Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Where Graduate Programs are Lacking

*Disclaimer:  Some of the tests mentioned may not be the most current edition.  My school system is doing its best to maintain the quality of education on a limited budget.
*Another disclaimer:  My current intern was not the inspiration for this post!

As I work with grad students from a nearby university, I'm a little frustrated that there are some aspects of their program that seem to be lacking.  It may just be this one university (you young girls chime in and let me know if this is true of your program!), or it may be that I'm "old school" and the things I think are important aren't that important to our field any more.

1)  Copyright laws:  My undergrad program covered this, and I'm fairly certain it was brought up in my grad program as well.  You can't just pull things off of the internet and share them with people, even if it's someone within our field.  For example:  TpT items are not to be shared, even if the item is free.  You can share the link to the item, but not the actual item.  The sellers want people to visit their store; that's how they generate their business.  Another example:  copying the cds from a book (such as an instructional book from Super Duper) onto a thumbdrive is a HUGE no-no.  They include the cds for the buyer's convenience, not so that it can be shared.  The excuse that you're a "poor grad student" is not an excuse.

2)  Auditory discrimination of correct/incorrect production of a phoneme:   This one just floors me!  When I was in undergrad school, we had a "phonetics lab" where we listened to a tape (yes, it was a tape...I'm old, remember?) and had to transcribe what we heard, whether the production was correct or incorrect.  I'm guessing programs aren't doing that any longer, and it's a real shame.  How can you correct an error if you don't hear it?  As SLPs, we should be trained to hear the incorrect error, as well as how to correct it.  

3)  Articulation Therapy:  What happened to good ol' Van Riper style of therapy?  Has that completely gone out the window?  It's worked for me for 29 years (a modified Van Riper), and I'll continue to do it until it doesn't work any longer.  I worked with one SLP about 15 years ago who was just out of grad school.  Her style of artic therapy was to read a book and pick out words that contained the target sound.  That's well and good, but what if the student can't even make the target sound to begin with?  Why are these girls/ladies coming to their school placement without knowing that they have to open their mouth so that the student can see the correct tongue placement?  Better yet, why are they coming to us not knowing how to teach the students how to make the correct sound?  

4)  Language Therapy:  Those of us already in the field know that there's a "hierarchy" of giving cues.  You know what I'm talking about:  First, you see if the student can answer on his own.  Then, you give an open-ended cue, followed by multiple choice, then a visual or even phonemic cue.  Apparently that's not being taught, either.  And, neither is problem solving.  When a student just isn't "getting it", we know we have to modify and make it simpler.  

5)  Fluency and Voice:  Should I even venture into these 2 areas?  My guess is that there is very little (if any) experience in these areas before coming to a School Placement.  It sure would be nice if an intern would have a little bit of knowledge in techniques in these areas.

6)  Testing:  Coming to your school placement with only administering 1 language test is not acceptable.  When I rattle off various articulation/language tests, I expect the intern to at least have heard of the tests.  The Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articualtion-2 is not the only articulation test out there.  It may be the one I use 99.5% of the time, but it's not the only one.  Likewise, the PLS-4 and CELF-4 aren't the only language tests out there, either.  And, throw that PPVT (whatever the latest edition is) away!  Honestly.  I don't even want to hear those letters in my therapy room!
a)  Administration:  While I understand that the administration of a test may be limited, it would be nice if there was some knowledge of how to give a test.  You don't help the child on an item (unless that item indicates that a prompt may be used), you don't put the stimulus items off to the side so you  can see it, and you don't speak so quickly that the student has no chance of processing what you're asking him to do.  You should also have all of the materials you are going to need within reach.  Oh, and one more thing:  if you start a subtest, you are supposed to finish it:  you can't just stop in the middle of it because you've run out of time.  Read the manual before you administer a test!
b)  Calculating the chronological age:  REALLY???  This is another one that floors me.  If you can't figure it out in your head, then there are free apps that can calculate them for you.  If you can do basic math, you should be able to figure it out.  I'll be the  first to admit that math is definitely not my strong point, but I can borrow, add, and subtract!
c)  Interpreting the Test Results:  Before you can interpret a test, you have to know how to score it.  That means being able to look at the correct table to find the scores.  (Hint:  some protocols even have the table referenced!  This should be a no-brainer.)  This leads to writing good objectives; the kind that aren't "teaching to the test".  (Speech2U had a wonderful post about this topic!) In order to do this, you have to have some knowledge of the steps it takes to get to the stimulus item. For example:  "Which one doesn't belong" (PLS-4)  The student has to be able to categorize before they can figure out which item doesn't belong.  That would be a good place to start.  

7)  Knowledge of the State Guidelines:  It would only make sense that a public school intern would be taking (or have taken) a class to prepare for the public schools.  And, it would only make sense that this class would include the guidelines.  Which should include:  How do you determine if a student is a candidate for speech/language therapy in the schools?   How does a student qualify for services in the public school?  What paperwork has to be completed?  Does the classroom teacher have any involvement?  What does an IEP look like?  When are progress reports completed?  When is a student ready for dismissal?  When are Re-evaluations completed?  What is necessary for a re-evaluation?  

