The Best Thing I Learned This Summer

I’m so excited to have been asked to be a part of “The Frenzied SLP” group to bring you helpful tips throughout the year to stay #SLPstrong, and excited to bring you my first post with these wonderful ladies, as well! 

The best thing I learned this summer… Well, I’ve learned a lot of things this summer– like painting a fence by hand with a paintbrush is awful, and that potty training male puppies takes significantly longer than it does with females, for example.

But, the BEST thing I learned this summer?  

The best thing I learned this summer was how to find my balance between being an SLP, and being a person outside of an SLP.

The end of last school year was tough.  I really struggled the last couple months of school.  I had a higher caseload than I’d ever had before, with more significant-needs students than I’d ever had before, and had more meetings in the span of two months than I had ever had before.  58 meetings in 60 days– YIKES! Tons of evals from screenings and Infant/Toddler transitions, and a plethora of annual IEP meetings rolled into kindergarten transition meetings for many of my students in those last two months.


I was BURNT. OUT.  I had a really hard time compartmentalizing– probably in part because I was writing reports at home every night, but also in part because being an SLP is such a big part of my identity that I was feeling like my self-worth as a whole directly correlated to my performance at work.  I know I was doing the best I could, given my caseload numbers, needs of the kids, and the number of evaluations I had to complete, but I still felt like it just wasn’t good enough– I knew that some of my students could be making more progress than they were, and even though the circumstances necessary for that to happen were out of my control, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was still a reflection on me.

I felt like I was failing.

As paperwork consumed my entire being, I was not feeling inspired to come up with fun and engaging therapy activities.  A lack of inspiration when you’re a blogger, too, is never a good thing.  Most days during those last two months, I could barely bring myself to look through my Instagram feed (and guys– I L-O-V-E LOVE Instagram!) because it would be chock-full of wonderful, creative, and fun therapy ideas from other SLP bloggers, and I’d feel like a failure for not being inspired enough to come up with something noteworthy of my own to execute in therapy sessions and subsequently blog about.  Womp Womp.  Talk about a double whammy!

Something had to give, and I needed to find more of a balance this summer.  I like to visualize myself as having multiple “buckets” to fill– with each bucket being a separate aspect of my personality (if you’re not familiar with the term “bucket fillers,” go here).  The “SLP bucket” is an important bucket for me that needs to be filled, but does not need to be overflowing while other buckets go empty.  I needed to be able to come back and be my best self in August for myself, my coworkers, and my students.  So, here’s what I did to help achieve that balance!

1- Less time providing ESY services:  I dropped down from my regular 4 day/week position providing summer school services, to the 2 day/week position, and let another SLP take the 4 day slot.  This was one of the best decisions I could have made.  It gave me a chance to still make some extra money while taking some time to be away from the building!  I also had the chance to try out some new things I hadn’t had time to test out during the school year, like doing a large group lesson in a prek room (I always do small groups but haven’t done large group yet!) and using music with my AAC users (side note: One of those AAC/music ideas is going to be featured in the August issue of the ASHA Leader! Look for it when you get it!)

2- Less time being creative on the computer and more time being hands-on creative:  I put blogging and TpT off to the side for a little while this summer to spend more time being creative in other ways.  I finished some Pinterest projects I’d been wanting to do for a while, and got started on redoing our front porch and master bedroom.  During the school year, often times blogging and TpT and all of the things that go along with it are enough to keep my creative side happy and engaged, but I was craving something different and more hands-on, so I switched gears!

3- Less time perusing Pinterest for actual therapy ideas to start the new school year, and more time perusing for organizational ideas to help me start off the school year:  This small change has actually made a big difference.  Rather than going into full-blown therapy mode, I’m spending more time getting inspired for tips and tricks on how to make storage and organization more streamlined in my therapy room.  Can’t completely turn off that SLP brain (nor do I want to!) but this is a way of focusing that energy towards ideas that will hopefully help me all year long!

