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SLP New Graduate's Corner: Developing an Opinion

by Katie Millican MS., SLP-CFY
developingopinionThe transition from Speech-Language Pathology graduate student to an independent, unsupervised SLP is an awkward time. I’m frolicking through my last internship of graduate school, and I can’t help by notice the differences in my clinical and professional skills. The promise of learning from a new supervisor coupled with the triumph of securing an SLP-CF position in the fall heightens my self-awareness.
The awkwardness reminds me of my teenage years, which was almost 6 years ago (once upon a time, really). Still living at home, drivers license in hand, and plans with friends made. Keys at the ready, I was free as a bird…after I consulted with my father of course. The gatekeeper. The Oz of Curfew. It’s easy to overlook those pesky details of asking permission or seeking advice when you think you are standing on your own two feet. This same awkwardness has followed me into SLP graduate school. When confronted with 30 new clients, inclusion of technology, and finding evidence, how quickly I’m reminded of my unsure footings. Yet, those footings are stronger than I imagined.
Somewhere along the way, I laid a foundation. Mentally. Emotionally. Academically. Clinically. Professionally. Using input from professors, supervisors, clients, classmates, research, studying, and observations, I compiled what I consider the SLP grad school components to my knowledge base. No matter what university attended, SLP graduate students soak up the opinions of others combined with research and clinical experience. It’s inevitable that if your supervisor likes or dislikes a certain approach, you may be so inclined to follow suit. After all, their opinion is based on facts right? (maybe – maybe not)
If you are an experienced SLP reading this, when did you develop your own opinion? When was that moment where you heard what another SLP said, and think, “Hmm, I don’t agree with that because of X, Y, and Z.”? Or when was that moment where a supervisor or classmate turned to you for advice instead of offering you their’s?
If you are an SLP graduate student still trying to develop an opinion, I’m 100% confident that this is normal. Questions, concerns, hesitancies are all part of developing an opinion. I’m still developing mine with each new clinical and professional encounter. Oxford Dictionary defines an opinion as “a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge“. That last part about not being based on fact is HUGE. HUGE!! Developing an opinion as an SLP graduate student comes with an honor system. Don’t just take what a supervisor says or does as the be-all-end-all for clinical decision making. Evaluate the evidence and consider what you observe in light of evidence, research, and evidence-based practice.
The awkwardness doesn’t last. At some point, we become a Speech-Language Pathologist. A professional. One who has diverse opinions and a foundation to stand upon. I for one am excited to venture out, expand my knowledge, and challenge those opinions.
About the Author:  Katie Millican
Katie Millican is a second year SLP graduate student at the University of West Georgia. She is moving to Alaska to complete her Clinical Fellowship experience in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District for the 2013-2014 school year. She is the author behind where she writes on topics to help inform future and current SLP graduate students, as well as iPad apps for use in therapy.

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