Life is weird with all its twists and turns, right? And this past election season was extremely bizarre, in many ways. To be honest, I have reservations about a president-elect who insulted disabled people and was hostile to immigrants during his campaign. Both of those special groups touch my personal and professional life on a daily basis.
However, we must continue moving forward not only with our lives, but also with our important work as speech-language pathologists. Here are my tips to keep yourself confident and strong in turbulent times:
- Speech Therapy is Here to Stay – The need for our work will continue as children and adults will present with speech delays and disorders. Voice? Fluency? Pragmatic difficulties? They will still be here. And we will rise up to meet those needs.
- Education and Healthcare Sectors Project to Grow – The beauty of speech therapy is that we can work in many different settings across educational and healthcare settings. Healthcare in particular will grow as our population expands and baby boomers age.
- Therapy Room a Safe Place – One of my students verbalized his concerns about our president-elect and he was very scared. Admittedly, at the time I didn’t know exactly what to say, but I was there to listen. Kids can feel safe in my speech room to talk about their fears.
- Counseling Skills a Must – My graduate school preparation only touched on specific counseling skills during my fluency (stuttering) course. I have come back to those skills so many times for a wide range of students. Learn how to reflect and validate your students’ concerns.
- Remember Our Students and Clients are in a Vulnerable Group – Not being able to communicate effectively means that our students, whether or not they have a visible disability, are left vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination. Staff and parents may need reminders of this so that our students can feel safe in the classroom.
- Bullying is Not Okay – Now more than ever we need to make sure that our students are not being bullied verbally or physically. With everything in the media showing behavior that ranges from inappropriate comments to flat-out racist and discriminatory attacks, we need to speak up when we see or hear from our students that they are being pushed around.
- Use Your Voice, Kids – I remember when I worked with a couple older children with selective mutism. I usually incorporated the concept that their voice was powerful and that they should use it into therapy sessions. Unfortunately, many of my students with communication disorders have learned that it’s just too hard to attempt to communicate with another person and risk a breakdown of communication — so they don’t even try. When I encounter a quiet child, I tell them that their voice is important, powerful, and one that the world needs.
- Compassion Fatigue is Real – If you feel like you have less empathy than you did in the past, it might be time to take a vacation. Look, the demands of this profession can be draining. If you need time away so that you can get back to a place where you feel good about the work you do and feel compassion towards your students, then you should take some time off. Mental health days are necessary!
- Consider Moving – If you are not happy where you live because of the political climate or you have a desire to make a bigger impact in a new community, you should move. I moved around constantly as a child so I feel like I’m “a pro” at moving across the country. It’s scary, but it’s not terrible to uproot yourself and go somewhere new. Maybe it’s time for a change — and I bet you will be able to find work as an SLP in a new community too.
- Travel – Seeing the country is a great way to refresh yourself, find a new vision for your professional life, and to feel better about our country and its people. This country is vast, beautiful, and full of all different kinds of people. I love going back to Wisconsin and hanging out with friends from both rural and more populated areas and I also enjoy going to visit my in-laws in California as well.
When we have worries and concerns, we should not let them overwhelm us. I hope my suggestions help you (and me too) navigate the any strong currents ahead of us, our profession, and our students.