SLP Toolkit Podcast, Episode 30, Transcript

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Sarah (00:36): Hey Lisa!

Lisa (00:36): What’s up Sarah?

Sarah (00:39): Not much, so nice to be in your physical presence.

Lisa (00:43): What do you mean?

Sarah (00:43): Like we haven’t seen each other. I mean, we really did stay home.

Lisa (00:47): Oh yeah. But I feel like we’ve been back at the office in a responsible way.

Sarah (00:52): Yes.

Lisa (00:52): We both, for the most part are wearing masks.

Sarah (00:54): Yes.

Lisa (00:54): We are–

Sarah (00:55): Not right now.

Lisa (00:56): Right.

Sarah (00:56): While we’re recording this episode.

Lisa (00:58): Well, I actually got you a mask too, that I wanted her to wear in the office that was an eye mask and she wouldn’t go for it.

Sarah (01:03): Yeah, because that wasn’t going to help against COVID. But anyway, um, I am so excited because while she is not physically here, we have a guest in the confessional and this is an episode we have been wanting to do for awhile.

Sarah (01:19): She was brought to our attention in a variety of different ways. Um, but we love her message. We love everything she stands for. Um, we’re going to join her movement. We will be like on the fields with fighting with her any time she does anything we want to be a part of it, because she’s brilliant and amazing and an advocate for SLPs and an awesome SLP herself. And so I’m super excited that we have Phuong Palaphox. We just talked about your name and then I ruined it.

Phuong (01:44): That’s ok.

Sarah (01:46): Phuong Palafox.

Phuong (01:53): Phuong Palafox, friend of a fox. So good Sarah.

Lisa (01:53): sounds-sounds like a movie star name.

Sarah (01:54): Yes.

Lisa (01:54): I’m feeling it.

Phuong (01:56): Yes, a movie star with adult acne and bifocals.

Sarah (02:02): And we are so happy that you are able to do this with us and that we can have a really important conversation. Um, you recently had written a blog post, um, that we shared, um, that was, was not only perfectly timely because of our current circumstances, but also just in general. And so we knew that this was going to be a conversation that would kind of end our, our podcast season on the best of notes. Um, and, and especially for SLP’s as they’re getting ready to hopefully have the summer break they deserve. Um, so anyway, welcome.

Phuong (02:32): Thank you.

Lisa (02:32): And before we can get into like the confessing and the conversation, will you tell us a little bit about yourself and your, and, and what you do and where you work and–

Phuong (02:39): who I am as a human being?

Lisa (02:43): Yes.

Phuong (02:43): Well I always start out by saying that, um, I think for me, stories are a really big deal. And so, you know, honoring your own story is I think a part of everything. So, you know, little Sarah’s story and little Lisa’s story, and who made you who you are and for me

Phuong (03:00): Um, it always goes back to my family story and they were Vietnamese boat refugees. And my father fought for South Vietnam and sure people are like, wait a second, I thought this was a podcast on speech language pathology. It is, you’ve gotta hang on. He fought for South Vietnam. It didn’t go so well. And he was a naval captain. And so, um, after the war ended and they, they put him in a reeducation camp and a reeducation camp because he was on the losing side, not like s’mores and like, you know, telling scary stories. It was more of like, like jail. That would be a synonym for this reeducation camp. So my dad was in there for two years and after he was released him and my mother decided that they wanted to come, they wanted to leave their native Vietnam. So they were like, yo Chung, you have some naval skills. Here’s a wooden boat and you and your wife and 54 other people can sail across the South China sea. And, um, you can escape. We are bestowing you, these gifts. Now, this whole fiasco sounds really adventurous and exciting, but another synonym for all of this would have been the word illegal. So it was illegal to do all this stuff, but he did it in the middle of the night and he also bribed them with gold. So between bribery–these are my genetics y’all like.

Lisa (04:21): this is why you’re the (unintelligible) you are

Phuong (04:30): Bribery (unintelligible) um, so they sailed across the South China sea and after eleven days they end up in Hong Kong and I was born the next morning and so Lisa, there were not 56 people in the boat, Lisa, how many people were there on the boat?

Lisa (04:48): 57

Phuong (04:48): You’ll bring a kiss, some awesome math. Yeah. So, you know, I think with my parents as a you know– and I use humor a lot, honestly, to cope. So I don’t cry all the time, but you know, I, all of this, this story serves as the foundation of everything that I do professionally and personally. My official title is bilingual speech, language pathologist. Um, and I get to help our most vulnerable students and families and I get to walk alongside my lovely SLPs who are bilingual and my SLPs of color. So that placed the foundation. Fast forward, I, um, got a couple of degrees and then I thought, hey, I’m going to get my PhD. And then after one semester I quit (unintelligible) this space and you’re like, I don’t understand a word that’s being said.

Phuong (05:45): And, uh, this is just not right. So I quit that. And I went to work in the schools. So I worked in schools for a good chunky amount of time. And then after, you know, when you feel like you’re doing well and you kind of get in your groove, people give you more responsibilities. So I got to walk, I got to walk–I was a lead for a district in Texas of about 50 speech language pathologists for a few years. And then they were like, we’re going to give you more responsibilities. So then I got to support kind of central Texas. So the schools are my passion. However, for now I am working at a small clinic in Austin, Texas called Bilinguistics and we are known for supporting our English language learners and the difference versus disorder model. But in being here, I’ve had the privilege and luxury of doing the things that I’m passionate about and I’m passionate about school-based SLP.

Phuong (06:37): And I think right now my pulse is, you know what? I have clients in the clinic, I support the school districts. I get to go spend time alongside state organizations and school districts. And it has gotten harder and harder and harder and harder. And I’m kind of at the space right now where, you know, I’m real positive. You know, people are like, you’re so positive and I am, but I’m in, I’m in kind of a roaring mood right now where I feel like I’m in a space where I feel safe enough to talk about it. And not everyone feels safe enough to talk about it, but here we are ladies.

Lisa (07:14): Well positive doesn’t mean that you can’t disrupt some shit every now and then. I feel like that’s the point is you’re you’re in a place where you feel strong enough to be the voice of maybe people right now that aren’t quite there yet. And, you know, need your voice to gain some strength as well.

Phuong (07:31): Yeah.

Lisa (07:31): That’s, what’s beautiful you know, about the messaging in your book and everything that you’re doing is that it is really putting a voice and words to things that people are feeling and oftentimes feeling alone in that space.

Phuong (07:44): Yeah. You know, I think as speech language pathologists, don’t you feel so siloed sometimes? Like we’re in this little office or we’re next to a bathroom or we’re down the hallway. And I just feel like for whatever reason and especially our school-based folks, and I know that the audience is a majority of school-based folks and then, you know, clinic based and home health too. But for some reason, our school based folks, I will say that we are always placed at the bottom of the barrel. I remember one time it was years ago, um, a university in Texas asked for me to come out to talk to their grad program.

Phuong (08:17): And I did, I was like, Oh yeah, clapping and being real cheerful. And I’m like, who’s going to go into the schools? And not a single person raised their hand and you know, we get poo pooed on all the time when I just I’m tired of it, you know?

Lisa (08:31): And it’s not just sadly in my experience, it’s not just that the school based profession kind of gets looked down upon amongst, um, even in those situations, I think like other SLPs I’ve encountered even some medical SLPs that are like, Oh, you’re just in the schools. And I’m like, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, let’s back up just a minute. Because my work being just in the schools

Lisa (08:56): Is very comprehensive. I don’t have the luxury of being a niche with all this fancy equipment. It really is like boots on the ground, really getting to work with kids and in an environment too where I think the access we have in the schools to kids is so different than even– I’ve done home health, I’ve done clinic work. Somebody bringing their kid into this artificial environment, like a clinic sometimes. If the parents don’t have complete buy-in, which some do some don’t that it’s, I don’t have that same always access to a kid that I do in the schools where they’re there 30 to 35 hours a week. I can work with their teachers, their aides, the instructional assistants, all of that. It’s just a, it’s a really cool model. I don’t think there’s anything to turn.

