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Surviving Your CF

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1) The Basics

There are tons of things you can do that will make your CF easier before you even begin. Apply for jobs early, know what you want, and don’t settle. Focus on the most important thing: learning. Don’t take a job just because of the salary or in a setting you won’t learn as much from or enjoy as much. Think: what are you passionate about? Why did you get into this field? What brings you joy as being an SLP? Now find a job that allows you to do those things. Even doing something you LOVE once a week can make a huge difference. I love AAC and having clients where I’ve been able to really do AAC makes a huge difference in my job satisfaction.

2) Immerse Yourself

My advice to you: become speech. See you job everywhere. Read speech blogs. But don’t just read speech blogs! Read blogs from parents with kiddos with disabilities. Read AAC blogs. Read autism blogs. Watch documentaries with people with disabilities. Walk through the games and toys sections of stores. Think outside the box.

I know, I know. So much of what you read will say, “Don’t take work home” or “Set limits”. I’m not saying I take work home every night or weekend, but I’m aware that as a CF, I do things more slowly and should be learning as I go. I think immersing myself in the experience and allowing myself to browse research articles at night about a tricky kiddo or connecting with coworkers during the day and taking some paperwork home has allowed me to enjoy my CF more and become an even better SLP.

Have there been times where I’ve been overwhelmed? Absolutely, but that’s life.

I feel like devoting great energy to each and every one of my kiddos has been critical in the learning process. I try and rotate through them in small groups to make sure I am effectively targeting their goals, that their goals are appropriate, that I am providing effective carryover for the parents, and generally being the best SLP I can be. I’ve come up with some amazing ideas and some flops and I just keep on learning.

And when you’re making all of those fabulous materials, parent handouts, and resources, don’t forget to keep it all organized so you don’t reinvent the wheel year after year… bringing me to my next point.

3) Organization

Because I fully immersed myself in my CF year, I came up with some great systems to stay organized and on top of things! Below are tons of ideas. No need to do all of them, or start with all of them. This is just what I found works for me over time.

Caseload Management: I work at a private practice we write plan of cares for each kiddo on our caseload every 3 months. So, I’ve created a couple systems to keep track of all of those dates! First, I have this spreadsheet on my desk and in my data binder at all times. I update it every 3 months. Before then, I just cross off dates and update using pen.

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I put my kiddos in order of due date for their POC so I cross off dates starting at the top and go down to the bottom. Once I cross of the last due date, I remake the sheet. It’s great for keeping track of billing codes, birthdays, and reevaluation dates as well. Nothing worse than missing a birthday! I made this in Powerpoint and it’s super easy! No excuses!

Additionally, I use these expandable file folders to store materials for each kiddo on my caseload (I use 2). I write their name on the tab and every few weeks, refill the sections with applicable worksheets, activities, and even parent newsletters!

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Data: My first piece of advice is do not overdo it on your data sheets. When I started, I copied and pasted each kiddos goals into a data sheet. Do you know how exhausting that is to redo every 3 months? So not worth it. I now print each plan of care after I write it and organize them by day of the week I see the kiddo in a data binder. In front on their plan of care, I put data sheets that I can customize based on the goals from their plan on care. I typically use these data sheets but I also keep printed versions of my Early Communicators Data Binder and these Speech-Language Therapy Rubrics so I can grab them when it makes sense.  I keep a bunch of blank versions of these in the front of my binder so I don’t have to remember to grab/print them!

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Below is a few pictures of my glorious data binder. It comes with me everywhere and I really like this system!

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The front of the binder was created using my editable freebie found here.

The five dividers separate days of the week. If I see a kiddo twice a week, I put their plan of care and data sheet under the first day of the week I see them.

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And here are two pictures of some filled out data sheets:

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Also, remember how I talked about my caseload management sheets? Here is how I store it in my data binder. It’s the first page in a page protector!

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Materials: Okay so I’m probably going to have to create a separate post for this alone, but I’ll try and show you some of my primary ways I organize my materials. This is not a perfect system and I keep redoing it but here goes nothing.

This is my “speech closet”:

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I purchased two of these drawers:

The one on the right is for monthly materials (red = September, orange = October, green = November, etc…) and the one on the left contains all sorts of things. The top 2 drawers are for materials I need to finish laminating or cutting.

