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August 16, 2021

A Different Kind of Speech Therapy: Listening

All of the important things I’ve come to know about speech therapy I learned through my clients.

Today’s story is about the therapeutic power of listening

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One of my most impactful client-teachers was a man with a TBI (traumatic brain injury). He was a very successful professional, decorated with awards of recognition in his industry. He had sustained an workplace injury and was diagnosed with a "mild" TBI. One year out, he was still experiencing difficulty with memory, sensory processing, neurogenic stuttering, and attention fatigue. Formerly a confident and accomplished public speaker, he had now developed significant anxiety and shame around even the simplest of communication interactions, like ordering coffee or conversing with friends. Since the accident, he was receiving increasingly negative responses to his communication, even from family and colleagues. 

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July 20, 2021

Inclusive Meeting Practices for Employees With Communication Differences

Communication is a prized skill in the professional workplace, but one that does not come easily to everyone. Most job postings list “strong communication skills” as a basic requirement, without really specifying what that means. Extraversion is often rewarded in the western professional world, even though introverts demonstrate traits that are critical to effective leadership.

Not everyone has a natural inclination toward verbal expression. Even senior employees with significant expertise and comfortable positions may struggle to contribute in a meeting context if they are not a natural “talker”. Many successful professionals have hidden communication disabilities.

It is normal for employees to contribute to a meeting in different ways and in different amounts. However, managers who value inclusiveness should pay attention to the structural and cultural elements of the meeting which may inadvertently raise barriers to communication. 

Here are four ways to ensure that your meetings are inclusive to employees with diverse communication needs. 

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June 21, 2021

Tips and Tricks for Re-entering the Social World

The summer of 2021 is here, and what a summer it seems we are expecting. Concerts, restaurants, festivals, and vacation experiences are back. We can get dressed up for fancy weddings, sing together at religious services, and cheer on our favorite sports teams. We can have real face-to-face conversations and experience the spontaneous kind of communication that is hard to access over Zoom.

While many people are eager to live their best post-COVID life as the US reopens, there are very many people who are dealing with a new kind of anxiety: how do I interact with people again? This may not rise to the level of clinically significant social anxiety, but I would describe many people right now as feeling socially apprehensive

If you’re the kind of person who struggles with communication even a little bit, for any number of reasons, COVID may have put you out of practice. You enjoy having relationships and want to be around people, but may be experiencing a sense of dread or fear of impending awkwardness at the thought of foraying back out into the social world.

Communication is a bit like a muscle: if you don’t use it for a while, your skills can get stiff and clumsy. Just like a prolonged break from physical training, there are recovery principles for communication ability. If you’re ready to see others again but feel apprehensive because of rusty communication skills, here are a few tips to help you “limber up” and ease back into the world of social interaction.

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May 20, 2021

Getting to Know Our Clinicians: Meet Michelle

Like some of the other therapists in our clinician highlight series, our voice specialist Michelle Roberts discovered her purpose which brought her to speech IRL in a roundabout way. She has been working as a professional voice specialist for 3 years, and the unique strength she brings to our practice is gender affirming voice therapy for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. She also works with an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) to help actors and singers with various vocal issues.

Michelle’s passion has always been self-expression; she was the theater kid who rounded up her friends to put on plays that she wrote, and she continued on that track through college. She earned a bachelor’s degree in theater and drama and got the idea to go back to graduate school to become a voice specialist from an acquaintance who happened to be a speech-language pathologist. Studying voice combined Michelle’s passions for self-expression, communication and the scientific aspects of cognition. She realized her dream of working with singers and performers, but along the way, she found a deeper sense of purpose in helping transgender and nonbinary individuals develop a voice that’s congruent with their identity.

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February 23, 2021

How To Moderate A Panel

Conference season is here! One year into COVID, our gatherings are still confined to the digital world—but most of us are now familiar and comfortable navigating online conferences.

This includes one of my favorite conference events: panels. Panels offer an engaging way to tap into the experience and insight of subject matter experts. Great panels are informative and dynamic. Each panelist has the opportunity to shine while contributing to a larger group conversation that captures the diverse nature of differing perspectives.

Well, that’s what a great panel can be. There are also...not so great panels.

As a professional, I have attended not-so-great panels. As a communication therapist, I have worked with many clients who have been panelists on not-so-great panels and told me of their woes after the event. 

One panelist hogged all the speaking time. There was no moderation. The moderator talked over the panelists or even argued with the panelists. The panelists didn’t have responses to the questions or seemed uncertain about what they were supposed to say. 

Who’s responsible for this? The moderator.

Moderating is an art and a skill, but it is also very much a science. Inexperienced moderators can create successful, rewarding panel experiences for both speakers and audience members by completing a series of very basic tasks. Surprisingly, many moderators (even experienced moderators) don’t do this, leaving even the most illustrious of panel speakers to flounder.

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December 15, 2020

Training and Culture: A COVID-Era Case Study

2020 taught us what is possible in a virtual work world. When it comes to training, how does virtual compare to IRL? A case study from 2020.

