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Episode Summary


On this episode of All About Kids, Host Zach Grossfeld welcomes an innovative speech pathologist whose career has spanned multiple settings and advancements. Learn how Jennifer Martin, CCC-SLP and host of the SLP Full Disclosure podcast (available on multiple platforms at this link), shares her journey from working with adults in hospital settings to providing leading-edge interdisciplinary support to preemie babies and their families in the critical weeks and months following their release from neo-natal intensive care. We find out how the mind-body connection plays out not only in bilingual settings (Jennifer is a fluent Spanish speaker whose caseload has encompassed many non-native English speakers) but also in putting newborn babies on a trajectory towards optimal acquisition of speech, language, motor and other integrated skills. We wrap up with a peek into the Metaverse and what lies ahead for practitioners in the world of teletherapy, which has burgeoned in our post-pandemic world. You’ll be inspired by the story of a woman whose career experience and insights offer a source of light for SLPs just starting out. The number one thing to remember? It’s all about the learning. Says Jennifer: “Go in with that growth mindset: ‘I’m new, I’m learning and I’m going to get better.’ Nobody is going to hold it against you if you don’t know it all. You’re not supposed to know it all!”

Click here for a link to comprehensive speech-language pathology support resources. And if you enjoyed this episode, check out our archive of All About Kids Podcasts at this link to listen to archived shows or subscribe to our mailing list and stay up to date on new releases!

