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SLP - emotionally draining?


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I've recently become really interested in SLP so I decided to shadow SLPs in a high school.

I now feel as though it's a really emotionally draining field. A lot of the kids are autistic and have behavioral impairments as well. It was really hard for me to watch one child on walkers barely able to communicate or understand what I was saying.

I worry that I won't be able to handle the emotional aspect of SLP. Has anyone ever felt this way? Can you offer some advice about this?


I love how the field is so rewarding, and I really want to help these kids, but I'm concerned about my own sensitivity. Would you think working in clinics or with younger children, it wouldn't be as difficult?


I think since I'm very new to this, I'm not as resilient. Maybe I'll "get used to it" as the years go by?

Thanks in advance for your advice!

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I think like a lot of fields, it can be emotionally draining. As with anything, it depends on your attitude -- and not everyone can get their attitudes where they need to be. Why would a hospice worker choose that field? They want to make life easier for someone in their last days, they think the end of life can be beautiful, they feel called to do it. Some people have a great attitude about jobs that are super boring to other people (sprinkler repair sounds like torture to me, but my nephew loves it).


So, as an SLP working with students with major problems, you might find joy in the actual work, but also the connection, and in knowing that you've made a difference for them and their families, even if it's a small difference. Right now, you aren't making a difference, you're just watching. So maybe this will improve when you get more experience. This is so much variety in the field, so I think you just need to find an area that works better for you.

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Also, it might help to think into the future for low-functioning individuals. They may seem nonverbal, but maybe they can sign. Perhaps they understand much more than it seems. As you continue to study, you start to learn about how the brain is impacted with different disorders and how you can best reach these individuals.  They might be frustrated because they're not being understood and this manifests itself in those bad behaviors. When you can find them a functional mode of communication, they will gain confidence and communicate in their way and their time :)

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Also, not all students are that low functioning... Some students might just have a stutter or have issues with pragmatics or verb tenses. So not all have as "big" of issues. It depends on the population you want to work with. Some go on to work in schools just for low-functioning kids, others go to schools for deaf children. 

If you still want to work with kids but not in the school you can consider private practice or outpatient centers. You'll see a wide range of kids in those settings, some in groups and others individually. I help out at an outpatient center and one group was just for pragmatics-- they would learn how to ask questions, infer and engage with others, another group was based on learning how to write in different styles. Some clinics only focus on stuttering, or accent reduction or what have you... so there's really a wide range of ways to work with kids without it begin as draining. (I'm guessing you might want to stay away from pediatric hospitals though, since many would have swallowing issues. That can be tough to see.) Although, I shadowed some SLPs in a pediatric cleft palate center in the local hospital and all were happy and upbeat. They do mostly diagnostics and not the actual therapy part, so if that part interests you then go for it. :)

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