SLP Toolkit Podcast, Episode 26, Transcript
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Lisa: (00:10) Well, hi Sarah.
Sarah: (00:39) Hi Lisa. How the heck are you today?
Lisa: (00:41) I’m a little ASHA hungover.
Sarah: (00:43) Seriously. It’s been what almost two weeks? Maybe. And I still don’t think I’ve recovered.
Lisa: (00:49) But I’m in my forties now so it takes longer to recover any kind of hangover.
Sarah: (00:53) Right, it’s not like back in the days where you bounce back real quick from something like that. But it’s true. But you know, wasn’t that the best ASHA ever?
Lisa: (01:00) I had a great time.
Sarah: (01:01) It was my favorite to date. And one of the things that made it our favorite was we kicked it off with like the coolest party probably ASHA’s ever seen. Well, they didn’t see it cause they weren’t invited.
Lisa: (01:13) Everyone was invited.
Sarah: (01:14) Yeah, that’s true. But I meant the organization itself had nothing to do with it, but it was SLPE we threw. And who was our DJ for that amazing event?
Lisa: (01:25) Well you want his formal name or his nickname?
Sarah: (01:27) Well, yeah, do his Instagram handle and then you can introduce him, his real name and then what we actually call him.
Lisa: (01:35) Well, we have actually in the confessional today said DJ.
Sarah: (01:40) Yup.
Lisa: (01:40) And his birth mom’s given name is Chris Wenger.
Sarah: (01:45) That’s right.
Lisa: (01:46) On Instagram he’s the speech dude.
Sarah: (01:49) Yes.
Lisa: (01:49) but we affectionately refer to him as The Weng
Sarah: (01:55) So we are so excited that he– I don’t know why– agreed to come into the confessional today with us. We probably got him super drunk when we asked him to do it at the party, but he did agree. And so we have the speech dude, AKA The Weng here today.
Chris: (02:14) The Weng is in the house
Lisa: (02:19) You’re not the first SLPenis in the confessional.
Sarah: (02:20) You are not, true.
Chris: (02:20) There we go. There we go. We–so yeah, I mean, after that opening party, I swear I think I was like buzzed for two days after that, being in my forties now.
Lisa: (02:34) We just asked because we started off saying, you know, we’re not going to get really hammered that night because you know, this is the first night we’ve got to do the exhibit the next day. And we get so excited to see everything and do tequila shots. So it was just one of those kinds of things.
Sarah: (02:48) We thought it was a super great idea to do this like, hey, let’s celebrate before all of the learning happens, but really, I mean, the timing probably wasn’t great. I hope everybody made the next day to the actual–
Chris: (03:02) I made it. I made it with a large cup of coffee in the hand and we were good to go. Absolutely.
Sarah: (03:07) Now we, so we met you virtually. I feel like, I mean, it’s been a while, but I was just telling Lisa the other day too. I feel like you kind of came out of nowhere. Like all of a sudden the speech dude is here and like has thousands of followers and everybody knows you and loves you. But I mean like when did you start having a presence like in social media world?
Chris: (03:31) Gosh, you know what, that’s funny you say that because yeah. I mean just in the speech related world and having the handle speech dude, like most of my stuff and still, till this day doesn’t necessarily, I mean, it ties into the speech pathology field, but it’s just kind of been all over the place. And just over the past year with me DJ’ing and with me kind of getting involved with traveling abroad with the therapy thing, and just everything and just kinda, you know, how things just kind of start one– it’s a rippling effect. You know, it’s one of those things where just like one person goes, oh, this is something that I like or something interesting. And then it just becomes a rippling effect of everybody going, hey, you know what? I kind of like what is out there. And then I kind of ran with it. And so it continues to, to be something that hopefully is supportive and provides meaning and just everything related to the, not just the field of speech, but just, well, more specifically to the field of speech but like with my DJ stuff sometimes on there. And yeah, it was just an interesting dynamic. So.
Lisa: (04:30) 5:00 AM gym call and you’re jumping into your cold ass pool, like a fool, I don’t understand any of this. But it’s highly entertaining.
Sarah: (04:36) And I love all the feel good things you always post, like, you always find the best stories about individuals that may have disabilities or things going on and like the impact they’re having and just different things that are like, feel good stuff. Like you always have such a positive message.
Chris: (04:54) Thank you so much. And I, you know, it’s interesting too. It’s funny, even like the whole thing, that’s kind of been that new, you know, jumping into 50 degree water at 5:00 AM, that’s fairly recent with that cold water submersion. And I kind of do like a little, you know, little like highlight or something about the benefits of that. And what I would like to do is talk about like how that can help impact just the concept with our students and kind of educate parents with kids with disabilities, who, you know, lose focus in class or who have those add or ADHD symptoms and signs of what are the benefits of doing a cold shower in the morning for your child? How can that impact them throughout the entire day of their school? Because those little things are the big things. You know, the cold water submersion concept too, and talking about increasing your dopamine levels and, you know, really getting away from the prescribed medications to target depression and all of these things. And how does it relate to our field specifically? So I kind of want to go that route with it, although it seems like it’s all over the place with, hey, this guy’s jumping in freezing cold water. There’s truly a benefit for everybody. So, that’s kind of the route I’m gonna take with it too.
Sarah: (06:04) Your message is consistent.You definitely have– you know what I mean? Even if it does appear that way, that you’re showing all of these different sides of you. Like we very much got you once we found you on social media, we instantly were like, he’s our best friend. Now, it’s also this great benefit of being one of the few males in this profession, and you’re not bad to look at. So I think that really impacted your following.
