What Has Been Lost
The immersive experience of the annual ASHA Convention provides a multi-dimensional goldmine of opportunity for SLPs. The synergy created by assembling 15,000 students and professionals who are devoted to improving the lives of those challenged with speech, language and hearing difficulties is irreplaceable.
Socially, the convention is an important touchpoint for ASHA members, volunteer leaders, students, exhibitors, and National Office staff to interact with one another. Also, it is the time when so many look forward to catching up with friends, both current and former colleagues, old classmates or teachers, and mentors.
From an educational perspective, the convention provides unique options for live, in-person learning, and a time for communication sciences and disorders professionals to build connections and share ideas and information. And the convention offers opportunities to learn about new techniques, acquire new tools and resources, and advance careers.
Seen from a business standpoint, the convention is an opportunity to discover new products and services in the Exhibit Hall. For the exhibitors and sponsors, the convention is a unique opportunity to interact with ASHA members face-to-face.
And last, but not least, the convention is a networking bonanza.
But it’s More Hopeful than you Thought
So now that this year’s convention has been canceled, what’s an SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist) or an AUD (Audiologist) to do? Cry! And after you’re finished crying, it’s time to get up, brush yourself off, look around and begin to discover which aspects of the convention can be replicated, albeit in a less charged atmosphere.
The good news is that it won’t take long to see that there is far more out there than you may have realized. Exciting alternatives, resources, and opportunities are not quite as far as you may have assumed. Many of them are no more than a few clicks away!
“How is that? you may ask. The answer is simple: Social Media. Is that news? You already know about social media. Everyone knows about social media! While that’s true, the sad reality is that many SLPs and AUDs have little understanding of what it has to offer them. And they certainly have no idea of how unleashing its true power can transform their careers.
Social media provides numerous opportunities to stay abreast of cutting-edge developments in the field, learn new and improve existing techniques, and gain new tools and resources to advance your career. What’s more, it’s the key to liaising with colleagues, finding information and research, and connecting with other therapists around the world.
There is always someone else out there to provide a new idea and give a fresh perspective on things, and help you to find great resources and websites you know nothing about, without your investment of time looking for the information.
Facebook is the “quintessential” personal, social media platform. As such, it is probably the site most “responsible” for the all too common misperception that social media, as a whole, is (for young people) for announcing one’s social calendar and (for the more mature crowd) just for bragging about one’s children/grandchildren. While Facebook certainly serves that function, it has much to offer businesses and professionals as well.
More specifically for SLPs and AUDs, following certain pages and groups can be very useful. Facebook is wonderful for discussion and also has a wide range of groups. If you’re on Facebook, you should consider joining the most popular speech pathology Facebook groups. Facebook groups have become an excellent way to collaborate with fellow therapists, to share information, request advice, and just “bond.”
Some groups are quite sizable with a huge cross-section of SLPs from different areas of practice such as Speech Pathologists at Large). Other groups are much smaller and represent unique niches, like those interested in starting a speech therapy private practice (such as SLP Private Practice Beginners.) Here are groups to consider joining.
If learning is your thing, then check out #SLPeeps on Facebook: Many SLP bloggers post links to their newest blog posts in this Facebook group. There are clinical discussions that take place there as well.
Twitter is perhaps the simplest simple social media tool, a timeline of text messages which allows you to interact 24 hours a day with other people all across the globe. If you are looking for moral support, interaction, friendships, research, and links, this may be the best place to begin.
SLPeeps (what SLPs are called on Twitter) and AUDpeeps (AUDs on Twitter) can interact with colleagues, even if they are isolated (especially now during COVID-19). You need not spend more than a few minutes looking at relevant hashtags to find many useful items. Hardly any time or effort is needed before you can begin to follow researchers, resource makers, professional organizations, and individuals.
You will find fresh information every day in your feed, as there are SLPs and AUDs sharing information, resources and supporting one another in their daily professional (and even personal) lives. Those participants span the globe and are an everflowing fount of information that anyone can benefit from daily.
