You are finally at the place in your speech pathology program where you get to start your SLP graduate internship! It is well deserved and you are ready to apply all the learning into real life application.
For many SLP graduate students, I am sure there is a mix of excitement and nervousness surrounding your internships. You can’t wait to work with students, but worry about knowing how to manage therapy groups, and plan lessons for multiple goals. You’re wondering, Will the students like me? What if my lesson are boring?
In order to ease your mind and also prepare you for your SLP graduate internships, I wanted to share 10 Things you should do during your school internship placement. These recommendations come from myself and other SLPs in the field who have experience working with SLP graduate interns.
My Biggest Advice For Your SLP Graduate Internships
Your professional reputation, quite honestly, started the minute you entered the speech pathology program. And it is only continuing to grow. Your internships are an opportunity to showcase your work ethic, job skills and knowledge about the field. How you act and conduct yourself shapes how your supervisor will view you as a clinician. Most often, your supervisor will write you a letter of recommendation for your first job applications. Knowledge about the field of speech pathology is important. However, just as equally, the way you handle and build relationships with others is important.
10 Things Every SLP Grad Intern Should Do In Their Internships
These first few recommendations may seem silly, but they are important things you should do in your SLP graduate internships. If you discount them or overlook their importance, you might not start your internship on the right foot.
Essential Things SLP Grad Interns Should Do From Day One Of The Internship
1. Be on time – I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but this seems to be one that needs reminding. If your supervisor asks you to be there at 8am and you arrive at 8:05am, you are late. My mother-in-law always says that being on-time is showing up 15 minutes before you are supposed to be there. Being on time shows your supervisor that you are responsible and value other people’s time. When you begin your SLP career, you will have to be on time for school duties, IEP meetings and therapy. There is always grace with being “five minutes late” as it has happened to most SLPs; however, if it is a re-occurring situation, it can be seen as irresponsible and disrespectful.
2. Know where things are located – During your first couple of weeks, you will be taking in a lot of information. Meeting the staff, knowing where classrooms are located and therapy materials can be found are your top priority. If you find that you are struggling with navigating the school campus, put a map in your binder and take it with you everywhere! The quicker you know where things are located, the more quickly you’ll be given new responsibilities.
Gratitude Will Carry You A Long Way
3. Have gratitude for your supervisor & internship – In my neck of the woods, supervisors do not get paid an extra stipend for taking an intern. They do it as a way to give back to the profession and spend a lot of extra time to help you. As the internship progresses, the interns really do help out their master clinicians a ton, but the process can still be a time-consuming one for your master clinician. Remember: you are able to get your 100 hours to graduate because of her willingness to take you on as an intern. Even if the placement wasn’t what you imagined (like you wanted middle school and got preschool) or it didn’t have the disorders you were hoping for, don’t forget that this opportunity is still providing you access to client hours. So, be mindful of complaining or critiquing your placement/supervisor. In due time, you will be on your own, hopefully in a placement you really enjoy.
How To Communicate During Your SLP Graduate Internship
4. Share what goals you have for your internship. Make sure you communicate some aspects of the job and caseload that you would really like to experience. If it is doing a social pragmatic assessment, then tell your clinician. Want to try push-in therapy? Let your clinician know. Some things will may not happen, but if you explain areas that you want experience with, your master clinician can make sure to help you with that.
5. Set up how you are going to communicate with your clinician at the start of the internship. Are you going to meet once a week for 30 minutes to debrief? Consult at the start of the day of your therapy plans? Do you prefer your master clinician to write feedback down about how you are doing in a session? Can you text him/her after school hours? You can always modify and adjust how you want to communicate as the internship progresses, but starting off right away with set expectations can be the difference between failure and success in the internship.
How To Build A Positive Relationship With Your Master Clinician
6. Listen and respect your master clinician. Whether you have a differing opinion or you have a lot of knowledge on research, remember to show respect. Your master clinician has been out in the field and may have an unspoken reason for why he is doing something. Listening to his feedback, things he want you to do/not do will help you learn the ropes of the job.You may not realize it until you are sitting in front of a group of students on your own, but you might find that managing behaviors is tougher than you thought! During your internship, you are doing half the job and taking on half the responsibilities. Your master clinician is juggling a lot! He also has a lot of knowledge and experience that you can grow from if you keep an open perspective. There were things I learned from my master clinician that I really had an appreciation for when I was out on my own. Additionally, be sure to take care of your clinician’s belongings and make sure to clean up after yourself in the therapy room! This is an easy, but essential, way to build a positive relationship with your master clinician.