Sarah (09:42): And what you’re trying to say too, is we are bad asses

Lisa (09:45): Pretty much.

Sarah (09:45): Yeah.

Phuong (09:45): We are. And we look so good.

Lisa (09:49): Yes.

Phuong (09:49): We’re just beautiful.

Phuong (09:53): Yeah and the thing about the schools too, is that I tell people, I was like, we can’t turn people away. We can’t turn you away. And you know, here in our clinic too, there are clinics that have closed down around us because here at our clinic we accept Medicaid. So people who are poor, people this is their means of insurance and, um, and other clinics have closed. We haven’t but in the schools we cannot– it does not matter what your eligibility is, who you are. We are not going to turn you away. And the other part too, is that like, let’s say we see kids 30, 60 minutes a week, and service delivery is a whole other passion topic of mine so I wont dive into that rabbit hole. But that means you get to see kids 30 hours a year, but like, will we get to work with teachers?

Phuong (10:36): Like those other magical unicorns? Like we get our impact is like 1,260 hours a year. Like that is our impact. Um, but you know, I will say, so that’s what you get in the schools in the clinic. I have a lot of parent access, so that’s my privilege in the clinic and I get to see kids one-on-one. The one thing I will say is that we will not SLP shame each other because it is hard enough. And that makes me so mad when someone is like “did you see the goals that he wrote?”

Lisa (11:04): Yes.

Phuong (11:04): How could you say that to her?

Sarah (11:08): Yep.

Phuong (11:08): I’m sure you’ve written goals that somebody else didn’t understand, just reach out to them.

Sarah (11:11): One hundred percent.

Phuong (11:11): But don’t shame them, especially in front of the family,

Sarah (11:16): We had to build an entire app because of–

Lisa (11:17): For Sarah.

Sarah (11:18): Yeah, because of my inability to write quality goals or treatment plans. So yes, I know that is a definite, like a button for me too, what am I trying to say?

Lisa (11:32): Well because it doesn’t define you as a therapist.

Sarah (11:32): No.

Lisa (11:32): If you’re having a bad paperwork day that does not define you as a therapist. And so there are things, I mean, I can’t even verbally speak in conversation sometimes.

Sarah (11:39): Obviously.

Lisa (11:39): So then you ask me to put it in writing.

Sarah (11:44): Right.

Lisa (11:44): and just, you know, it’s tricky.

Sarah (11:45): And we’re hard enough on ourselves. I don’t need anybody else to have that like added pressure. And we do it. I mean, we’ve all walked into those meetings where we’re just like panicked on what they all think of us.

Phuong (11:58): Yes.

Sarah (11:58): Yeah

Phuong (11:59): No, it’s so true. And speaking of that segue, lovely Sarah, being hard on ourselves. So here’s kind of where I’m at right now. So we are right now sitting here in May of 2020, we’re in the midst of this worldwide pandemic. And, and, and I acknowledge the hard right now and I’ll get back to it, but I will say that– so for me in April of 2019, I mean, you know, sometimes when you’re, you’re doing something and you’re like, something just doesn’t feel right? Like there’s something that’s going on right now. Last school year, the 2018 to 2019 school year, I kept getting sick, sicker and sicker. And I won’t dive into all of the medical things, but there were rashes. Y’all lots of things going on and it wouldn’t go away.

