Krejci Academy, Naperville, IL
Alexis works as a Speech Language Pathology Graduate Student Clinician at her practicum.
Why did you choose this placement?
For my final placement I will be working at Krejci Academy, a school that serves students between the ages of 5-21 diagnosed with ASD, social/emotional, behavioral, and/or other developmental disabilities. I chose this particular placement because ASD has been a population I have always been interested in serving. This placement will allow me to integrate my personal experience with ASD and the knowledge I’ve gained throughout my courses.
Outline of your role and responsibilities at your practicum.
Here at Krejci Academy, I plan and execute individual therapy sessions and I run a 30-minute lesson in a classroom twice a week. During these lessons, students work on being part of a group, following directions, and using words to ask for a break or help prior to engaging in negative behaviors. Additionally, I conduct evaluations as needed utilizing formal and informal measures to determine if speech services are warranted. If students require speech services I then assist my supervisor in developing appropriate goals. I attend and actively participate in weekly collaborative meetings to discuss students’ progress and challenging behaviors. As a team, we strategize potential solutions and decide what to implement, for how long, and who will implement the strategy discussed. We then touch base the following meeting to discuss progress of if any changes need to be made to the plan. I assist my supervisor in training staff on students’ AAC devices and advocate for students to have their devices readily accessible and charged throughout the school day. Lastly, I am responsible for maximizing my students’ abilities to prepare them for a more independent setting and supporting their families throughout the process.
Describe a challenge you have faced thus far in your practicum.
A challenge I have faced this semester has been managing challenging behaviors. It’s something we don’t necessarily learn in our courses but something we learn from our clinical experiences. In past placements, I have only had to do light behavior management. This semester has challenged me to hone in on my behavior management skills and think outside-of-the-box. Behaviors here vary from avoidance behaviors (i.e. students leaving the classroom without permission/refusing to participate) to aggressive behaviors and everything in between. Each child is very different and requires a different level of support. I have really had to collaborate with the other staff in the building to learn what works best for certain students. The paraprofessionals have been an excellent resource for me because they spend the most amount of time with these students and I learn from them every day. As I get to know the students better I get new ideas of what might work. I still continue to learn from my mistakes or ideas that have not been very successful but I’m always willing to try and learn new things for my students.
How has Saint Mary's College prepared you for this practicum?
Saint Mary’s prepared me well for this practicum in several ways. For one, they have allowed me to incorporate my personal experience, knowledge gained from coursework and experience obtained through previous placements. Saint Mary’s has always challenged me to not be afraid to ask for help when needed while encouraging me to be as independent as possible.
At the Judd Leighton Speech and Language Clinic we were never “told” what to do but instead encouraged to develop our own ideas and problem-solve on our own. However, we were always able to run our ideas by our supervisors, ask for their help when needed, and of course, when necessary, they would step-in to offer additional support.
During my time at Saint Mary’s, I acquired experience across several settings, including the campus clinic, the convent, a skilled nursing facility, a public school, and a therapeutic day school. While I was prepared to use the skills I acquired to begin serving these individuals, I was also ready to learn from experienced SLP’s. All of my clinical placements have allowed me to refine skills, gain new skills, and grow as a clinician and as an individual.
None of us expected to end our last semester of graduate school this way, but we have adapted. During this pandemic, I have been able to utilize my flexibility to adjust and transition over to teletherapy. This is new territory for a lot of SLP’s and certainly a learning experience. Nonetheless, thanks to Saint Mary’s, I am prepared to take on the challenge and utilize the strong foundational skills I have acquired to serve children and their families during this time of uncertainty.
If you could go back to the beginning of this externship, for what would you tell yourself to be prepared?
If I could go back to the beginning of this externship I would have told myself step out of the “student” mentality and be ready to put my flexibility to the test. This externship was unlike any other, I had more independence. My supervisor would leave the room but stay close by in case I needed help. Nonetheless, I was expected to attempt to handle certain behaviors on my own. While it’s good to have a plan, it’s important to know that they don’t always work. As clinicians, we need to be able to think quickly on our feet and work with what we have. For me, that means sometimes conducting therapy in a different room, pushing into the classroom last minute, or sitting in silence until the student was ready. A lot of times my plans didn’t work and I had to change activities half-way through the session. A lot of the students I worked with were also trauma kids and sometimes on those really bad days, working on their speech wasn’t what they needed. Instead, what they needed was a safe place to talk about whatever they needed to talk about. In a session, you just never know what’s going to happen, and we need to be able to shift gears and make it work.