master’s degree in elementary education.
    5. Seven years teaching in the Bronx and coming to understand the need for therapy among “children who didn’t have (access) to their own language and couldn’t communicate.”
    6. Took on an externship on her way to specializing in bilingual pediatric assessments and therapy.
    7. “You don’t come out of grad school knowing it all. You come out with a knowledge base, but your critical knowledge comes through experience.” (Erica)
  1. What it looks like for kids raised in bilingual environments:
    1. Because language is developmental, earlier makes it easier to acquire!
    2. Immersion is a key driver in fostering bilingualism.
    3. Count on five to seven years for a child to become fully bilingual. 
    4. “There’s nothing that compares to being in a place where you just have to speak Spanish. It accelerates all the stuff going on in your brain, the connections.” (Zach)
    5. Erica advises parents to stay the course with bilingual education, even when progress seems slow or certain areas lagging.
    6. Bilingualism expands the brain and long-term mental capacity and capability.
  1. Tools and resources that help build confidence:
    1. Knowing and sharing with parents the language and cultural norms. 
    2. Knowing whether something is a language difference (or quirk) or disorder.
    3. “Sometimes as a new bilingual therapist you don’t think you know important facts, but you are so accustomed to things that are important to the family you’re serving.” (Erica)
  1. Strategies for setting boundaries to prevent burn-out:
    1. Minimizing long-distance travel and unreasonably long days.
    2. Limiting late and weekend hours.
    3. “Before I was really reaching and it took a toll on me and my family … so I said no more.” (Erica)
    4. Citing the research: 57% of people who are burned out report producing lower quality work. 
    5. “What’s the point of putting all these cases on yourself and when you’re producing with the child isn’t working or isn’t effective?” (Erica)
    6. Try this exercise: Pause and write down what’s working – and not. Then focus on the former and steer clear of the latter!
    7. “If you burn out, you’re putting quantity over quality … You can frame it to parent as taking a break for me but also so I can do better work for you.” (Zach)
    8. Remember to advocate for yourself and remind administrators about compliance and the importance of conserving resources.
    9. Set boundaries around how much you can do, when and where.
    10. Check in to be sure you’re feeling challenged and have enough opportunity to refresh through growth. “Progress is a foundational pillar to human happiness.” (Bestselling Author/Coach Tony Robbins)
    11. Reach out for mentoring at conferences and from other professionals.
  1. About the importance of resisting the urge to complain!
    1. Bringing negativity without solutions only depletes energy.
    2. Ask yourself: What am I doing to improve this situation?
    3. Focus on families and how to develop the resources necessary to help them.
    4. Check out the continuing education credits and inspiration available at the biennial International Symposium on Bilingualism.
    5. Top Complaint: Never enough time and inability to do more at once.
    6. Teletherapy cuts down a lot on complaints associated with onerous travel.
  1. Communication tips to smooth progress/relations with parents:
    1. Get clear about what they wish to see their children doing at home.
    2. Provide models that illustrate goals and anticipated therapeutic outcomes.
    3. Educate and teach tactics to use instead of giving in to children’s demands.
    4. Develop effective ways to say “no” without alienating parents:
      1. Offer them options that are a “yes.”
      2. Look for alternative ways to see children that conform with schedules.
      3. Give parameters at the outset, up to and including acknowledging that you might not be the best fit.
  1. Top tips for networking and making connections as a speech pathologist:
    1. There are so many ways to develop community!
    2. Tap into the many established therapists who are eager to help newer ones.
    3. Take advantage of social media platforms, like LinkedIn and online webinars.
    4. Visit schools and solicit feedback from associated staffers.
    5. Listen to online resources/podcasts such as:
      1. The Jay Shetty Podcast.
      2. SLP Nerdcast.
    6. “For new therapists, once you obtain your clinical fellowship … really ask yourself, ‘What kind of specialty do I want to be in and therapist do I want to learn from?’ That’s going to make all the difference in your experience.” (Erica)
  1. Registering what’s most rewarding for Erica in her work:
    1. Helping babies talk!
    2. Helping students exercise their voices in a way that everyone can understand.
    3. Witnessing great progress and the worlds it opens up.
    4. “A lot of speech therapists come into the practice out of a desire to help others. It’s part of our career and our identity. So seeing any progress in the client you’re working with is so fulfilling.” (Erica)
    5. Even if they don’t remember the work or your role, the lives of the children you’ve worked with are living examples of life-giving change.
  1. Words of wisdom for grad students:
    1. Don’t be discouraged by the tough workload.
    2. Don’t give up, even when challenged by skill sets that don’t come easily.
    3. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel, so just keep going.” (Erica)
  1. Erica’s topic of choice for a hypothetical Ted Talk:
    1. Overall mental health for adults and children alike.
    2. How to minimize burnout.
    3. How to come back from burnout and move forward.

About Our Guest:

Erica Fernandez is a bilingual Speech Pathologist who works with All About Kids. 

Contact/Follow Our Guest:

Website | LinkedIn

About All About Kids:

AAK provides diagnostic evaluations as well as direct and consultative behavioral intervention services to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. After a comprehensive assessment, each child has a portfolio or program book designed specifically to meet his or her individualized needs. The quality of our ABA services is closely monitored through program and field supervision as well as ongoing consultation by BCBA’s/BCaBA’s, and Experienced Team Leaders. 

Click here for a link to comprehensive educational and support resources. Previous podcast episodes and more information about All About Kids are available here.


Follow what’s up with AAK:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn