I remember deciding a few years ago that I wanted to be a Speech & Language Therapist.That decision fuelled an obsessive search for all things related to speech & language therapy. I wanted to know everything, what it was like, what it involved, the types of patients (and of course the salary scale). When I did my search back then I got quite a few results explaining the role, patients, pay etc. However I was dissatisfied, something was missing. There was no personal aspect to it. Most pages started “A speech therapist/pathologist is someone who…..” Somewhat informative but even more impersonal. I started searching for terms like “A day in the life of a speech therapist”, “Speech therapy blogs” “Speech therapy communities.” What I really wanted was a personal perspective: Do they feel fulfilled in their jobs, what is a typical day like, what area do they prefer to work in? How did they survive grad school?....I found nothing.
Over the years the field has evolved and become more technologically driven. Blogs and communities have popped up all over the web and there has been an increased awareness of not only the role and importance of SLT(P)s but also a detailed outlook on what therapy is really like. A simple google search opens up a whole new world of resources, shared experiences and life stories. This is even more evident from the posting of hundreds of youtube videos showing therapy sessions, and more recently with the use of social networking to create a speech therapy community.
Just over a year ago “twitter” was a foreign concept to me. I was introduced by a friend and could not for the life of me figure out how it worked. I thought “why would I keep randomly posting ‘what’s happening’?” and in 140 characters too. It really wasn’t working out for me. Then a few months on, I saw a random post by a guy called @StutteringMe. I was quite intrigued and followed him promptly. This gave me the motivation to search for other persons related to the speech therapy field, and was the start of a beautiful relationship with twitter. I found persons tweeting about autism, down syndrome and many other areas I was interested in. Most importantly I started to meet speech therapists/pathologists from all over the world. They were only a few at first, but this number started to gradually, then quickly increase over the next months. We shared our experiences, talked about our lives, our practices, patients, offered ideas, asked questions, and it made the community more real, more like a family. Here were these people all over the world who had never met, only sharing the same profession (or passion I would call it), coming together to talk, while waiting for a patient to show up, waiting in traffic, cooking dinner for family, even while in labour! This was the new face of speech therapy. Then Bob Bateman (@speechbob) showed his creative genius and came up with the term #slpeeps. This was a perfect description of us. Now any SLT(P) who joined twitter could use this hashtag to find us all, and we could use it to speak directly to our community.
We have grown and progressed in leaps and bounds, with over one hundred slpeeps now present on twitter, from the newbies like myself to the veterans. The big organisations such as ASHA and CASLPA have taken notice and become involved, and so have many of the major companies such as Super Duper and Proed Inc. This has contributed significantly to our professional development. We’re able to discuss topics of interest, share info on new research and resources, and we have somewhere to turn and bounce ideas off of when we have absolutely no idea what to do with a patient. It is guaranteed that if you present a case to the #slpeeps you will get some feedback, sometimes within minutes. SLPs-to-be are also an active part of the community, something I wish I had while in grad school.
Most importantly the #slpeeps community provides a strong support network for therapists. On those days when you feel absolutely useless, they are there to say “I’ve been there, you can do it.” They are motivating, they are inspiring, they keep you going. We talk about real issues that affect us. Recently in a conversation about burnout, after hearing others experiences one member asked
“Where were you twitter #slpeeps telling me that years ago? I had such a rough patch I wanted to work as a cashier!”
Now we are here to provide support, and it looks like we’re here to stay.
We’ve recently taken it a step further than 140 characters, with the addition of a “Twitter SLP Goal Bank,” a “Shared Resource Links” page and a “Resource Share Folder,” via Google Docs. Here slpeeps can share and access goals, links and files all in one place. This is developing well and is already gaining worldwide recognition across SLT networks.
I am proud to be part of the #slpeeps community and I think that we can only keep moving forward from here. This is the start of something huge and I would encourage everyone who hears about it to become a part of it quickly, because they’re already missing out on greatness.