Phuong (12:50): We had flu and we had strep and we had all of these things and I remembered waking up one April morning and I told my husband– and I’m married to the kindest man. Um, and you know, my work ethic is something that I pride myself on. Right? And I was like, I can’t, I can’t do this anymore. Um, and you know, so there was this worldwide craziness. I had a school case load. Um, I had–how many kids did I have? I had 30 across two days. Um, and then, which honestly is typical nowadays when I was leaving. I don’t remember when you were, I don’t know when you were legally. I would say that aren’t– and I know it’s not all about caseload. It’s more about workload, but our average caseload, when I started out in this profession about a decade and a half ago was hanging out around 45-ish, in the forties-ish.

Phuong (13:39): I would say that now, whenever I go support maternity leaves or sick leave, or I’m helping out in big groups of school districts, I always ask SLPs, like, what is, what is your caseload? Even though I know it doesn’t really mean the workload. I mean, SLPs are hanging out at 80 and 90 across three campuses? I have SLPs who oversee SLPA’s and each of them have that much, that many students. And I’m like, y’all there’s something–this is not this isn’t okay. And I think the other part of it is, is that I appreciate ASHA for supporting our efforts. I appreciate state organizations for supporting our efforts and we’re going to do a lot of, and that’s my favorite conjunction. There are also many leadership organizations that are not privy to all that really is happening right now, to be honest in the trenches. Yeah. So last April, so Phuong didn’t go to work. I like, I lost it. You know, when something is wrong, when you’re like, am I having a, um, I knew I wasn’t having a midlife crisis cause I didn’t want like a sports car. And like, I don’t know. I don’t know what I would want, but Oh, an existential crisis. I was Googling it. I was like am I having an existential crisis? which probably meant I probably was in some capacity, but it wasn’t me. It was that our work is so much right now.

Lisa (15:12): Yes. And it’s gotten, I think what I found when I was the lead, caseloads going back to caseloads those have been going up and up and up and we are not in a state that has a caseload cap. There are some of those states. And even when we’ve done our presentations, when they say that they’re still like around 45 as a caseload full time, we’re like, sh, don’t tell anybody that you think that that’s a problem ‘cause that is really unique. In Arizona I would say we average probably 55 to 105 anywhere in that range. But, um, I think what I saw the trend being for SLPs that have been doing it for a while is that when school SLPs first started out, there were these luxuries. Like you have eight hours a week for evaluation. Like they have these, these things kind of written down.

Lisa (15:59): You should not see more than X amount of students. You do this, you do that. And that over the years, obviously our field has expanded as far as even the expectations in schools, kids are not, you know, quote unquote shipped off anymore. If they have something like, um, autism back in the eighties or nineties, they may have been sent to a special school. Now school SLPs are seeing everything and it just keeps increasing and increasing. Then on top of that, all of the paperwork demands then have increased. And feeling ill prepared to do that with a larger caseload on top of everything else. But with the administrators, they still in their mind put us in this kind of clinical category and think that we can do all of the things that we used to do when our case loads were smaller and our responsibilities were not as heavy as they are now.

Lisa (16:52): There’s been a huge shift even in, I’ve been an SLP just over 20 years. And I would say even when I started full time in the schools, it was around 2005. And the changes that have happened even since then have been astronomical. So we’ve got to do something to help our administrators understand how our role has shifted and what we can do. I mean, like you said, we are magical. We are sparkly. We’re beautiful. There’s so many cool things we can do if we have the brain capacity to do them, if we’re not overwhelmed–

Sarah (17:21): If we don’t have a nervous breakdown

Lisa (17:21): With the meetings. Right. If we don’t get rashes.

Sarah (17:25): Yeah

Phuong (17:26): Right. Thank you for caring so much. There was a really expensive cream that helped a lot. So, um, no, I, I agree. And I think, you know, that, that goes back to this, this advocacy component that I’ve been kind of on lately, um, in this war. And, you know, I will say that there are things that we can do. Um, and the mood that I’m in right now is that we have to, I just want to give the first thing is I just want to tell SLPs that their worth is not based on their productivity. And I think for so long, for so long, that’s how I felt I was like, I had my list. You know, you know, we have our colorful pens, we have our boxes, we have everything that we need. We have our SLP Toolkit, we have the things, and we’re going to check off all of the things that we need to do in terms of compliance right? so those are the things that we’re bound by.