Chris: (06:34) That is hilarious
Sarah: (06:35) 'Cause I’m like where did this guy come from? And he’s so popular. And then I’m like, oh, duh, you know, like he’s got a good message and he’s easy on the eyes and he’s super fun. And so when we reached out to you, we were like, hey, we saw you’re a DJ, you want to be a DJ at this party? And so then we really got to know you and had such a blast at the party. And then got to spend so much time with you at ASHA. And we just thought, you know, I hope everybody has learned who you are at this point, but that this would be a really great episode to introduce you to all of our wonderful listeners and then have just a super cool conversation. Do you guys wanna talk about ASHA?
Chris: (07:06) You guys are the best. Thank you.
Sarah: (07:08) You’re welcome.
Lisa: (07:08) Yeah, let’s start with, even that opening night, I want to know, how we crashed the president’s party at ASHA–Weng.
Chris: (07:16) Oh my gosh.
Lisa: (07:19) That I was, all in.
Chris: (07:22) You guys are gonna love this pre-story. So we had our state convention back in March and it was in Pasadena and it was the exact same time as the American idol. And so they were doing their little taping during that time. And our ASHA president was there, Shari Robertson. And so being a director for one of the counties out here in California, I was given the opportunity to do the– give the awards out for, within our local district. And while I was up there standing and giving out the awards, in comes walking, our ASHA president and our CASHA president, our state level president. And so I stopped what I was doing. And I had said to the crowd, you guys, I just wanna let you know that I know Simon Cowell’s just right outside the door out here. Cause he had walked by previously in the day. I said, and there’s celebrities out there and I want to let you know that there are people that are even more famous than them and they are the best celebrities. I want to let you know right in the back right now, in come walking, our ASHA president, Shari Robertson and Beryl Fogel. Let’s give them a round of applause. And so I really, really hyped her up as she walked in as being the biggest celebrity ever. And afterwards she came over and she’s all Chris, I like the energy, I liked the introduction and everything that you did. Here’s my card. Here’s my number, contact me in the future. Yeah, so this is kind of where that all branched out. It was just one of those things where she’s like, you know what, we need to become best friends. And I was like, can I do a selfie? So I can post it on my Instagram and make it seem like her best friend. That’s truly where it came from. So then here we are, you know, we’re out hanging out that night of the, you know, the night before the opening of ASHA and I’m with you ladies and I get that information of, hey, so the ASHA president’s opening, you know, pre-party thing is over here, located here. And so that’s kinda where that stemmed from. And then in comes walking us, crashing her party. It was funny. That was the connection, and just the small world of it all too. But they definitely weren’t really expecting us to show up at that time ‘cause we had our little thing over at the ice bar. So,–
Lisa: (09:44) Actually the perfect time to show up because things had kind of cleared out, so I feel like we got to just kind of roll in, say hi, make introductions, give some support. But then, you know, if she would have been surrounded by, I don’t know how many people go there, but it was like kind of cool just to roll up and be like, hey, how’s it going?
Sarah: (10:01) I know the best is that Lisa’s telling me about the whole thing the next morning. And she’s like, yeah, so I met the ASHA president and hung out with her and then I also met this other person who is really well known. I mean, have you ever heard of somebody named Judith Montgomery? And I’m like, what?! Like are you joking? she’s like such a rock star. I own her books. I have followed her and heard her speak and she’s amazing. And she’s like, oh yeah, I was talking, I was talking to her too. And I was like–
Lisa: (10:25) I said too bad you went to sleep.
Sarah: (10:27) I know. Dang it.
Lisa: (10:28) Missed out on all the fun.
Sarah: (10:30) Oh, it’s so cool.
Chris: (10:31) Oh my gosh. That was so cool.
Lisa: (10:33) Yeah. I loved all the like, I mean, ASHA’s always a great time. And I think for people that have never been to ASHA, I always say definitely try to go because just to be in the presence of like, you know, 15,000 other people that do what you do is pretty cool in itself and the learning that happens, but all of the access to things that are pre and post– which I don’t know as a first timer, I even would have thought of going to a closing party or going to, we went to that fundraiser, the foundation dinner and all of that kind of stuff, if you’re able to fit that in too is super cool, because then you’re getting opportunities to do things that they close it down to the public. And so it’s just a different kind of experience and it’s always in a cool location.
Sarah: (11:13) Yeah, yeah.
Chris: (11:16) That was the best part about it. So when at this current time as coming up as the director over here for CASHA and speaking to the universities to the upcoming students, the one advice that I give all of the undergrad and grad students is be connected, become part of your state organization, get involved with NSSHLA, get involved to networking. And so that foundation party that we did, that’s what it’s all about. It’s going there and just getting connected with everybody. So during that foundation party was when I had met our former ASHA president, Dr. Gil Herer, and he was with Judy Montgomery and in comes all sorts of other ASHA presidents. It’s like the connection of just being there and being involved can go so far for everything, for you know, getting into our topic of advocating and really getting ourselves the credit that we deserve as speech pathologists. So, yeah, I mean, those little things are the big things at ASHA.
