A Whole New World: Finding My Place as a Travel SLP

What if your job in life is to help your patients make successful transitions... but the irony is that you're struggling with a big transition of your own? In today's heart-felt post, guest author Dani Newcombe shares what her move has been like to become a travel SLP. She also shares some resources, ideas, and eye-opening lessons she's learned along the way. Let us know if you have ever had a transition in your professional life, and how you made it through!

Welp, hello from Indiana! This past weekend I packed up my car, said "goodbye" to Fayetteville, NC, and drove my little puppers and me to Elwood, Indiana. This week I started my newest journey as a travel SLP. Oh man, what a new experience this has been.

As if that wasn't enough, I am in a completely different setting than I am used to. I am currently the only SLP on staff. The clinic where I am is an ABA clinic, specializing in the autism population. A lot of the children we see here are here all day. It's considered an intensive program, and the primary goal is to transition kids into the school system. The kids here are incredible, as is the staff. However, it has not been easy navigating this brand-new world. There are PTs, OTs, RBT, BCBAs, and then me, the sole SLP.

I've had so many questions, so many concerns. Do I target feeding? What's the referral process? How do I handle this? Who do I go to with that? Where is my office? (Oh yeah, I have an OFFICE!)

"From EI to LEA: How to Ensure ALL Kids Make the Great Transition (.1 ASHA CEU) - Free on iTunes!

Presenters: Char Boshart, MS, CCC-SLP and guest Michelle Dawson, MS, CCC-SLP, CLC

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Elusive IPP for the EI Clinician (.1 ASHA CEU)

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Presenters: Michelle Dawson, MS, CCC-SLP, CLC and guest Erin Forward, MS, CF-SLP

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I'm learning that when it comes to interdisciplinary care, there are simply questions that need to be asked. Why are you doing that? What is the purpose behind the schedule? These are just two of the many, many questions I find myself asking the RBTs as they work with kids I'll have on my caseload. I have Googled every-day different terms I've heard them use. I've found myself trying to find where I fit in, because sometimes I feel like they're probably doing my job better than I could.

"Hey - quick question!" - I hollered at one of the OTs as she walked past my office. I then proceeded to ask her if she had a kiddo of mine on their caseload and if they were targeting feeding with this kid. She said they had that child on their caseload, but they weren't targeting feeding. I nervously inquired if I could move forward with feeding therapy. She laughed, probably seeing how nervous I was. "You're the professional. That's your specialty and where you're trained, not me."

My shoulders relaxed and I felt a surge of confidence. I am the professional, I said to myself proudly. The moments following that interaction were tackled with a different kind of confidence. I started making my way into kiddos' rooms, observing and interacting.

As a newly licensed SLP, fresh out of my CFY and diving head first into a brand new setting, it has been hard to have that confidence, especially when other disciplines are involved. They speak a different language to me. They have a different knowledge base than I do. So, what can this placement be? An opportunity to learn from amazing professionals. In the past four days, I have learned more about ABA than I ever did in my time during grad school or my CFY. And you know who will benefit most from this? The kids. The more I know about their day-to-day, the more I'll be able to tailor my therapy to meet their specific needs.

The best thing to do is ask questions, own your field and knowledge base, and do it for the kids. These next four months at this assignment are not about me, they are about my kiddos. Keep that kiddo-first mentality, and you'll be successful no matter where you land!

About the Author

Dani Newcombe, M.S., CCC-SLP is a newly licensed SLP that has just started her newest adventure as a travel SLP. She specializes in pediatric feeding and swallowing but is excited to encounter a variety of populations as she travels. Dani graduate from Loma Linda University in June 2018 and completed her CFY at Southeastern Communication and Swallowing Specialists in Fayetteville, NC. When not being a speechie, Dani enjoys CrossFit and writing for her personal blog, which can be found at https://messyslp.home.blog/

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