Every once in a while, I find it is a good idea to step back and really see what is right in front of you. I was reminded of this earlier this spring when my husband took a few photos of the front of the house to capture the azaleas in bloom. We live in a modest 3-bedroom brick-and-siding rancher. Although we’ve continually maintained and upgraded the house and landscaping, we realized with a shock that the bushes that were planted by the original owner in 1968 were now so big that much of the house was actually obscured! Funny, isn’t it? We see the house every day, but it took a photo to bring us to this to our attention. Recognizing that pulling these out was beyond our time, tools, and energies, I arranged with a local landscaper to do the job. His crew cleared away the bohemoths, and replaced them with lovely knock-out roses, boxwoods, and other beautiful plants of a much more appropriate size. What a difference it made! We could now see the brick on the house….then noticed that the siding was in need of a good cleaning….and the vinyl shutters were very faded….as was the front door. Well, those jobs we can handle, so this past weekend that is exactly what we did. My husband washed down the siding and shutters, then we revived the shutters to a deep spruce green through the magic of Armor-all. A coat of deep persimmon paint on the front door completed our suburban renewal and — wow! — what an improvement this has made, not just in the curb appeal, but also in our renewed love of home-sweet-home.
So what does this have to do with speech/language pathology? Well, I think the lessons learned at home can be applied to our caseloads, too. Just because your therapy approach is settled and comfortable doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved. I find that having a student teacher forces me into the “step back and take a look” mode; when you have to explain everything you do, you start to look at things more critically. Observations by peers, principals, and supervisors can serve this same illuminating purpose. So does occasionally videotaping a session or two, just for your own viewing.
Like our need for outside help with the landscaping, we all benefit from continuing education opportunities to help us make big improvements. If you have the opportunity to go to ASHA Schools Conference in Milwaukee this summer, DO IT! I went last year when it was in Maryland, and felt it was the best conference I had ever attended. (I would go again this year but, as I said above, my summer is very short and my limited window for vacation conflicts. Oh, well. Next year for sure!)
And those smaller changes in therapy that could have a big impact? Well, those we can handle on our own — ordering a few new materials, getting some new ideas from SLP websites and blogs, planning some changes to our service delivery models, redoing our organizational system, building a better data form. All of these things can help us renew our energies and enthusiasm for the work we do.
During a few of lazy, hazy days this summer, maybe you can think of some ways to “spruce up” therapy in the fall. I’d love to hear your ideas. Hmmm….that would be a good thread to add to the Share a Smile page. Or you can add your ideas here by clicking the speech bubble above. But not right now! Now it’s time to get out there and have some fun!