Sarah: (12:20) I was going to say too that is the one thing we have– you know we’ve been doing, we started at toolkit, I don’t know, maybe four, well, it’ll be four years in January when we launched the app and we’ve been very focused on creating solutions for school-based SLP’s specifically because that’s where we came from and we knew the needs and demands and the struggles that we faced. And so we were like, you know what, we’re just going to do something about it. And so that’s a lot of what we do is trying to find these solutions. But at the same time, we have never really gotten involved with ASHA, the organization, or, you know, our state organization. We did a couple of committees, but really nothing there. And so I felt like we’ve always tried to just like, you know what, forget it. If they’re not going to do anything for us, we’re just going to do it ourselves kind of thing. And this year we just came with a different attitude and we thought, you know what? We cannot sit here and complain and make all of these comments that we don’t feel like we’re supported or that ASHA doesn’t notice that, you know, the school based SLPs are the largest part of the entire organization. We’re more than half of the total population of individuals that hold C’s in ASHA and that they’re ignoring us and that they’re not hearing us and they’re not seeing us. And that we have never even tried to find out what they are really doing or how we can actually help. And so that’s why we did the foundation dinner for the first time I went to the SIG 16 meeting for the first time, you know, and it was just kind of eye-opening that I thought, you know, it is, it’s important to get out there to make those connections and to be networking so we can try to make a bigger difference.
Lisa: (13:49) Well, and even for new people, even if you’re not starting from a place of getting involved in state and national organizations, having that same outlook on the school that you’re in, you know, like getting out there, not being, just sitting in your speech room, but getting connected and networking within your district within your school. And it makes such a difference on your ability to be impactful overall in whatever it is that you’re doing.
Sarah: (14:10) For everybody. Yeah. Yeah. And so I love that you’ve done that. Before– I want, I really do want to talk about that piece of it and some of the things that you’ve done cause we’ve chatted about some of the cool stuff that’s happening at your high school, but we really never introduced you. And so will you just talk a little bit about your background because I love that you came from the special education world as a teacher. Will you talk a little bit about that?
Chris: (14:35) Okay. Yeah. I’ve got like such a crazy, like diverse background with how I ended up with where I’m at. So with that being said, I in high school decided to drop sports and play music because blink-182 came out and I’m like, I want to be in a band and I want to sing. So this all started I kid you not, mid-nineties. And so I’m in the band. This was right when the internet started making its way into where people were no longer having to go to the local record store to get flyers or to find out about local concerts, but they were getting on the internet. And in order to promote that, I had learned about coding and how to develop websites. So I started coding for our band and developing websites and expanding that into making money by doing it for other bands as well. So there’s that component, ‘cause I’m going to tie that into the speech component in a sec. After the ban, didn’t really– I did some touring and I did a little bit of music stuff so that’s where the DJ thing came into play is ‘cause I have a background in music. So I went to school for becoming a mild-moderate disabilities educator. And I taught in the classroom for two years. And then during those two years, our SLP at the time, Steve Philburg, he would call the class repetitively and say, hey, Mr. Winger, is there a way that I can get these two kids out? And you guys know this story, I’m always like Mr. Philburg, Is there any way that you can take all the students? Because I didn’t want to work. There would be times, you know, where you’re like, oh my gosh, I’m just drained. I’ve got like 24 of these kids squeezed in a classroom right now, you know, my first year. And so at that point, it kind of triggered my mind of at least the idea of looking into speech pathology. I would go to these IEP meetings and in IEP meetings, they would always turn to the speech pathologist and say, Mr. Philburg, first off, I want to, I want to start this meeting by saying you are so fantastic. You are helping our child communicate, making friends and just it’s been an amazing situation. And then they would turn over to me the case carrier, and say, okay, Mr. Wenger, we need to talk about why Johnny is getting a C on his English. And we’re really mad about this. I said, I do not, I don’t like the context of this. I want to be Steve Philburg. I don’t want to be over here. And just for many other reasons. So I kind of shadowed him and, and then I went back to school and then I went to Cal State Fullerton and then transitioned out to another– Cal State Northridge to get my speech, get licensed there. And then yeah, just ran with it. So now, you know, fast forward here. 14 years later, I’m kind of infusing that technology piece with speech pathology and traveling and speaking on that end of things. So I had a background in coding and so I really know apps and websites and now I know the language based stuff, so it’s kind of all come together. And then the DJ thing is just working towards speech. And so yeah, what a crazy dynamic and trip that I ended up here, where I’m at as a male SLP.
Lisa: (17:42) Well, and having the background in special education as a teacher is invaluable because you already go in with an appreciation of the curriculum and having that kind of broader scope of what’s expected of these kids, especially in high school. I mean, they’re transitioning out of, you know, public schools into real life. So that’s a super cool kind of transition to make.
Sarah: (18:04) Yeah.
Chris: (18:05) Big time and yeah. And that’s so with the added support in those training classes of writing IEP goals and just really having a good sense before even being a speech pathologist of I already know how to write an entire IEP. I don’t need to just update the present levels and the goals and the services page, I already knew how to develop a whole 20 page IEP prior. When I first got on board too, it wasn’t online, it was hand written. So that was right when I first got into being a mild moderate educator and then yeah, then transitioned into some programs. And now it’s just full blown, you know, easy access through the internet. But yeah, so I mean just over time and having that history of it has been super helpful. And the other–
Sarah: (18:52) I love those videos of you at the high school at different events and things with your students, it is the coolest thing. And I think they must love you. Like you– it just looks like you have the best connection with all of those kids and the impact you’re making there is so awesome.
Chris: (19:08) Yes. You know, it’s funny you say that that’s the vibe that I got. I was like, okay, how are, how is this SLP Toolkit, Sarah and Lisa going to be, when I meet them? And then right when I met you guys, it was like full energy. And it was like, oh my gosh, I am going to have the best freaking time.
Lisa: (19:24) You haven’t even met the full version. We were real tired from you know, all of our parties and exhibiting at the booth.
Sarah: (19:31) That was only half tank.
Chris: (19:33) That was the 50%– that was like on a five point scale, we were at a three. I haven’t seen you guys at a five yet have I?
Sarah: (19:41) No.