4- Spending time with coworkers outside of work:  Spending time with coworkers is something that might seem counter-intuitive when I’m needing to find more of a balance between work and my personal life.  HOWEVER…. It has been such a fun summer with these ladies.  They are hilarious and have such big hearts.  We’ve been having bi-weekly-ish coffee dates, trying out various coffee shops in our area.  Outside of coworkers, all my other friends and my husband are still working M-F during the day, so naturally I spend a lot of time at home on my own.  I get anstsy after a while!  Spending time during the week with my coworkers is an added bonus to having fun on the weekends, too.  It makes me feel like I’m doing more with my summer!

An additional bonus is that we all work with special needs kids, so these friends “get it” in the way that other friends don’t–they understand my love of all things school/office supply-related (ha), they understand the emotional toll working with special needs kids can take on you, and they also completely understand the passion I have for what I do, because they have that same passion in the same or related fields.  I can be 100% supportive of an awesome project a friend is doing at work, or empathize with other friends going through stress at work, but I can’t fully understand their excitement or stress in the way they experience it, and vice versa.  It’s not a bad thing– it’s just different.  

I love being a speech-language pathologist and SLP blogger/TpT creator, but I’ve been working hard to find a balance between all of my “buckets” this summer and am going back to school in a couple weeks feeling more refreshed than I have the last two summers.  I’m going to work really hard to keep a balance this school year, even if it means having to write out and schedule specific times in the evenings to help me stick to it– for example, 
7-9pm: Blog & TpT
9-930: Read my book
930-1030: Watch a tv show with husband

It seems a little crazy but I think it just may work! 

What are some ways you are achieving balance between work and personal life? I’d love to hear your ideas! If you want to read about what some of the other SLP bloggers have found to be the best thing they’ve done this summer, click through to some of the blogs below!  And, if you want to link up, too, follow these instructions!

Sidewalk Chalk and Speech Therapy: Taking your session outdoors

Some days (aka every day), a girl just needs some fresh air and sunshine.

While I’m fortunate that even though my room is on the small size with no cabinets for hidden storage, I DO have two windows in my room. You win some, you lose some…Who needs more storage when you’ve got sunlight, am I right?

Even if you’re lucky enough to a) have a therapy room/office that’s not a former closet or bathroom and b) have windows (I know, we’re reaching for the stars for some of you here), sometimes those windows just aren’t enough. There are days when my body is CRAVING fresh air and the feeling of sunshine on my skin. When I get to that point, I’m pretty sure my students are feeling that x10, so on nice days, when the patio off the PreK/K pod or the blacktop are open, I’ll sometimes take therapy outside of the confining 4 walls of the therapy room. 
Cue: sidewalk chalk

My students LOVE switching it up (I’ll never forget the time I told one of my preschoolers we were doing therapy outside with chalk– his response was “YES! YES! YES! This is the best day EVER!!”  I mean, who am I to deny a child that kind of happiness?), and there are so many goals that can be targeted just using sidewalk chalk!

1.  Grammar:
a) Possessives: We draw a picture of a boy and a girl and draw objects around them (the girl’s ___, the boy’s ____, his ___, her ____).

b) Pronouns:  We use “he” and “she” in carrier phrases (ie “She has a…” “He has a….”).  We draw clothing items/accessories on the stick people, or draw objects around them.

2.  Associations/Go Togethers:  I say or draw a picture of an object, and the student(s) I’m working with have to tell me something that goes with it, and then draw a picture of their answer (ie I say or draw “web,” and they’d draw a spider).  I work on associations a lot with my 4 year olds going to kindergarten the following year!

3. Articulation: We draw pictures of words with their target speech sounds while we practice!

4. WH questions:  I ask a WH question, and the kids draw a picture of the correct answer.  For example, if I ask, “What does a bird build?” then they would draw a nest.

Sometimes I’ll get the “I don’t know how to draw it!” response, but I just encourage them to try their best and let them know that I don’t care what it looks like, just as long as they try! Most of them are good with this response 🙂

What other ways do you target speech and language activities with chalk?? 

PS- If you’re looking for handouts with more great ideas for chalk play (and lots of other outdoor play ideas!) to give to parents, check out this great “Summer Play” packet from SpeechRoomNews.  Shortly after I purchased it last May, I had a parent of a newly-evaluated student ask what he could do to work on communication skills over the summer.  Pulled this packet up on TpT, downloaded, hit “print” and off he went!