In this back-to-school season, there’s something about the aisles of fresh notebooks and arrays of colorful pens and pencils that brings out the student in all of us. As speech-language professionals, our professional ethics insist that we all be lifelong learners, and the rapid advancements in treatments, disorders, and healthcare demand it of us in our work. While we must earn continuing education credits to maintain our certifications and licenses, staying up to date requires more than a few hours a year of formal education.
Here are 7 ways to keep the learning going for adult-focused SLPs:
1) Participate in Social Media
There’s no faster way to get information than the steady stream of social media. Where else can you pick the brains of thousands of other professionals around the world with instant results? Not every piece of advice will be theoretically sound, nor will every voice always be friendly, but there are informal learning opportunities on social media that are unparalleled in other venues.
Professional groups on Facebook allow SLPs to discuss clinical cases, share resources, and ask questions in a supportive environment. Here are a few of the larger and more active groups to join:
- Adult Rehab Speech Therapy
- Medical SLP Forum
- Dysphagia Therapy Group – Professional Edition
- Geriatric SLP, OT, PT Collaborative Group
Twitter allows similar interactions, connecting professionals via hashtags like #SLPeeps, #WeSpeechies, and #MedSLP. When there’s a conference happening, often attendees will tweet out key points with a unified hashtag, like #ASHA15.
2) Follow Blogs
Compared to social media, professional blogs offer a more organized discussion of a topic, while still being easily digestible.
Cooperative blogs are emerging in the adult therapy space, sharing the writing of many authors, or a primary author and guest bloggers, around a theme:
- Tactus Therapy – focus on acquired communication disorders and technology
- Gray Matter Therapy – focus on ethics and dementia
- Dysphagia Café and SwallowStudy – focus on swallowing disorders
- ASHA Leader Blog – general focus for all SLPs
- Medical Speech Pathology – no longer updated, but some great archives
Our hugely popular Getting Started with Apps in Speech Therapy blog series is now an e-book! Download the free PDF to have all the great info in one document you can share.
3) Read Journals
Aphasiology, Dysphagia, and Seminars in Speech and Language are some excellent journals to follow. AJSLP and JSLHR are also good, and ASHA members get free access. SpeechBite summarizes new research articles, with a helpful e-mail newsletter. Sign-up to receive an e-mail of the table of contents for your favorite journals so you’ll know when there’s a study you want to read.
If you don’t subscribe to a journal, check if your hospital or medical network has a librarian who can get you articles on request. If you supervise graduate student interns, see if the university will give you library privileges (or ask the student to get you articles). Search Google Scholar to see if there are complete PDFs available if the article isn’t in an open-access journal.
Once you’ve read an article, share it! Many SLPs publish blog posts on the second Tuesday of the month discussing what they took away from a research article (#ResearchTues).
4) Join a Group
Join an ASHA SIG (Special Interest Group) for access to both the community forums and the Perspectives articles. SIG 2 (Neurogenics), 13 (Dysphagia), and 15 (Gerontology) are great for adult-focused SLPs. To read all the articles and forums, join any group; join all the ones you want to participate in. SPECS is an adult-focused Google group with helpful conversations based in Australia.
Some of the best discussions come out of casual conversations with other SLPs. Having an IRL (in real life) group of professionals to meet with can be fun and educational. Your area may have a speech therapy Meet-Up group or a journal club, or you can start one! Knowing the other SLPs in your area with similar interests can pay dividends when transferring patients or looking for a new job.
5) Learn Online
Online learning offers unmatched convenience to learn in your home or office. SpeechPathology.com offers unlimited CEUs for a reasonable annual fee. ASHA also offers online conferences, webinars, and live chats. Many specialty certifications, such as LSVT and MBSImp, can be completed online.
Take the hour-long video or audio course Integrating Apps into Aphasia Therapy by Tactus Therapy’s SLP Megan Sutton to learn more about the latest technology for aphasia rehab and life participation. You can also take her ASHA Webinar covering all of neurogenic rehab!
6) Attend a Conference
While attending a live conference has the added expense of travel or days off work, getting away can help you immerse yourself in the content and result in better focus, processing, and retention. Attending in-person also creates a chance to network with the presenters and other participants for even more learning opportunities.
Here are a few of the best annual conferences for adult-focused SLPs:
- The annual ASHA Convention offers courses, posters, exhibits, and short-courses
- ASHA Health Care and Business Institute has tracks for dysphagia and communication
- Academy of Neurological Communication Disorders and Sciences (ANCDS) offers a one-day conference the day before the ASHA national convention
National conferences hosted in the UK, Australia, Canada, and Ireland may be worth traveling abroad for. Stroke conferences, brain injury events, or laryngology sessions can offer interdisciplinary education and networking. Your own state, regional, or provincial conference might have great speakers, or if you can’t find the right conference, organize your own! Most speakers can be brought in by a hospital network, university, or regional SLP organization.
Teaching is an effective way to learn and can take many forms:
- Supervise a graduate intern
- Mentor a new grad or clinical fellow
- Teach a guest lecture at a university
- Present a session at a conference
- Create a research poster from a case study
Writing a blog is also a form of teaching that pushes professionals to research their facts and expose their thoughts to a larger audience. If you’re not ready to start your own blog, consider a guest post on a more established blog. Want to share a post here? Please contact us!
What have we missed? What works for you in your region or experience? Please share in the comments so we can all continue to learn!
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