Chris: (19:41) That is classic. But you know, what’s funny though, is that’s exactly how it transitions into the way I see it, when I work in the community with a lot of the kids in those videos, that you see I post is the same way when I met you guys, which was big smiles, hey, what’s going on? My name is speech dude. What’s your guy’s name? Hey, we’re SLP Toolkit, Lisa and Sarah. And it’s just like right off the bat, you just know we got something, we got a connection. I explained this to my kids on the spectrum a lot that when they come walking into my office and that just their appearance and the way that they move, I say that alone is going to let people know how they’re going to respond. And you know, oftentimes more so than not, they walk in and it’s like the appearance and the way that they look gives off this vibe that they don’t want to talk to anybody. And so then I’ll show them, you know, how Ellen Degeneres walks down with her dancing. I say, look at the audience, look at the faces. Just the way she enters, sets the tone for the rest of the episode. And that’s how it was when I saw you guys when we met over out at the ice bar was like, we set the tone right off the bat. It’s like, oh God, we’re gonna have a great time. Here we go. That’s how I, that’s my school of thought with my students every single period, every single time I get out in the community with them is we’re going to set the tone. This activity, or this event is going to be amazing. Whether we’re going to go bowling or whether we’re going to do like a special Olympics, grizzly games or a Cucamonga cooler relay event or whatever the event is, we’re going to make it awesome.
Lisa: (21:12) So can we talk a little bit about high school? Because I feel like it’s one of those things that is super polarizing for school-based SLPs that you’re like I’m in high school and will never work with elementary kids or vice versa. You’ve got the people who work with younger students and can’t ever imagine working in high school. So tell us a little bit, like, you know, for those people that might be nervous about making that jump, what that looks like, like how–
Sarah: (21:37) yeah maybe what your role is there I guess. It’s very different, I think, than what we do at the elementary level.
Chris: (21:43) It definitely changes the dynamic. Let’s start with the what it looks like. They’re three feet taller.
Lisa: (21:48) They’ve got body hair
Sarah: (21:53) They smell worse. Yeah.
Chris: (21:57) Yup. They take PE and they don’t realize that they have PE first period that you’re supposed to put deodorant on for the rest of the day.
Lisa: (22:09) I feel like this is all stuff that comes up where, you know, like as a kid, you didn’t have to deal with any of this, which is actually solidifying my point of wanting to stay in elementary.
Chris: (22:20) Well, no, this is the pragmatics part of why it’s so fun working with high school kids though, they’ll come Freshman year and it’ll be week one, they come into speech and I got, oh God, I have speech again? And I go, what? You don’t like speech? They go, no sir. I already know how to speak. And I say, I know that you know how to speak. And I know that you are great with language and this and that, but–and they go, nope, I don’t want it. I don’t want speech I’m done with it. I’ve had it for eight years. And I said, okay, no problem. Hey, but you’re in high school now. Have you ever thought about wanting to maybe go to the homecoming dance or maybe getting a girlfriend? And they go, what do you know about that?
Lisa: (23:03) And you’re like, not much.
Chris: (23:08) I don’t know anything, that’s why I’m still single, man. I’m not the guy to talk to. But that’s the buy in for at least being a male SLP and the high school thing is, hey, I’m not going to– my job is not to get you a girlfriend but my job is to help you relate so you don’t push them away. And so– but this all ties back into that deodorant thing.
Lisa: (23:31) I have some grown men that I’m gonna need you to talk to that I’ve been out with recently that might need some of your services.
Chris: (23:39) Yeah. It’s funny because like, you know, using these whole concepts of expected and unexpected behavior, social behavior mapping, all that stuff, while I’m out with my friends at yard house or whatever bar we’re at it’s constantly going through my mind, of I’m like, buddy, that was unexpected. Now that girl– now you just made every girl in the bar, not want to come and talk to us because of that behavior. Thanks.
Lisa: (24:02) Well I laugh too because the kids don’t realize it, but like you said, even adults, or kids without special needs of any kind– my daughter had a dance recital last night and my mom and I were watching these two teenage boys talk to these two teenage girls in the front row of the audience. And you could see the one in the front super confident, like open smiling, using body language. And the other one was about three feet behind him, hands in his pocket, like head down.. I’m at– my mom’s like, that is so funny. Like he looks terrified to be anywhere there. And I go, I know and think about that from like a communication standpoint that that’s the vibe he’s putting off, so why are those girls going to even talk to him? They’re talking to the one that’s being friendly and looking like he wants to talk to them.