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November 19, 2020

The Art of Political Small Talk

The general rule for small talk is you can’t talk about politics. However, COVID-19 and the 2020 election have flipped this upside down.

Small talk often begins by talking about the shared environment—commenting on the weather, discussing upcoming holidays, etc. When we are talking through masks or over Zoom and experiencing an election of historic proportions, it’s a little hard to avoid the elephant in the room. 

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September 21, 2020

Common Unethical Employment Practices in Speech-Language Pathology

Congratulations on graduating, CF-SLP! Welcome to the CFY job search, the first gauntlet of your new career. The good news is, getting that CFY job is something you only have to do once.

...well, hopefully once. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who take CFY jobs that turn out to be miserable, to the point that they decide to quit and find another CFY job to finish out the fellowship period. You know how much the CFY hunt sucks, so it really says something when a person decides to jump ship and put themselves through the wringer again.

New clinicians often struggle to determine if a job offer is reasonable, and if an employer seems decent. In many cases, the CFY is your first experience ever with a professional-class job, where the expectations and standards are different from positions like retail, hospitality service, or working at summer camps. 

I will say this as politely and professionally as I can: a lot of SLP employers are crap. The quality of clinical service delivery may be outstanding, the practice may be decades-old and have multiple locations, and the clients may report high satisfaction. Sadly, when it comes to what is good for the practice, what is good for the clients, and what is good for the clinicians...the clinicians are prioritized dead last (if even considered at all). Clinics can get away with this because there is a constant supply of naive, eager, and debt-ridden CFs who graduate every year that can be reliably recruited and discarded as needed.

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July 22, 2020

How to Speak 2020

This post is for anyone who gets overwhelmed by headlines, Instagram stories, and tweets that use all kinds of social terms you aren't familiar with. You want to ask questions, but are afraid of saying something wrong in the process. Here's what you should know before you download "Social Justice" on Duolingo.


“Katie, you know what makes me so angry?” My passionate teenage client had just arrived, the conversation ready to explode out of him before he had even sloughed off his backpack.

“What?”

“People using the wrong pronouns! Like, I have a bunch of friends who have updated their pronouns, and it’s like, cool. I use their new pronouns. And my other friends, they all use the new pronouns too. You know what I’ve noticed, it’s adults who don’t use the right pronouns. And they make all these excuses, like ‘Oh I’m trying,’ ‘Oh it’s hard to change habits’, whatever. Like, bullshit. It’s not that hard. Just be a decent person, shit!”

“That’s a pretty interesting observation.” I paused. “I have that same problem, too. I am trying, but I mess up a lot.”

He blinked, confused. “Wait, what? You?”

“Yeah. I think you’re spot on about adults versus younger people. It is a lot harder to change those verbal patterns when you’re older. I’ve noticed the difference in my brain now, back from when I was a teenager. Even with the work that we do at speech IRL now, I am really clumsy with pronouns. You’re still right, of course—it is no excuse, it’s a reminder that I need to dedicate more time to practice. But adult brains...we’re very slow at changing patterns like this.”

His body language softened. “Hmph. I guess. But it’s still wrong.”

“Yes, that’s absolutely true,” I agreed. “It’s not fair or right to those on the receiving end. So, support your friends who are dealing with people like me. And make sure you enjoy your adaptable brain while you have it.”


In the era of memes, tweets, angry acronyms and eponymous insults, the words we use mean more in 2020 than ever before. As this client pointed out, we’re all making changes to the way we talk about certain things—especially this year—because our society as a whole is changing. It was easy for me to empathize with his frustrations because I’ve had my own moments of disbelief and impatience with others who aren’t adjusting as quickly as I’d like them to. 

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June 24, 2020

Shy or Silent: Tips for Speaking up in Groups Post-Quarantine

by Rachel Muldoon, MSc, CCC-SLP

As long as it took many of us to get acclimated to working from home and practicing social distancing over the past few months, the tide is about to turn. After loneliness, zoom fatigue, and other effects of isolation, we may start to experience a kind of disorientation when we encounter larger groups of people and try to navigate conversations with more than one or two participants. Add in concerns about social distancing, and you may find yourself so distracted by reading social cues and keeping a safe distance that it becomes difficult to follow what’s being said at all, much less interject with your own thoughts and opinions.

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8 S. Michigan Ave, Suite 812 
Chicago, IL 60603
312.870.0352
Or send us a message

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8 S Michigan Ave, Suite 812 
Chicago, IL 60603
312.870.0352
Or send us a message

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8 S Michigan Ave     Suite 812
Chicago, IL 60603
312.870.0352
Or send us a message

logo

8 S Michigan Ave, Suite 812
Chicago, IL 60603
312.870.0352
Or send us a message

logo

8 S Michigan Ave, Suite 812
Chicago, IL 60603
312.870.0352
Or send us a message
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Looking for employee training? Check out our Business Services
Looking for employee training? Check out our Business Services
Looking for employee training? Check out our Business Services
Looking for employee training? Check out our Business Services