So you are well on your way to mastering the ins and outs of speech therapy. The kids are happy. The parents are delighted. Even your clinical director is thrilled with the progress she sees in everyone on your caseload. With such glowing accolades pouring in from every corner, what could possibly go wrong?
1. You deliver speech therapy non-stop
Many therapists begin to think that the more they work, the better they will become. While there is a lot of truth in that, just like everything else, there is a limit. Aside from the concern of diminishing returns, such unabated intensity is a recipe for burnout. It is essential to take time between sessions to allow yourself to absorb the lessons each child is teaching you!
What’s more, it is crucial to put a cap on your preparation at home, not merely regarding time, but your activity as well. Try to save some “fun stuff” for the home such as creating new materials, laminating or even sharing new links with parents via email. And be sure to relax, and get some refreshment so that you can come in the next day’s speech therapy energized.
2. Trying to constantly be reinventing the wheel
It is a fundamental mistake to believe that you need to invest your creative juices in everything you do. There are plenty of excellent online resources that provide masterful materials, curricula, games, and activities that you need to access. Save some of your creativity and imagination for those critical interactions in the session, when it is just you and the child.
On a related note, it is important to be insightful about your strengths and weaknesses that become highlighted during the speech therapy session. An honest assessment will help you discover where you should be investing your time and energy between sessions to maximize the benefit for the children whom you serve.
3. Getting carried away with too many useful behavior management strategies
Many speech therapy clinicians recognize while still in graduate school that, for some kids, attitude and behavior will be problematic. To this end, they spend time learning different strategies and tactics to enhance the effectiveness of their sessions. While these therapists are right on the mark, they need to be judicious about how many they choose to implement.
Utilizing every one of these strategies and tactics has the potential to drive you crazy. You can’t give one kid stickers, the next one gum, and the third one a small toy. The shopping alone will exhaust you. So decide on a couple of systems that seem to work for most of your students and stick to them.
4. Unreasonable Expectations of Change
It is only natural that your enthusiasm, excitement and sincere dedication to the child’s improvement will translate into expecting that the change you and your student are working on to come quickly. However, know that this is a trap for both of you. For the child, it can bring undue pressure that will be counterproductive, and for you, it could lead to burnout.
Effective speech therapy follows a slow but steady course. What you seek is an organic change that will stand the test of time. So it behooves you, as the speech therapy clinician to convey to the child you are working with that small victories are worth celebrating. Following this path, you will be cultivating a happier, more successful child – just what you both want.