Chris: (24:47) Oh absolutely. It’s interesting because through, so as a high school SLP, that’s kind of like a big change from the elementary school because elementary school, you have a lot more targeted a lot more things targeting articulation, you’ve got more phonological processing targets, you’ve got more syntax based stuff. And when you get to high school, your initials are no longer, hey, I have a child who can’t say their R’s or their th’s or their S sounds or hey, you know what, they’re omitting the initial sounds on this. Or, hey, I’ve noticed that they kind of, you know, their language is kind of like Yoda where they’re putting all of the stuff in reverse order and in high school, the initials are, hey, so I had a child, you know, call the teacher a dickhead for giving them a B. And so we’re going to make a referral to you, Mr. Wenger, because that’s socially not appropriate. Which is true. It’s like, okay, if you’re willing to call a teacher a name or your constantly at battle, or having a difficult time socializing with your peers in small groups in high school, then that’s where the big dynamic is is that we’ve got, you know, a large group of kids where the target becomes more pragmatics than anything else. So it’s a very big shift when you get older, but that’s what I like. I like targeting the social cognitive deficits. I like being able to help kids who otherwise wouldn’t have a friend. And so what I can tell you is that that’s the big change too, for a parent in the IEP meeting, which is this: in elementary school, you get to the present levels page and the second question, or the second box on there says, what are your parent concerns?And you ask the parent, what are your concerns? And usually the concerns are, I want my child to be able to pass English and math or get better at math or, or I want them to be able to, you know, do X, Y and Z. In high school it becomes a little bit, I don’t want to say a little bit–it becomes a lot more aware where the parent– and it’s happened numerous times, where I say, well, what are your concerns as a parent? They say, I want my son or daughter to have one friend. That’s my concern. I just want them to have one friend. It’s no longer, I want my child to graduate. Or I want my child to get out of sixth grade and make it to seventh grade. Or I want my child to pass English. It’s really, that’s where it comes from. Because again, there’s a really heavy weight of kids who struggled socially on the high school caseload. Whereas in elementary school, it’s really all over the place. Yeah there’s a lot of the social cognitive deficits, but there’s also a way in of everything else. So, I mean–
Lisa: (27:33) As children in (unintelligible) they’re younger, they’re children. And even I can remember having– there’s this one little kindergarten girl I was working with once and a teacher walked by and said, don’t fix her, it’s so cute how she talks. And I said, it’s cute now. But what about when she’s 18 and trying to get a job or something like that? Like, you know, that’s why we work on this. And I don’t think parents really have the ability to see those long term effects as far as having friendships, getting a job, keeping a job.
Sarah: (27:58) Being able to work well with others.
Lisa: (28:00) Yeah. That’s life skills. And so it is super cool that you get to work on those things and support those things that are, I mean, that’s, that’s lifelong.
Chris: (28:10) Oh, it’s the best thing ever. And you know, that’s interesting too, for me is that really at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. If you’ve worked with a student who has isolated themselves and they sit by themselves at lunch and you see the transition because you’ve made an impact to teach them a couple of skills, but to connect with just one other pair. And then you see the dynamic of now they’re sitting at least with somebody, or then you hear things such as an email from a parent or a phone call. And they say, I want to thank you because for the first time in my child’s life, they got a phone call over the weekend. And my son wanted me to give him a ride over to his friend’s house. I mean, that’s really the meaning of– that’s the meaning of it. I mean, I always tell people too whatever you do in, whatever career path you go down, just find meaning for it, because that’s going to be what’s going to make your life feel purposeful. That’s where your happiness is going to be. Don’t say, hey, I’m going to become a speech pathologist because I want to be a happy person because that’s truly not going to be the case. It’s once you find the meaning and all of that within is where you’re truly going to enjoy your job. And the students build it, the staff builds it, and everybody will feel it. So–
Sarah: (29:26) Yeah, we talk a lot about that. I mean, one we have a board in the office that says remember why you started, and it really came from that place of like, the burnout is real and being in the schools, it’s hard and caseload size and the paperwork demands. And, you know, I was the first to say I had lost joy in the job because I was just so overwhelmed by all of the stuff that doesn’t matter. And so it really is like, you know, one, if we can provide a way to help simplify that, but two, if we can shift your mindset a little bit to get focused again on why you started, what brings you joy, all that other stuff, you know, it’s one of those things. Those are just the things that we need to do, but that’s not why we do what we do. And so I love that whole idea of what you’re talking about, where we really need to focus on the impact we’re making and, you know, spend all your energy and focus on that. And then you’ll–you won’t care when it’s Monday morning and you have to wake up at 6:30 to go to work.
Chris: (30:21) Absolutely. Yeah, exactly. You’re kind of like you get that shift, that mind shift where rather than telling yourself, oh gosh, I have to go to work on Monday or tomorrow morning. I have to go to work. It becomes a shift in, in your thoughts of I’m looking forward to making a difference in the lives of my kids tomorrow or whatever it may be, really is I think the key. And so, yeah, I mean, working within the high school and in the setting, you’re right. I hear it often where I’ll try and recruit if we have openings or just talk about the high school. And it’s, it’s the fear that SLP’s have because we get so used to working with the younger kids, I couldn’t do high school. It would just seem so challenging for me or I’m fearful of the route it would go. And honestly, as a high school SLP, it’s–there’s no more or less challenges. It’s just a little bit of a different approach with your students and your caseload. But I can tell you that it’s just a super fun role to play being in high school. I love it.
Lisa: (31:36) Not just students. But I think the fear comes too from working within the dynamics of a high school in general. So like understanding the dynamics between teams versus like when you’re working in elementary, you have a, maybe a grade level that you’re working with or one teacher and the IEP teams are different and the communication is different and even the way– the kind of communication, but the way that you communicate to an elementary teacher is way different than high school teachers. And then I think of too, the idea of the ratio of men and women too. So like campuses in elementary tend to be very female heavy versus in high school the dynamic of you do have lots of men and women equally teaching. So it’s just a whole different world in high school.