Episode Notes

  1. That initial spark: What drew Jennifer to speech-language pathology.
    1. A mother who was a special ed. teacher as well as a brother who benefitted from speech therapy early in his life provided an introduction.
    2. A high school teacher identified in Jennifer the innate skills that made her a promising fit for pursuing speech pathology, which she did in both undergrad and master’s programs. Thank you, Mrs. Underwood!
    3. “It’s crazy how influential small moments can be when you’re a young adult with someone having faith in you or pushing you in a certain direction that you ultimately explore and find meaning.” (Zach)
  2. Advice Jennifer wishes she’d received upon starting her post-grad school career:
    1. Stay open to paths that may not initially seem like a fit for you and your interests.
    2. Change up early assignments as a way of exploring (much as Jennifer worked at jobs with adults in a hospital setting, early intervention with non-native English-speaking kids as well as in a NICU unit early on).
    3. “You don’t have to know exactly the areas you want to focus on when you graduate.” (Jennifer)
    4. Where you start out does not determine where you’ll spend your career. You can change, try new things and switch up jobs over time.
    5. “Doing something that you realize you don’t want to do is just as valuable as finding that (perfect) niche.” (Jennifer)
  3. Bonus Advice: We don’t need to be perfect.
    1. Impostor Syndrome is something that dogs many of us, but the truth is that no one has all the answers.
    2. And no one needs to have all the answers – especially when you’re starting out!
    3. “Go in with that growth mindset: ‘I’m new, I’m learning and I’m going to get better.’ Nobody is going to hold it against you if you don’t know it all. You’re not supposed to know it all!” (Jennifer)
  4. Why Zach believes – and has seen – the power of taking time in your 20s to explore and better understand what’s meant to be your purpose in life!
  5. About the journey Jennifer took on her way to mastering Spanish.
    1. Early experiences with travel and knowing kids from Spanish-speaking families.
    2. A gap year between college and grad school in Spain, “a turning point being immersed in the language with no choice but to figure it out.”
    3. Pursuing any opportunity early in her career to take on a caseload with as many Spanish-speaking clients as possible.
    4. Knowing that having a second language can open up all kinds of gratifying doors!
    5. “Working with these (Spanish-speaking) families and kids is 100% the highlight of my career!” (Jennifer)
  6. Understanding the special challenges for kids learning two languages simultaneously.
    1. “You’re basically working twice as hard.” (Jennifer)
    2. Early intervention in Spanish is an easier path to navigate in young childhood.
  7. What it’s like to work with babies just out of NICU (neo-natal intensive care) care.
    1. Jennifer’s actual role was adjacent to the NICU itself, where newborns today are being delivered even earlier than was possible a decade ago – which often means more pervasive long-term health implications.
    2. Her role was to provide in-home early intervention the very first week preemies were discharged.
    3. Interdisciplinary treatment teams include: Speech pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, nurses and mental health counselors.
    4. “We were able to help provide a smoother transition and support so we could start addressing (issues) right away that could become more problematic down the road.” (Jennifer)
    5. The program was developed through a grant 13 years ago that has yielded data and “grown and blossomed” through replication in other communities nationwide.
  8. What it looks like to implement an integrated approach to treating preemie babies.
    1. Jennifer’s role as a speech therapist at the outset was frequently to help newborns learn to coordinate sucking and swallowing.
    2. Over time, as part of an interdisciplinary team, Jennifer was able to work with colleagues to ensure they were treating the whole baby on an ongoing basis.
    3. Early interventions address things such as sleeping, feeding, self-soothing and helping parents process post-partum PTSD related to their preemie experience.
    4. “There’s a lot of research that shows that the caregiver and how they’re doing mental health-wise greatly impacts the development of the baby.” (Jennifer)
    5. It’s all connected! How mind-body health and wellness impact speech.
  9. Understanding teletherapy and its role in a post-Covid world.
    1. Virtual sessions were niche and unusual pre-pandemic.
    2. Teletherapy unrolled hastily during Covid’s onset and was more of a Band-aid than an actual practice set up for success.
    3. “We have learned a lot about how to do teletherapy more successfully. People are doing it now because they want to be tele-therapists and have experience doing it.” (Jennifer)
    4. Virtual SLP is now an actual discipline taught in schools and at university clinics.
    5. Teletherapy may seem like apples to apples, but there are differences in how to work with students live versus remotely – and training available to bridge gaps.
    6. “One of the biggest differences is that we went from just making (virtual sessions) work to a program specifically designed to be used in this way.” (Jennifer)
  10. What makes for the most successful virtual SLPs?
    1. Having a willingness to learn the art of teletherapy.
    2. Learning the technology – and knowing it well.
    3. Understanding the resources and tools available to support remote learning.
    4. Being adaptable in the moment and able to meet students where they are.
    5. “Having a mindset that … is creative and thinking outside the box is something that helps people be really successful (with teletherapy).” (Jennifer)
    6. Above all, be thoughtful and purposeful in maintaining team communications and connections with colleagues who are onsite.
  11. Looking into the Metaverse!
    1. Why Jennifer believes that a multidimensional universe with three-dimensional interactivity could be a game-changer for speech pathologists.
    2. Virtual reality could provide a tactile element that would remove a barrier to teletherapy (for speech or physical therapy purposes alike).
    3. “I can’t wait to see what kinds of doors (virtual reality) will open up.” (Zach)
    4. How VR could vastly expand access not only to early interventions for speech and physical challenges, but to mental and medical health care of all kinds – especially in rural areas.
    5. “(Virtual reality) would just allow people more resources and opportunities to have services that they may not have available to them now.” (Jennifer)
  12. What challenges in the field of speech pathology keep Jennifer up at night?
    1. The high rates of burn-out among practitioners – who are in many cases already stressed just coming out of grad school.
    2. “It’s such an important profession and so valuable. I don’t want people to start out  … not feeling fulfillment doing this job that they had a lot of passion for when they were starting the journey.” (Jennifer)
    3. The twin burdens of competition and crippling debt associated with grad school training.
  13. That special thing: How speech pathology fills Jennifer’s cup!
    1. The opportunity to connect with families and give them hope.
    2. Providing solutions that change (and improve) the trajectory of lives.
    3. “There are a lot of professions where you don’t get to actually see the impact of your work … but I’ve been able to see it over and over and over. To me, that’s a huge gift.” (Jennifer)

Additional Resources/Relevant Information:

  • Learn more about Lex Fridman’s podcast, AI and the virtual world at this link.

Reach out to Jennifer!

YouTube | LinkedIn

About All About Kids:

AAK, the leading provider of children’s therapeutic and educational skills in New York. Their team of experts offer diagnostic evaluations as well as direct and consultative behavioral intervention services to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. After 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 are 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 is available here.

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