Newly Qualified: How to Find Out that You Actually Know Nothing

Post by Emily Webb, Speech and Language Therapist/Tobii Dynavox Community Evangelist

Life as a Newly Qualified Therapist is daunting. Wide-eyed and enthusiastic with a degree hot off the press, but an overwhelming feeling that you know nothing.

Never one to make life particularly easy for myself, I have chosen to undertake my first role as a Speech and Language Therapist at Tobii Dynavox, who just happen to be the largest AAC company in the world.

As a result, I now find myself talking to some of the most qualified AAC specialists internationally, trying hard to strike the balance between being knowledgeable enough to engage meaningfully in conversations whilst humble enough to ask the most basic questions. This is all whilst trying desperately to hide the fear in my eyes when anyone mentions anything about programming.

So, two months in to the job let me summarise what I have learnt in to two key points.

  1. There are LOTS of AAC options.

And I mean lots. I spent my first couple of weeks dreaming about pagesets, vocabulary packages, symbols, core vs pre-programmed messages, hi-tech, low-tech, paper based solutions, PODD, Compass, Communicator, switches, eyegaze, partner-assisted scanning. I could go on…

Stepping in to the AAC world is overwhelming. But it’s overwhelming for good reason.

Each individual requires their own particular mix of AAC options to build an effective communication system. This means that lots of options are available, meaning that people like me need a lot of time to get their heads around all of these options.

It means that it’s OK not to know everything and it’s OK to feel that you never will.

Which is why…

  1. There is a HUGE amount of AAC support online.

The AAC community online is large, active and vocal. I am now a member of several AAC groups on Facebook and not a day goes by without several exchanges from various members sharing achievements, difficulties and day-to-day advice and support. There are a huge number of individuals dedicated to promoting good practice with AAC.

I read blogs, engage in Twitter discussions, follow Pinterest boards, Google most terms that I see on Facebook and find hundreds of search results.

These forums teach me something new every day and I have been welcomed and supported by people who have never even met me. I have learnt from parents, teachers, therapists and users themselves. Social media allows a unique insight into the thoughts and feelings of families and AAC users accessing speech therapy services. Every pin, tweet and post adds something new to the mix, something to be considered and something to learn.

Turns out, it’s OK knowing nothing. You just need to know where to look.

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