Phuong (18:20): So what are we bound by in terms of compliance? We have to make sure that we meet timelines for testing. We have to make sure that we have the IEP in time. We have to make sure that we get all the notices sent out. We have to, we have to, we have to, we have to, and then there’s the therapy. Okay. So then you do the therapy, which I promise is most of the reason why we got into the profession in the first place–our why. So I think what I’m seeing is that over time, because all of these demands have been placed and we have to keep checking off these boxes and I’m in the state of Texas y’all and there is no cap on our case loads at all. And so what’s happening is that more kids, more kids, more students, more humans you have to serve.

Phuong (18:59): We’re still meeting the compliance because that’s what our administrators, I’m slapping myself on the hand right now. Like you’ve got to do this. And you know I think it’s interesting. I will say that I love my peers with all my heart. And I will advocate till my dying day and say that it’s not a people problem. It’s not you SLP. It’s a process problem. And the other truth is that I feel like there are some of us who are adding to it. And here’s what that looks like. It looks like whenever I go into a school and every single IEP on the schedule of service page has 30 minutes a week for every single kid. And why are you doing this? I know why you’re doing it– because there’s no time to do anything else. But here’s what happens when you do that to say to yourself, what you are telling your administrators is, is that “I’ve got this”

Lisa (19:51): Possible, yeah

Phuong (19:51): and I’m going to still, I’m going to have a group instead of a group of two I’m going to have a group of six.

Phuong (20:00): And I got this and I think sometimes you just have to say, this is enough. And I know that it’s hard, but I remember when I was lead, once I would go out to visit my SLPs, like have these– I’m a heart person, feelings, warm fuzzies, all over. And every time I walked into a room, they would just cry. This is a super power I have. It’s happened at grocery stores. People just tell me their story and they cry. So this woman is crying and I’m okay with tears. I cry every day. Um, medicine also helps me with that, but that’s a whole other story about mental health. So she’s crying and she’s like, Phuong I have two kids at home and I don’t get home every night until 7:30 or 8 at home. And I’ll feed my kids and they go to bed and I’m still working. And I’m like honey, we are sitting here in March and I met you in the fall and you have open communication. I had no idea. And I’m so sorry that you felt like you had to bear this burden. But until we say stop, because y’all, our administrators don’t know what our prime duties are. They don’t know that that therapy is only one small part of it. But you also do assessments, we also handle the preliminary things to all of the response, to intervention, to MTSS all of those things, and to take the data on that to help the teacher out sometimes it’s as many hours as serving my kiddos with language needs on my caseload.

Phuong (21:27): So I just want to, I just want to say to the SLP, if you feel safe, okay. And I know some don’t and that is okay too, that we have to speak up about it. Otherwise, things won’t change if it happens once you let it go. If it happens twice, we are a part of the problem.

Sarah (21:44): So good, I am literally like scribbling ferociously over here because it’s like, you’re like one quote after another. I’m like, I always try to like, think about the things that I want to make sure I hit on when you know, I’m advertising this podcast and social media and on the blog. And I’m like, I can’t write this stuff because your message is just, first of all, again, I started the podcast by talking about it. For everything I have read, um, that you had your, I read your book, um, which I don’t even think we talked about the title of it.

Sarah (22:16): And it’s we posted on Instagram, it’s “The Heartbeat of Speech, Language Pathology.” And if I wrote a book, this was–this is the book I’d want to write. It was exactly like you. I just was like, she gets me like–

Lisa (22:27): You walked the walk. That’s the issue. I think with a lot of, whether it be even sometimes when you’re dealing with an organization like ASHA or talking to these special education administrators, it’s sometimes difficult to put these things to words. You have these feelings, you know you’re overwhelmed, but you don’t know how to change it. And with the actions of those sped directors, they are saying that the paperwork’s more important than the kids, even though words in a meeting will say, the kids are the most important thing ever, but that’s not what they’re showing us. And we respond to that and this is fricking hard it is.

