For SLPs, Graduate School

5 Mistakes I Made As a New SLP

It's not easy to start any job, and starting as a new SLP is no different. Here are the top five mistakes I made and what I'm doing differently now!

It’s so much easier to look back and reflect on lessons learned than to realize your mistakes in the thick of things, isn’t it? I recently spent some time reflecting on how I’ve changed as an SLP since I graduated. I thought of several mistakes I made and thought I would share with you all!

It's not easy to start any job, and starting as a new SLP is no different. Here are the top five mistakes I made and what I'm doing differently now!

1) Working every night and weekend

You guys, I seriously worked ALL.THE.TIME. when I first graduated. It was seriously a problem and led to me quitting my first job after a year and a half. Nobody should feel burned out that fast!

What I Do Now: I set limits for myself. I stay late on certain days and not others. I don’t work on work (much) at home unless it is something that is fun or exciting (laminating, making materials, sending exciting emails to parents). I don’t finish everything at work all of the time but I’ve learned to be much more okay with that. In addition, when doing tasks that have a tendency to take way long (i.e., I get distracted, end up doing things that aren’t totally related), I set a timer and I can only work on a task for that amount of time. If I don’t finish, I add it to a to-do list and get back to it another time. This makes those random 10 minute breaks in my day actually useful!

It's not easy to start any job, and starting as a new SLP is no different. Here are the top five mistakes I made and what I'm doing differently now!

2) Reinventing the wheel

Don’t think you need to reinvent the wheel or make everything yourself! I love Teachers Pay Teachers for this, but there are so many websites/curriculums/materials out there. A wise investment on useful, smart materials at the beginning of the year can really make a difference. Do you have a hard time with social skills groups every year? Invent in a thorough social skills bundle, curriculum or book. It will make you feel so much more effective without having to make it all yourself!

What I Do Now: Start each school year buying a few big products that I know will make my school year easier. In addition, I set up 2-3 times during the school year where I reevaluate how things are going and decide if I could benefit from more! Do I spend my own money on this? Yes, most of it. But it is so worth it because it saves me so much time working at home. That time is too important!

It's not easy to start any job, and starting as a new SLP is no different. Here are the top five mistakes I made and what I'm doing differently now!

3) Ignoring effective behavior management strategies/implementing too many!

To be honest, I think I had a pretty cool grasp of behavior management when I graduated grad school. I’ve always loved these types of kids! BUT, one difference between my jobs in the past/grad school and being a “real life” SLP is that you work with so many more students. In the beginning, I tried to implement a different system for each kid. This kid love stickers? Sticker chart! This kid doesn’t seem motivated by them? Pill box visual schedule. This kid wants gum each day? Go out and buy gum. The problem with this? It’s exhausting. I can’t keep up with 30 different behavior systems/rewards/schedules/etc… You will absolutely need a variety to reach some students but don’t overdo it.

What I Do Now: I start the year with a couple systems and my students get to choose what they want to do OR I pick the most appropriate for each group. Some examples are: sticker charts, gum for coming on their own, earning game days, etc.. I try really hard to be the prize so I don’t have a prize box anymore! It’s wonderful. There are a couple students that have their own systems but I try to keep them minimized so I don’t get overwhelmed trying to keep up with everything! My kids know if they ask for something (gum, prize, toy, game day) they aren’t getting it.

It's not easy to start any job, and starting as a new SLP is no different. Here are the top five mistakes I made and what I'm doing differently now!

4) Starting unsustainable projects/themes/therapy styles

If I could pick one mistake I made, it was this. This one mistake led to so many of the other mistakes! I went completely above and beyond for students/groups and set myself up for failure. In one social skills group, I made a visual schedule with ~6 things on it (it was an hour group), and each thing needed to be made each week. For example, we started with a game and I made individual visuals for each game each week. Then we did a lesson of the day which I had to prepare each week. Then we did a movement activity based on the lesson. Again, I had to prep that each week. I made parent carryover letters for each lesson. Did parents love them? Yes! Did I have time to do this for my entire caseload, every session, every week? NO!