7. Know your role in IEP meetings. If you have not been given a responsibility in the IEP meeting, your role is to sit back, observe and take notes. Speaking in an IEP meeting can negatively impact your supervisor if you say something that is not accurate or could make the school district liable. This is not your caseload and if anything goes wrong, it is on your master clinician. Sharing information when your supervisor hasn’t asked you to contribute to the meeting doesn’t show respect to your master clinician’s skills and expertise.
8. Give your master clinician a gift to relay your “thanks” at the end of your internship. I know that money can be tight as a student, so getting a gift is just a way to express gratitude for your supervisors time and knowledge. Great gift ideas would be a coffee gift card, a new game, books for the speech room, lunch on you, or some home baked goodies with a nice card.
How To Be Prepared With Your Therapy
9. Be prepared and be flexible! Your master clinician is looking to see how you are planning therapy. She/he wants to know that you can implement a lesson plan that aligns to students goals but also be flexible to change gears when something isn’t going right. You can be prepared by planning therapy on paper, especially those first couple of weeks until you start to really get to know the students. Know your clinician’s behavioral expectations and follow them in the group. If you need support from your supervisor, then come to her with a proposed lesson plan. She can help walk you through what to do/not do with the lesson plan. Wanting your clinician to plan lessons for you isn’t going to help you in the long run when you have to plan for a caseload of 55 or larger.
10. Be humble and accept failure. I know it is hard to fail. It is even harder to fail in front of others. Your supervisor’s role is to critique and give you feedback about your performance. Take the feedback humbly. Getting defensive will only make the process harder. I can also see how easy it would be to justify why you did something or point out that your master clinician does that. The thing is, we aren’t the students. Usually by the end of the internship the supervisor role switches a lot and it feels more like a collaborative experience. In the beginning, you will get more direct feedback. Hear the feedback, implement the feedback and reflect on the differences. That is how you will grow, I promise.
The Low Down On What Not To Do
This is where I tell it to you straight. SLPs shared some personal experiences of some not so great things that happened with their interns. Consider this the “what not to do” section of the blog post. Now, here are the big “no no’s” SLP supervisors shared:
Arriving to work late and calling in sick really makes supervisors feel there is a lack of responsibility and work ethic.
Not completing tasks or assignments given by your supervisor in a timely manner. When your supervisor asks you to do something, it should be turned in early or on the day it is due. This demonstrates your organization skills and ability to be timely with work. Your future boss will want the same work skills.
Dressing in short skirts or work attire that isn’t appropriate for students to be seeing especially when working with teenagers.
Questioning your supervisor’s opinion or information in front of other colleagues at the site. Or just really questioning them all the time.
Talking too much with classroom staff instead of doing therapy.
Not being open to trying something new or thinking outside the box.
Falling asleep on the job and by falling asleep, I mean falling asleep while your master clinician is conducting therapy and you are supposed to be watching them.
Having no respect or regard for the clinician’s materials or therapy room.
One SLP shared: “There was some frustration when an intern used some of my materials and left them all out at the end of the week for me to clean up. This intern also left her personal materials all over my therapy room in an unorganized fashion. I’m lucky if I get my stuff put away, but I don’t want to clean up after someone else’s therapy.”
Asking for days off for personal need, or to study for exams. You need to be at your internship unless you are sick or there is a family emergency.
Assuming you know better than your clinician a.k.a being a know-it-all. You, of course, know a ton and should be using your knowledge to get practical application in your internship! That’s not the problem here. The problem is coming in with a fixed mindset that your way is better.
One SLP said, “It is better to be humble and receive accolades for a job well done then to be prideful and have a “I told you so moment” with your clinician. We all don’t know everything. When you become an SLP, you are always learning and growing. Thinking you know better than other people will only isolate you. I am a better clinician because I lean on my colleagues knowledge and expertise. Don’t be on island just because you want to feel smarter than others.”
Where There Is A Problem, There Is A Solution
At the end of the day, I think every master clinician is going to be different. Some of these items may not even be an issue with your master clinician. The best solution to any problematic situation is to communicate. Open communication in a respectful and honest way will make the internship run smoothly. I hope this didn’t freak you out but rather empower you with knowledge for how to rock your internships! I wish someone came along side me and prepped me before I started. There were a lot of uncharted waters that I felt uneasy and insecure about. It is a normal feeling. If you are a supervisor for SLP graduate interns, share what some of your best interns did in the comments!