Not So Different

We are not so different. The proof is in the pudding.

As a school-based SLP, I have worked for over 23 years to promote student success through communication skills. I have been perhaps one of many who tended to think, “I am not a medical SLP.” But then ArSHA happened to me.

Membership and involvement in ArSHA have given me a multitude of diverse experiences with diverse providers in speech-language pathology and audiology. The first fact between us all is that our training and certification have given us the preparation and the obligation to protect and promote communication skills across an age span. The second fact between us is the obligation to stay open-minded and learn so that when we meet the client, student, or patient with something we haven’t encountered in a while, we refresh our memories and skillsets to do our best to serve.

Enter the pudding. In August, we had the chance to come together for the ArSHA Convention. First slated for April, the third fact between us forced it to a later date. COVID has brought us all to a precipice from which we learn or fall. If you joined us for the Convention, you might have listened to Dr. Ianaessa Humbert and her dysphagia series. I hadn’t conducted a swallow evaluation in many years. It was riveting, literally. I went from thinking about pudding thick foods and barium swallows to accept that my own perceived inability to conduct a swallow assessment with exactness is precisely the truth. There was an odd comfort in facing and accepting that.

But to say I never needed to know it in my time with the schools is also incorrect. I have been that SLP planning for the safety of some of our most physically challenged students. In this, my safety net was in knowing that I DON’T have a guarantee. The best I can do is take educated recommendations, rely on the presence of medical notes provided to us, and avoid definite pronouncements without plenty of evidence.

We need each other. I know things, and you know things. Together we meet needs and plan for the future of our professions in the state of Arizona. 

Another recent example is a cohort of lead SLPs in schools around the state of Arizona. We found common ground when the COVID Pandemic struck all our lives and have found that there is comfort in numbers. It is good to know that we face similar issues and learn from one another’s application of wits to meet them. 

This lead SLP cohort was graced this week by a visit from the Arizona Department of Education Superintendent Kathy Hoffman. Can anyone say ROCK STAR?! To say she inspired us would underestimate the impact of her visit. It was a high energy meeting, and it was clear that she is still very aware of her roots in the field and compassionate to the needs of SLPs in Arizona. One of my favorite things she said was that “Communication skills can not wait. Kids need them. We need communication skills at school and in our personal lives.”

Amen to that. 

Do you know what else she said? To continue our goals as a profession and improve the conditions for everyone, we need to come together. We have to advocate for our professions to the state, to our organizations, and the community. She cautioned against the kind of venting that disparages our jobs. We need realism and compassion, and we need one another.

Come together! ArSHA has several efforts going all the time to affect change in state statutes that will allow us to reach the people who need communication skills. This can not wait. We are building bridges and finding the facts between us, no matter the work setting or the expertise, regardless of race, creed, or generation.

At ArSHA we believe the time is now. Never before have we faced a time which both compels us to unite, and seems to challenge us to do so. Opposition is a constant but we are strong and capable and have a very large collective voice, if we so choose to direct it.