Chris: (32:29) If you– absolutely. And if you look at it from the child’s viewpoint in elementary school, you’re grouped everywhere you go, you got recess, you got and up until about sixth grade, once you transition in seventh grade things change. Because then what happens is that the kids become more compartmentalized with who they are connected with. So the football players and the sports players become a little bit more connected into their groups. And then the girls that are cheerleaders and that group of girls get to– so you’ve got a lot more subgroups that happen and it happens right around seventh grade. And then once they get to high school, now you’ve got three or four on average, about three junior highs that merged together into one school. And I know every county is different and stuff. I’m at a school of 3,400 kids. So when you’re at an elementary school that has a couple hundred kids, by the time you get to high school, you’re on a campus of 3,400 kids all within their own groups and they have to find those groups. So our kids tend to get isolated a little bit. And then if you think about the perception from the viewpoint of the kid on really the idea of their thoughts of others up until about seventh grade, they’re not really concerned too, too much about their speech or articulation errors. They’re not too concerned about, you know, having some grammar issues. Once it gets to the high school level, everything changes, everything changes. And the one thing, the most important thing you can ever understand as a teacher or anybody working with high school kids is this one thing– they don’t want to be embarrassed. That’s the number one thing that you have to realize. And so if you can stand back and look at it from an SLP standpoint of that’s our role, then everything for the student can be maneuvered better for them. So I’ll give you an example. In high school, if you call the student and you call the class and you say, can I see Johnny for speech time? And the teacher puts down the phone, alright, Johnny, hey, Mr. Wenger wants you for speech. What you’ve done is you’ve isolated that kid for being called out in front of their peers, because now everybody knows that they’re in speech, the child’s embarrassed. And so you can see the behavior when they come into your office. And so I think that’s a practice that we kind of have to be weary of and be mindful of is that concept alone. That’s not just for kids on our caseloads, that’s every single teenager that’s the job. Think about it– Lisa how old is your daughter?
Lisa: (35:06) I have a 15 and a 19 year old.
Chris: (35:11) 15 and 19. Let’s say, you’re going, shopping for Christmas. You’re with your daughter at the mall. You’re walking with her and she’s got a group of friends that’s just right down the aisle. You’ve got two options. You can say hi to her friends, but if you say hi to her friends, she’s going to say, mom, why’d you say hi to my friends? That’s so embarrassing. Your other idea is to not say hi to them. And then she says, mom, why didn’t you say hi to my friends? Now I’m embarrassed that you didn’t say hi. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. But it’s just so funny how that works, but that’s where behaviors come from. That’s where a lot of things come from is that oftentimes our kids will get embarrassed. So that’s a really big thing to know the difference between working with elementary aged kids versus working with our high school aged kids. Everything we do has to be protecting what their thoughts are. And I see this honestly, every single day. And so–
Lisa: (36:05) That’s working with staff. Working with a staff in a high school versus working, what, like what makes a high school staff tick? How do you get like, you know, I used to even tell my grad students, you want to be real popular on your first day of work, buy a bag of donuts or bagels or something and put that out with a note. Like that is warm and fuzzy for elementary, but what gets you buy in within a high school environment?
Chris: (36:32) The buy in for, with the staff?
Lisa: (36:35) Yeah.
Chris: (36:35) yeah, absolutely. So I think a lot of it with the– so my approach is a little bit different. My school of thought. My school of thought is that when we do have our department meetings, I usually will ask if there is going to be just a short time, maybe a five minute period that I can talk about the students we work with, what language disorders and speech disorders look like and ways that we can help and do it in a positive way. You know? And for me, that’s been a big way of getting the staff to buy in and it’s been really helpful for me.
Lisa: (37:17) Well I think it’s then they know who you are, they know what you’re about. They don’t like– I always feel like we’re kind of mysterious as SLPs in general. They don’t really know always what we’re doing. And so I think that’s a great way to just get ingrained with the staff and let them see you and hear you and know what you’re about.
Chris: (37:36) Absolutely. I think that it’s fairly common for a school to not know that there’s even a speech pathologist on the campus. I try to take a different approach. My approach is not to get up in front of the entire staff and talk about what a language disorder is or a speech disorder is because then I’m going to have a caseload of 500 kids. I could only imagine. Hey, so you remember what you were teaching us at the staff meeting? Well, man, I got five kids in my class. I’m like, nope, don’t want that. But I think my approach is I talk about the students I work with and what certain things that I do that might be helpful. That idea of just the concept of understanding that kids don’t want to be embarrassed is huge for just to understand that little thing, but like other little things too, that I talk about with staff are things that are helpful for all kids and that will give them buy in. Sometimes I’ll send like little emails about things that I discover, things that are fun, that are helpful for kids, or I’ll just talk at the department meetings that we’ll have. And just kind of do it like a broader general sense. And that gives staff buy in as well for, for knowing that I’m on campus first off and going, oh, that’s your job, man. I thought you were a substitute all these years. I’m not a substitute, I’m a speech pathologist. So, but yeah, I mean–
Sarah: (39:08) There was one time I had been sitting in a meeting and had somebody at the meeting say to me now, why are you here? His speech is fine. He doesn’t have– I don’t hear any issues with his speech. And I’m like, he’s on the spectrum. And the significance of the pragmatic language issues that he’s having warrants my presence at this meeting, you know? And they’re like, oh, I thought you just worked on R, so, I mean, there is so much educating we have to do. And I think, you know, again, that’s one of those things that we hear a lot of complaining about. Like nobody knows who I am, nobody knows what I do. Well, tell them, you know? And so I love, I love that. And not only tell them what your role is for the students on IEP’s, but also like you said, just good practices for all their students.
Chris: (39:52) Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny when you mention that too, within those meetings and they have that perception or they’re just like, what are you doing here? The kid’s fine with speech. Is that sometimes I get to a point in my brain during these meetings where I feel like we need to make a referral for the teacher, you know? It’s like… I’m like, holy crap, this teacher doesn’t even know that they’re the one that’s on the spectrum.
Lisa: (40:18) Right, they’re the ones causing the problems. I know you did a post a while back about just advocating for appropriate space to be able to do your job. And what do you think works? Like what are some things that worked for you to get the space that you’re currently working in?