8)  Courage:  If you're scared of children with autism, children who drool, or even hearing impaired children, you don't belong in this field.  However, if you like a good challenge and realize that all children should have a chance at being able to communicate, then this is the field for you.  I realize not everyone is comfortable with children who are disabled, but as a School SLP, you never know what's going to come your way.  You can't "pick and choose" who you're going to work with.  It takes a lot of hours researching and asking for help to give the student quality speech/language therapy.  This is something that can't be taught; it's more of an "experience" thing, but grad students need to know that this is our field.  You're not always going to get the little cute Kindergartener with an articulation deficit.  You're going to get the child in a wheelchair who drools, or a child who has "out of control" behavior because of communication deficits.  You need to know that those are the most rewarding children because, while their milestones will be few and far between, those are the ones you'll celebrate the most.

As I said in the first paragraph, maybe I'm just "old school" and haven't kept up with the times.  Maybe it's just the university that I've had contact with over the past few years.  Whether or not the universities are stressing the educational side of our field, the above points should be applicable to the clinical and educational sides.  As a supervisor who is also responsible for 60+ students on my caseload, I shouldn't have to teach a grad student how to do therapy.  Even if the student comes to me thinking they have a good clinical background, she needs to realize that the school setting is completely different than the clinic or hospital setting.  You have to learn to juggle 3 things at once:  speech/language targets, data collection, and behavior.  You have to train  yourself to deal with 2+ children in a group at one time.  

What is your opinion?  You young ladies who have just started in the field:  Do you feel that your grad program properly prepared you for your School Placement?  I'd love to hear from you!

5 comments:

  1. As a current graduate student, I'm feeling a little disheartened after reading this. I do believe you have some very valid points in here. There are certainly areas that programs are lacking. But with the wealth of information out there now, it is impossible to fit it all into two years of schooling. I know my school has focused a lot on the theory in the classroom and then techniques in the clinical setting. In that sense, my supervisors ARE responsible for teaching us techniques and everything we need to know about the school setting. The professors teach us the WHY; supervisors teach us the HOW. We cannot possibly have a class just for the school setting just like we can't have a class just for the nursing home setting. There are specifics about each setting that have to be learned on the job itself, especially state guidelines, since every state is different. I know for myself, I'm going to have a lot to learn in my school placement next semester!

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    1. Please don't be disheartened, especially about the public schools! To me, it's the best job you could ever have.
      I would have to disagree with you on one point, however. When it comes to the basics of therapy (i.e., HOW to teach a student to make a sound), I do think this should have been taught before a school placement through the university clinical setting, or in an artic class. Your comment about how it's "impossible to fit it all into two years of schooling" leads me to wonder what bachelor level degree SLP grad students are getting. Keeping in mind that I am "old school", my BS was in "Communicative Disorders", and it was at a time when graduates could work in a school with their BS. Perhaps the grad schools need to re-evaluate their prerequisites before allowing students to take certain graduate classes? Theory is definitely important, but so is being able to put that theory into practice. School practicum supervisors have a lot of pressure put on them to perform (with the teacher evaluations that we have to go through, part of which includes how the school does with their state tests), so I would expect any grad student that I supervise to have knowledge of how to make the sounds so they can teach the students, as well as to be able to discriminate between a correct/incorrect sound. I realize that it's my responsibility to teach my grad student my technique for achieving correct production of a sound. The nearby university that I have had experience with has a public school class, however, I have heard that much of what they are taught either 1) isn't teaching correct information, or, 2) is teaching outdated information.
      It may be that I'm just a little frustrated with my supervisory experience in the past few years. It may just be that I'm "old school" and have my own ways of doing things. It may also be that the 1st 2 grad students I supervised set the bar really high, and they've set me up for disappointment! OR, it may just be that I'm expecting too much. I'm to the point where I'm done with supervising because my kids don't seem to make the progress they should be making when I have a grad student.
      Thanks again for your comment and your honesty!

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    2. Mary, I couldn't agree more. As a recent grad I feel my program did not prepare me for this job. I am in favor of separating grad programs into adult medical and pediatric avenue of studies. My program had too much surface level information, without enough depth. I work in a school now and desperately wish to gain clinical skills in articulation therapy (old school style). Would you recommend PROMT training? It is coming to my area in the coming months. Best, Newbie SLP

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    3. What is PROMT training? I'm not familiar with that.

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  2. I have supervised grad students in the school setting and also found that their ability to manage groups of students of different ability levels was lacking. The majority of my students are not the simple artic child and I don't have the luxury of making homogeneous groups. I think what we are seeing are students who are not getting the chance to put in the clinical hours. I am old school and we put many clinical hours in undergraduate training as well as the graduate level. We sure worked for those 2 credits. I don't think students get actual hours at the undergraduate level any longer. There is a lot to say for experience and applying that knowledge. I saw a few people fail because they couldn't apply what they learned. It is sad when they don't find that out until graduate school.

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