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The bottom drawer is my “why” drawer, containing cards kids have made me, kind notes, great emails, anything that inspires me on my bad days! The drawers in the middle typically contain random materials all on the same topic, such as describing.

On top of the drawers, I keep seasonal materials in file folders (blue = winter, green = spring, yellow = summer, red = fall).

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I purchased these clear containers on Amazon a while ago and love them.

I keep other seasonal materials in these expandable file folders, but honestly don’t use these much.

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Here is another example of how to use the clear file folder containers:

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This one is pretty obvious, but I tend to keep materials I don’t use as much in here.

Then last, I keep games and other materials in this shelving system.

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Hope some of those ideas help!

4) Make Time for YOU (aka Treat. Yo. Self)

So you should probably click on that link cause it’s highly amusing. And then take that advice seriously. Immersing yourself in your CF is hard work! One of the biggest stressors in my CF was suddenly having parents, professionals, caregivers, coworkers, basically everybody (okay not, but it feels like it) looking to you for advice and knowledge. Holy cow! I didn’t feel ready for that. But you are. To cope with those sometimes intense pressures, I made sure to treat myself and not feel one bit bad for it. Below are some ways I treat myself! Maybe they’ll be fun for you too!

Stitch Fix! This is my new favorite way to splurge on myself. It’s a personal styling/delivery service for clothing and it’s awesome. I’m terrible and picking out clothes and I just love what they send me! Click here to check it out.

Or other fun monthly subscription services. I’ll let you in on a secret. This is one way I kept myself sane in graduate school. I let myself receive 1 subscription service each month. I switched around often between xxx. I just love getting mail and it was a fun way to try some new things! My favorite (other than Stitch Fix) was Pop Sugar Must Have because it had the most random stuff but I always loved it all. It’s a bit more expensive than some but seriously worth it. I also did Ipsy for a while, which was also super great but I don’t wear a ton of makeup so a few months of that was enough for me! You could also just go the direct route to happiness and get wine delivery (I think that link should get you two free bottles, you’re welcome).

Real Food! Because I was finally making money, I loved buying “real food” instead of the junk I used to eat. Use this as an opportunity to treat yourself! Make a new, indulgent recipe! Try a gourmet food item! Go to Chipotle instead of Taco Bell! (hey! it’s the little things!!)

Fun Therapy Purchases! One thing I love buying (because it makes therapy more fun for me too) is fun therapy materials, toys, games, and products. Check out my TpT store here for some ideas. I will be doing a post in the future about some of my favorites but Amazon should be able to inspire you too 🙂

Weekend Getaways! You make money now. Go find a hotel somewhere and get away. Forget about work! Don’t bring your laptop! This makes a world of difference. Plan these weekends months ahead of time so you can really look forwards to them.

Want other fun ideas? Go to an arcade. Go laser tagging. Go on a hike. Go shopping! Buy some new therapy jeans. Go out for drinks. Buy a new therapy bag. Eat a cupcake.

5) Stay Positive!

The biggest thing you do to to survive your CF: stay positive. No job will ever be flawless. Focus on the good. Your CF does not need to be your forever job, so fill your brain, love your students, and do what you can!

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Looking for more advice for new SLPS? Check out this post containing 30 pieces of advice from SLPs all over!

{thanks for reading}

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5 Comment

  1. Reply
    Sam @ The Running Graduate
    February 9, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    While I’m still a first year grad, I found this super helpful! We just had a workshop about our CF year and I’m really looking forward to it. You give such great tips and are so organized.
    Also: love the positive pants meme!

    1. Reply
      Shannon
      February 9, 2015 at 10:34 AM

      Thanks for commenting!!! Good luck with graduate school! It goes so fast 🙂

  2. Reply
    Heidi
    February 9, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    I loved the advice you shared! I am forwarding your blog to the 8 (yes 8!) CFs I am supervising right now 🙂

    1. Reply
      Shannon
      February 9, 2015 at 4:53 PM

      Wow!! So many! I really appreciate you reaching out and sharing my post 🙂

  3. Reply
    Stephanie
    April 1, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    Hi, I am just finishing up my CF year and am looking forward to improving my organizational skills for next year. Where can I find the blank template for your data sheets? Thank you for the helpful post!

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