Chris: (40:39) A couple of things, one of the big things on the campus that I’m currently on is that I wanted to advocate for first off, you know, making a presence of knowing that I’m a speech pathologist and which are the students that I work with. And then, so that kind of puts a little idea in the eyes and the minds of admin of knowing that I’m working with the most severely impaired child for their speech and language. And those are the hot IEPs and all the ones with the advocates and those are the ones that are adversarial are the kids that I work with. And so knowing that those are–not just those kids, but the kids on my caseload and just every kid on campus. I wanted to make sure that it was one of those campuses where no child would eat lunch alone. And so I single-handedly went out the first week of school. This is a couple years ago, the first couple days of school I’d walk around. And if I saw a student sitting down by themselves, I would walk over and I would say, hey, at lunch, you’re more than welcome to join me. I’ve got, I’ve got a small office over here and I’ve got some games that you can play. And it’s just a fun place to kind of get out of the heat, you know, during the summer or during August when it’s like 110 out here. And then during the winter time, where if it’s raining just to kind of bring them in. And then I gradually built up a case to say, hey, I’ve got no more room for both lunches. And I have kids with severe needs or significant needs or social needs or whatever it may be that need an environment or a place. So that was the first thing, the second thing was, yeah. So that was, that was check number one, you know, talking to the administrator on campus and just saying, I’ve got a bigger group of students, or at least to put it in their mind of, hey, just for that time of the day, I’m here to help these kids. I could also target indirectly their goals or whatever it may be. Second is that the students that I work with in order to generalize their IEP goals, I like to do small group. And sometimes small group consists of three to four kids. And most of those kids, well, I shouldn’t say most– some of the kids have one-to-one aides. So now I’m in an office with a, with my assistant and I’ve got three students and then they have a one to one aide. I’m in a small, tiny little corner of the school. That’s not conducive for anybody because I keep– first off, I don’t even have enough space for the bodies. And then second off I’m doing activities where we’re moving, we do movement. You know, I teach pragmatics. If I’m going to teach social use of language, I’m not going to do it off of a handout. We’re standing up and we’re moving around. I’m getting them moving around like we’re in the Ellen show. And so with that, there was another thing I’m saying, hey, I just don’t have enough space here. And then thirdly, there’s a couple other things you can do. I did this at my other school was conduct maybe every other month meeting for the students who have fluency disorders and then have a parent meeting or the kids on the spectrum and have a parent meeting like every other month after school and having enough room or space to say–what’s that?
Sarah: (43:58) Like a support group type of thing?
Chris: (44:03) Absolutely. To talk to the parents. So I have right now, I currently have six kids with fluency disorders. And so every couple months it’s like host a parent support group with the kids and say, hey, these are some things that we’re doing in speech. Here’s some things that if you guys have questions or anything, just do it for 30 minutes. Just say, hey, you know what? After school at three o’clock, if you want to meet for 30 minutes, or we’re going to have this meeting for 30 minutes, it’s a good way to connect the parents. So that way they know that they’re not the only one that has a child, an individual who stutters or with our kids, on the spectrum. It’s just nice to get to know the other parents on your campus. Yes, we do have seminars and conferences and things off campus for people to go to when it’s really not an environment at times. I mean, it is, but it isn’t where they’re getting to know the other parents on the same campus of kids with like disabilities or disorders. And so, yeah, I mean little things like that was just building up a case to say, you guys gotta give me a– I need a bigger room to support all of these things. How does it help the district? How does it meet their IEP goals? How’s it making it a safe environment so we’re creating a better culture for our kids. All of those things tie into that
Lisa: (45:21) When you ask for things it needs to be centered on the students and how it benefits the students. And it’s really hard to argue that. I mean, because that would kind of make somebody an asshole, like, sorry they don’t get support groups. They don’t need to eat lunch (inaudible).
Chris: (45:35) Yeah. How about this idea? You come in with a scare tactic by saying, you know what? The environment that I’m in, I’ve got a small social group of four and I can’t meet my IEP goals, I just want to let you know that you guys are more than likely going to get sued because of it. No, I’m kidding. You don’t do a scare tactic.
Sarah: (45:55) The last school I was at, I started in the tiniest room I had ever been in. And it was actually funny because when I went to go meet with the SLP who was retiring from that school– but before I had committed to taking the job, I walked in and I go, oh, okay. So this is your office, but where do you see the students? And she goes, no, this is it. And I was like, wait, what? I almost (inaudible) because it was like so crazy. And this SLP had been there for years. I lasted in that room for one school year and was in a room what, four times the size the next year. And it’s not because of anything greater than I fought for what I needed. It might’ve been a little combination of squeaky wheel gets the oil, like I wasn’t gonna back down, but I also proved my worth and value and what I was going to do with it. And you know what I mean? Like I, it’s not like I just like, oh my room’s so small and I want a bigger one because I want more walls to decorate. You know, I’m not saying that that’s what people do, but I came in with facts of what I was going to do with it. And it was the same kind of stuff you did. I had groups come to my room during lunch and we did social lunch bunch and we did, so we did things. So I used all of that to really advocate the need for a bigger space. But I also just never gave up. I mean, I was relentless about it until I think he probably was just like, yeah, find her a room.
Lisa: (47:17) She was like that with her husband too. That’s how she landed the Trent.
Sarah: (47:20) true.
Lisa: (47:20) relentless.
Sarah: (47:20) Never stop asking for what you want.
Chris: (47:24) Absolutely.
Lisa: (47:26) She had a restraining order for awhile that, but after that it became a miracle relationship. And on that note.
