It is no secret that Speech Language Pathologists like to talk…a LOT. And, once we have a new client and go through the routine beginning checklist (establish rapport, delineate goals, etc.) sometimes we tend to go on “auto-pilot”—especially those of us who have been practicing a long time.
I make it a point to consider the following:
#1Do I have a clear understanding of what the needs are of not only my client, but of the family?
Even if your client comes to you with a folder the size of a file cabinet or a recent speech and language evaluation—make sure you use (and view) the first few sessions as “diagnostic” therapy—this way you can really be sure what the needs are of your client (from your perspective—not someone else’s). I also always make sure to check-in with the family to see if there are any ways my speech goals/sessions can support what is going on at home. Maybe the parents are exacerbated by their child’s behavior during snack and mealtime because he cannot express himself. I may suggest creating a personalized choice board—to make this a bit easier. Or—if I am creating my speech goals—I will reach out and see what words are important for the child to say—siblings, dogs and doormen are routine favorites. This type of communication is crucial and honestly does not require that much time but can really make a big impact.
#2Did I take the time to establish a rapport with my client?
Speech therapy is challenging. It is our responsibility to create a “safe” space, so our client not only feels comfortable, but, more importantly, feels comfortable with being vulnerable. We are pushing them to do things that are difficult, and we need them to be able to trust us. Take this goal that we talked about in grad school seriously—we only get the opportunity to make a good impression once.
#3Did I reach out to other professionals working on my client’s team?
If your student is being treated by a team of professionals—speech/OT/PT/counseling/ABA—it is very important to collaborate with them. This will give you insight into the child’s performance that you may not have been privy to and, will progress the child further along—quicker—because when everyone is on the same page—progress and generalization tends to happen at a quicker pace. Sometimes we have such busy schedules, and we get caught up in our daily routine—and we don’t reach out or we don’t maintain consistent communication (I have been guilty of this too) –but the point of being mindful is to recognize what needs to get done and then follow up and do it. And—if you reach out and you do not hear back (I like to reach out 2-3x before I pack it in) then know that you opened the doors of communication and did your part.
#4Do I have appropriate goals and do my methodologies keep my client interested?
Speech therapy works! So, we need to make sure that we stay on top of how our client is progressing and adapt. I discuss this frequently with Speech Sound Disorders—as many of my clients initially present as severely impacted and once therapy is initiated, quickly gain skills and require a less invasive/restrictive approach. It is important and necessary that we stay on top of this as we always want to stay one step ahead of the curve to ensure we are working at the line of learning. In the same vein, considering what methods we are using is equally as important. Take a good look at what methods you are using to facilitate your goals—are they working? Does your client appear bored? Is it time to switch things up a bit? OR…maybe you are bored to tears with the current materials—but your client is really making progress and seems to appreciate the routine—then notice that and stick with it. This will be helpful going forward when you pick your next round of materials—as you may want to go with a theme—to decrease any anxiety your client may have regarding what the task is or what is expected of him.
#5Do I feel good about the work I am doing with my client?
This is most important. Let’s face it—what we do is hard work. We care. We pour our heart into each day. Our job can be draining and exhilarating—all within the same hour! But—at the end of the day—you, me, ALL of us—need to feel good about what we are doing. We chose this profession to make a difference. So—ask yourself, “Do I feel good about the work I am doing with this client?” and if the answer is not a resounding YES (maybe or sort of won’t do!) make a change—and make it quickly—because both your client and YOU deserve it.