To get started, check out these common hashtags in their respective fields:
- #SLPeeps – SLPs on Twitter, discussing SLP related information
- #SLPChat – A focused topic of discussion for a predetermined time and date to join in
- #AUDpeeps – AUDs on Twitter, discussing AUD related information
- #SLPbloggers – SLPs who blog and share blogging resources
LinkedIn is the leading online directory of individuals and companies, most useful for networking and job searching. LinkedIn users build “direct connections” with the people they know, which then, in turn, helps them build connections with “second degree” (and beyond) “like-minded professionals.”
For job searchers, LinkedIn is a great way to network and find jobs. It’s also a nice way to keep in touch with friends and former co-workers to see what they are currently doing professionally, which may prove valuable if you are looking for a new opportunity.
For SLPs and AUDs, the directory aspect of the site can be especially useful for therapists who want to meet others in their city or state. It is easy to get started on LinkedIn. The site’s “Profile Wizard” helps users build a virtual resume and has tools that can check your contact lists to quickly find other LinkedIn users that you are already networking with over email and Facebook.
Another benefit of using LinkedIn is to help SLP’s to interact with fellow clinicians. Maybe you’re an SLP who is thinking about renting office space or contemplating getting a special certification and wondering if it’s “worth it.” or looking for billing software others have had success with. With LinkedIn, you have thousands of like-minded peers to ask.
LinkedIn is just the kind of place where you can ask these questions and share advice with those people who are asking the same kinds of questions that you are. There are tons of clinicians who have both small and free-standing private practices, who are eager to discuss and share situations.
It is the ‘Groups’ aspect of the platform, however, that is the “gem” within LinkedIn for SLPs and AUDs. You can search by your profession or keywords to find groups you may be interested in joining. Once you join several groups, LinkedIn will suggest more groups you may like.
The most important aspect of the groups is the discussion board. Here you can start discussions, add your comments or questions, or just read about topics that are currently being discussed. This is a great way to find out more about what your peers are doing about things like insurance, marketing, difficult situations, etc..
There are a variety of groups on LinkedIn that offer ample opportunities for discussion and resource sharing. These are some groups, to begin with:
- The Pediatric and School-Based Therapy Discussion Group
- Geek SLPs: Apps, Technology, iPad & Gadgets Discussions for SLPs
- Speech-Language Pathologists of America
Instagram has become a huge platform that allows therapists to promote their therapy materials, network with other speech-language pathologists, and also share ideas daily. This expands a therapist’s world by assisting in finding new ideas and resources for therapy sessions and getting different perspectives and advice from everyone.
As your ad hoc browsing becomes more refined, you will begin to gravitate towards particular SLPs and AUDs whose materials or content resonates with you. Connecting with these therapists is one of the best things about Instagram.
Begin to focus your search by looking at popular SLP hashtags include #SLPeeps, #speechtherapy, and #instaslp, and be sure to add those hashtags to your work as well. You can use any hashtag you like, though.
If you’ve posted a picture about a sensory bin, you can either click the hashtag in your post or you can type #sensorybins into the search bar on the ‘Explore’ page (the one with the little magnifying glass) and find all the other pictures that show sensory bins.
Similar to Instagram, Pinterest is a website for sharing visual links to resources. It is primarily used to curate and save content which is often uploaded by other users. The difference between them is that Instagram is more about sharing, while Pinterest is more about discovering.
Pinterest is like having unlimited access to a library of bulletin boards, where people have “pinned” their favorite crafts, activities, free resources, blogs, research, and more. And you can come and copy anything you like.
Pinterest is great for SLPs. One of the problems with social media is that the postings disappear quickly as the feed moves on, so you can’t remember exactly where you saw it! Pinterest solves this problem. Simply pin the article or resource to a board and it will be there whenever you want to refer back to it. It is very easy to organize your pins by topic as well.
Pinterest is a resource with unlimited activities, games, and crafts for use in therapy. It can connect SLPs to some of the latest research, other creative SLPs, and even additional resource libraries. And many of the resources on Pinterest are free. These include demonstrations, and printables for the therapist to access as needed.
New content is added daily, so the therapist will never run out of new resources to browse, search for, and add to growing collections.
Same Destination, New Path
So while the 2020 ASHA Convention experience will certainly be missed, and there is no replacement for the energy and excitement, all is not lost. Through the ever-expanding universe of social media, there are more opportunities for SLPs and AUDs to find alternatives and resources to continue growing in their professional careers than anyone could ever fully take advantage of. Why wait? Get started today.