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Episode Summary

Whether you’re already working in the field or interested in becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist, this episode of All About Kids is full of frontlines insights from two therapists whose popular platform offers a huge variety of useful resources. Melissa Joseph (SLP) and Haley McHugh (SLPA) are co-hosts of the Pediatric Speech Pals Podcast, a dynamic help forum full of news you can use. With scores of postings on YouTube and elsewhere (Facebook, Spotify, Amazon, Apple and Podbean), this dynamic duo shares insights on everything from how to get into grad school (and bounce back if you’re not accepted the first time around) to why you don’t have to be afraid of AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) or PECS (Picture Exchange Communication) systems. Host Zach Grossfeld dives in with questions that are top of mind for parents and SLP practitioners alike, including hot takes on the latest tech innovations, the biggest challenges Haley and Melissa face in their practices and why it’s so important to get hands-on experience to confirm that SLP and working with kids are really the right path for you!

Check out @PediatricSpeechPals on all the socials, including @TikTok, Instagram and this YouTube channel! And feel free to reach out to Haley and Melissa with questions – they love ‘em! – at this address.

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Episode Notes

  1. How the Pediatric Speech Pals found their paths to health care for kids:
    1. Melissa had family members – in particular her mom – working in the speech pathology field so “from Day 1” she knew she wanted to do the same and that it would require grad school to get there.
    2. Haley’s (brutally honest) pediatrician redirected her interest in working with kids away from the grind of being a physician towards the mission to support and nurture development by “playing games all day.”  
  2. Navigating the path of working with kids – and what keeps you going:
    1. Melissa confirmed her interest in speech pathology through a variety of internships, job shadowing and related experiences.
    2. Haley explains how even the tough days provide a deep sense of connection with the work – and small but significant victories in early intervention.
    3. “As soon as you see that you’ve given (kids) another outlet for how they can relieve their frustration, it’s so rewarding! Every day is a reward.” (Haley)
  3. Hesitating to send a cold email inquiry? Just do it!
    1. The barrier to entry is so low that you can’t afford not to reach out to prospective mentors or employers. You never know who will respond.
    2. One random email can change the whole course of your career!
    3. “You’d be surprised how many people are willing to help … I’m a huge proponent for just trying it because you never know!” (Melissa)
  4. About the commitment to content:
    1. How brainstorming turned into a strategy for launching Melissa and Haley’s SLP platform.
    2. The PSP podcast and its offerings quickly filled a gap for people interested in the field generally, how to get into grad school and other insider tips.
    3. “We’re just sharing the same things we talk about together with other people!” (Haley)
  5. What the grad school journey can look like:
    1. Currently in grad school, Haley tried for three years to get into a program.
    2. Want to turn the tide? Contact admissions departments to find out where your application fell short and what you can do better going forward.
      1. Beef up essays.
      2. Continue getting hands-on experience.
      3. Emphasize the special gifts you have to offer!
    3. “I kept trying and didn’t give up and (focused on) what makes me unique and how I could submit the best essay … (So) don’t give up!” (Haley)
    4. Melissa was hyper-focused as an undergrad on getting into grad school – a strategy that worked for her and the competitive nature of the process!
  6. Distinguishing between the SLP and SLPA paths:
    1. On the face of it, there aren’t tremendous differences in the job description.
    2. Assistants are restricted in their roles (assessment, diagnosis, oversight).
    3. “Being an SLPA is a great route to grad school … A lot of people choose it.” (Melissa)
    4. On-the-job training as an SLPA provides a definite leg up in grad school apps. 
    5. Getting a window into the reality of the work prior to going to grad school is a great way to avoid investing in an expensive degree, then finding out you don’t enjoy the work!
    6. “It’s important to get a taste of what you think you might be interested in because you never know until you’re doing it.” (Zach)
  7. Clinic versus home settings: What are the differences and specific challenges:
    1. Haley works in a multidisciplinary clinic with:
      1. Therapists with a variety of specialized skills available in one setting.
      2. Toys and all other resources available in one brick-and-mortar building.
      3. Types of services:
        1. Speech.
        2. Occupational Therapy.
        3. PT.
        4. Co-treatment plans.
      4. Downside: Everything and everyone shares one space.
    2. Melissa works onsite with clients, including:
      1. Driving from appointment to appointment. 
      2. Managing her own logistics. 
      3. Developing independent treatment plans (reaching out to other therapists as indicated).
      4. Downside: Scheduling, no shows and lack of collaboration.
      5. “(Being) in-house with just me, I’m constantly trying to reach out because I love the collaborative and think it’s the best way to treat. I think it’s how you help clients the most.” (Melissa)
  8. Zach and his guests weigh in on the three biggest SLP stumbling blocks:
    1. Managing unrealistic caseload expectations.
    2. Keeping up with mountains of paperwork.
    3. Creating plans that parents can and will actually follow outside of sessions.
    4. Bonus Challenge for Private Practitioners: Last-minute cancellations.
  9. How to bring parents into the process and help them support their kids:
    1. Recognize that they want to help but can feel overwhelmed.
    2. Help determine what’s manageable/
    3. Teach strategies and tricks to keep things on track.
    4. Develop best practices that they can realistically follow.
    5. Reinforce what’s working and deemphasize what’s not.
  10. About resources that Haley and Melissa recommend:
    1. Pediatric Speech Pals, of course!
    2. Handouts and other early-intervention teaching aids from Laura Mize of Teach Me to Talk.
    3. Easy-to-understand Cari Ebert for SOPs that are “the gods of the SOP world.” 
    4. “There are parents you can send handouts to who will read them and do them and there are parents who … just toss them like waste paper. You have to read the room and understand who you are working with.” (Melissa)
    5. “I frontload my parents a lot. It’s 70% the parent and  30% the child, so if you’re not going to put in the work then (you’ll get) only 30% … I’m brutally honest.” (Haley)
  11. How technological advances may shape the future:
    1. Haley sees ChatGPT having potentially huge impacts on grad programs. 
    2. VR could be part of an overall homework strategy “but our job is so reliant on human connection and being there.” (Melissa)
    3. The efficacy of teletherapy has proven limited in some regards.
    4. “A lot of our job is counseling … So much of it is a mental game that if you don’t have somebody there (to be supportive) I can imagine it would be really hard.” (Melissa)
    5. Tech tools can’t replace human emotion, but they can augment the work.
  12. Any thoughts on ways to de-stress from the work?
    1. Melissa actually finds the kids themselves energizing and positive.
    2. Haley likes to run “too many miles” – and it helps!

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About All About Kids:

AAK provides 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. 

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