Sarah: (47:32) I loved too what you were just saying. One, you advocated for a bigger space. You got what you needed because you went out and gave concrete reasons, advocated for it. But while you were doing it, you also made a huge impact. Not only in the school with kids who needed a place to have lunch, but with the community, by doing parent involvement. I mean, it was like just a win win all around, the things that you’re doing there. And I see you doing the activities outside of the speech room. You’re out there during the assemblies with your kids, you’re out there doing the extracurricular things with your students. And so that’s the key too. You can’t sit in your speech–you know, closet.
Lisa: (48:17) In your bubble.
Sarah: (48:17) in your bubble and complain when you have no presence on that campus. And, you know, again, I don’t want anybody to like, you know, start throwing things at the radio right now. Did I say radio? How are they listening to this?
Lisa: (48:31) On a video phone.
Sarah: (48:32) On a stereo?
Lisa: (48:32) On a stereo
Sarah: (48:32) On a boom box?
Lisa: (48:32) they’ve got some rabbit ears they need to adjust.
Sarah: (48:38) I don’t want to piss people off when I say that, because I know everyone is so tired and burnt out and overwhelmed. And I didn’t just say that so that you now have to run support groups and lunch bunches. But the idea being that you’ve got to get involved, and that kind of is what the conversation started with. You’ve got to make connections. These people need to know who you are and why you’re there. And the difference you’re trying to make.
Lisa: (48:59) And first year is lay of the land, that’s the thing, when you’re new to a campus, you’re trying to figure out how things work, so you don’t want to come in like a wrecking ball, but second year, tear some shit up.
Sarah: (49:08) tear some shit up.
Chris: (49:09) That’s right. Absolutely. I think too, whether you’re a first year SLP or you’re a seasoned SLP, if you’re in a very tiny space and you’re frustrated all the time and you go into an IEP meeting and your appearance and your frustration is there, that vibe gets put off to the administrator. People will do things if they– the more they like you, the more they’re willing to do things for you. So I think that that’s a huge concept there is do things that make the staff that you work with like you. Become a likable person because people do things for people who are likable. At the same time, conversely, if you’re showing up to an IEP meeting and just your parents walk in and you’re like, okay, God, this kid is driving me nuts. God, I can’t believe I have to be at this meeting. God, it’s a four hour IEP meeting. Those little things add up and it just comes off as negative energy. Stay with the positive energy. As we talked about a little bit earlier in the episode of that’s another way, how you advocate for yourself. Become a likable person, become a likable SLP, that that’s a huge, huge factor in getting a bigger space.
Lisa: (50:22) So I have to pay them money.
Sarah: (50:23) No, he didn’t say bribe them. He said– if you’re not a likable person like Lisa, then you have to like, learn how to (inaudible) or hang out with me more often and it’ll just rub off on you. But like you have to fake it. If you’re not likable, fake it. Put a freaking smile on your face and show that you care.
Lisa: (50:46) The smile thing I think is huge. And even I worked in a special education district in the Caribbean for a year and they brought us in because they used a lot of American therapists and they said, culturally, what we found with you Americans is you walk in and you just want to do your job and our staff does not respond to that. You need to stop. You need to say good morning, you need to smile. You need to make eye contact. And you know, I look back on that and it was such a huge, like kind of professional lesson that I carried forward always with me. Not that I didn’t like smile before, but it just, it sat with me differently. And I do think that’s one of those things that we could get so bogged down with our day to day that we forget to look up and forget that there are people around us and we forget what kind of message that sends when we get like that. It’s even–
Chris: (51:34) There’s a book by– (inaudible) I was going to say there’s a book by Dale Carnegie. It’s called How to Win Friends and Influence People. And just the very first chapter, it starts off that way, the importance of the smile, just the way we look, our appearance is going to be 90% of it. You’re going to just know right off the bat of meeting people. So yeah. Right, right onto what you were talking about is aligned with that concept.
Sarah: (51:57) Lisa, I always love these episodes we get to do, I mean, for so many reasons, I really just love this platform and this just getting to have really cool conversation with different people. But it always– ‘cause again, this is totally unscripted. Like we had, we just, you know, start, hit, play or record and start going. And it always comes back kind of full circle. ‘Cause we kind of started along that same lines of like how, when we met, we just made that connection with each other because of our energy levels. Then you know, just the fact that we’re all so good looking.
Lisa: (52:30) We’re all so attractive, that you know.
Sarah: (52:31) We’re just likable. Like that’s the key. So I think this entire episode, the summary is be likable people.
Lisa: (52:51) and put on some lipstick.
Sarah: (52:51) Except for you Weng.
Lisa: (52:51) Yeah Weng, you keep the lipstick off, I don’t think it’ll look good on you.
Chris: (52:51) Classic.
Sarah: (52:51) So good. I’m not even kidding. We liked you the minute we met you virtually, liked you the minute we met you in person and we just love what you’re doing, we cannot wait. Like I–we’re going to get you on a summit. Right? You’re going to present for us.
Chris: (53:04) You count me in 110%. I am so in.
Sarah: (53:08) Good. Because I do. I just think your message is so important and you’re just doing really cool things and everybody needs to know about it.
Lisa: (53:15) So stay tuned people. Weng is coming your way in summer 2020.
Chris: (53:21) Weng is coming, coming in hot.
Lisa: (53:25) In the interim you can follow him and his pool shenanigans at the speech dude or just speech dude. Not the speech dude, @speechdude on Instagram.
Sarah: (53:35) Yes. It’s a treat. Always a pleasure, the Weng.
Chris: (53:40) So fun with you guys. You guys are awesome. I love what you guys are doing.
Sarah: (53:46) Aw we like you.
Lisa: (53:46) Oh Weng.
Sarah: (53:46) We like you.
Chris: (53:46) You guys are the best.