What I Do Now: I set myself up for success. I set realistic goals for things like parent communication and lesson plans. I could probably always be doing better but I have to remind myself I’M DOING FINE. And fine is okay. I also do more of my therapy based on books or other items I can adapt easily. I love incorporating classroom material as well. I feel strongly that “our kids” shouldn’t get more work and instead should get help understanding the materials they already have to learn! This style of therapy is more functional AND makes your job easier!

It's not easy to start any job, and starting as a new SLP is no different. Here are the top five mistakes I made and what I'm doing differently now!

5) Expecting change too quickly

When I first graduated, I expected change too quickly. This was true for many things! I expected my kids to show rapid, insane amounts of growth when I worked with them (silly, right?!). I expected administration to change too quickly. I expected my confidence to change too quickly. EVERYTHING.

What I Do Now: To be honest, this one still trips me up sometimes. I try to remind myself that I’m doing the best I can and many of the kids I work with have multiple severe disabilities. This means change will likely be slow but as long as we are headed the right direction, that’s progress! I remind myself that I can enjoy a job with or without a perfect administration above me. The biggest thing I’ve done to help myself on this one is to stay positive. I’ve been focusing really hard this school year on positivity, meditation, relaxation and true enjoyment of my job.

Are you doing any of these things? What mistakes did you make right after graduation? I’d love to hear!

{thanks for reading}

It's not easy to start any job, and starting as a new SLP is no different. Here are the top five mistakes I made and what I'm doing differently now!

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Shannon

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11 Comment

  1. Reply
    Marissa Nunnery
    November 27, 2016 at 7:55 AM

    This post has been really eye opening too me! I just started my first CF position at a school and it’s been rough catching up since I started a few months after the school year began. I’ve been struggling with working all the time! I am a newly wed also and it’s been tough to be working all the time when I want to spend time with my husband. Thank you for this post and making me realize that it’s ok not to finish my to-do list all at once and to not over work myself!

    1. Reply
      Shannon
      November 27, 2016 at 7:56 AM

      Glad you could relate!! And yes!! Spend that time with your husband. The job will wait 🙂

  2. Reply
    Suzanne
    November 27, 2016 at 12:59 PM

    I will add that one of my mistakes was not explicitly letting the kids know what their goals were and what we were targeting each day. Now I review their goals with them at the beginning of the year and periodically throughout the year and every session I let them know what they are working on that day (you are doing L in the middle of words). I have found that when I use a tracking app on my phone the kids keep an eye on it and want to know their percentage correct – great motivator!

    1. Reply
      Shannon
      November 27, 2016 at 1:00 PM

      Great ideas! I made the same mistake! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Reply
    Katie
    November 27, 2016 at 8:30 PM

    Love this! Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your mistakes. You have great advice!

    1. Reply
      Shannon
      November 27, 2016 at 8:33 PM

      Thank you so much! <3

  4. Reply
    Karen
    November 28, 2016 at 8:39 PM

    Thank you so much for this! I am in my 3rd year, and I have been struggling so much these past few months. Your post reminded me that I am making some of these same mistakes! This was just the encouragement I needed right now <3 I will be bookmarking this post!

    1. Reply
      Shannon
      November 28, 2016 at 8:40 PM

      That is amazing to hear, Karen. Glad it could help!! You’re not alone 🙂

  5. Reply
    Pat
    December 1, 2016 at 7:52 AM

    I have 5 years until retirement. I often start sliding into the unsustainable therapy mode with certain students because you want to do an awesome job for every kid. And every year as my caseload increases, it becomes less and less feasible. It’s a struggle every year. Great article and a great reminder for those of us on our way out.

  6. Reply
    Joanna
    January 9, 2017 at 5:45 AM

    When do you write your reports? Are you given time at school?–I have been doing this for 21 years and all my paperwork needs to be done at home😢

    1. Reply
      Shannon
      January 10, 2017 at 3:14 PM

      Thanks for your comment! I do get times during my week for prep and evaluations. That would be so hard to take all of that work home. I feel for you!

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