Sarah (23:00): Yeah

Phuong (23:01): It is, it’s so freaking hard. And I think for me too, is that, so whenever I worked at region 13, this educational service center, so the state of Texas is broken up into these 20 regions. And each regional service center is in charge of a bunch of school districts. So I was in the middle one and we were in charge of six, supporting 62 school districts and a chunky number of charter schools. And so it was like my first month there and they’re like, hey Phuong you’re going to do– make a presentation to be on whatever. But to all of the special education directors in our, in our, um, our kitchen. And I was like, all right. So I started talking about it and this is what I’ve learned, I think as speech language pathologists we care a lot about best practice and we care about the people part, right? I mean, that’s the why I’ll always go back the why.

Phuong (23:45): And I really think there’s a huge gap in terms of the roles and responsibilities of our administrators. I don’t want (unintelligible), I know many lovely, special education directors and conjunction. I know many special education directors who have no idea what we do. So for the for the individuals who don’t know, or for the individuals who do know, I will tell you there are two areas that they must be focused on as a special ed director is compliance and funding. So whenever I advocate, I always, I always reframe it in that way. You need to know your audience. Like if I’m going to go talk to Alabama special education teachers. It is not the same presentation that I give to Arizona speech language pathologists in the schools. You know what I mean? So whenever we talk to, to special education directors, I’m like, here’s the thing,

Phuong (24:36): we are paying a lot of money for kids to be in special education. Do not quote me on the numbers, but I believe that it’s somewhere around $5,000 for every child receiving special education services. Our job and our goal is to graduate them, do not say the word dismissal because people think it’s a deficit model. We graduate, we graduate students, right? So then I say, so let’s talk about the funding part of it. This is how much money you’re spending on this. This is how much money we’re spending on contract speech language pathologists, which I acknowledge I am one. Okay? Our daily rate is very different than the rate that you’re paying your SLPA’s. So whenever you don’t have enough people to do the work, whenever you are not meeting your compliance deadlines, they get these charts y’all where they get dinged like nobody’s business, so that’s the hat they’re wearing

Phuong (25:24): And I honor that, and that’s why they come at us with all of these compliance needs. Um, so when we talk about the advocacy, I tell SLPs, I say, all right, talk about compliance and funding. And then I want to let you know that advocacy is not this act of kindness. It’s kindness for you as the human being, but it’s also kindness for all of these mandated services that are legally mandated for the people that we serve, right? And to get these mandated services fun. When you advocate, even though I know we have big feelings and our feelings are valid and it’s really hard right now, you need to talk about the student at the center of those services. And what does that kid need? What does that human need? He needs adequate resources and time to carry out these meaningful efforts. So if you are seeing a group of six students and five out of the six have autism, and one child has articulation, fluency and receptive and expressive language, and you’re seeing them in a group of six, because that’s the best thing you can do. It is that is, is that a mandated, you know, you might be checking the box, but are you really giving that child what he or she, or they need? And then they stay on the caseload for like six years until you get to high school. And then for some reason, for whatever reason.

Lisa (26:39): Yeah.

Phuong (26:39): (unintelligible).

Lisa (26:39): I know, I love when they graduate

Sarah (26:44): Yeah. Yup.

Phuong (26:47): Anyways, all right. That’s, I’m going to sit down my, I realize I’m, I’m monopolizing this conversation.

Sarah (26:54): Um, no and actually here’s, the deal is, is typically, you know, like I do feel like we’re usually, I’m like, Oh yeah, and this and this. And in this, this episode, I’m literally like, like you guys can’t see me right now, but I’m just gazing lovingly (unintelligible) tell me more, I know, just keep going because first of all, you are, you are a storyteller. I mean, even in your conversation with me, I do, I am listening to you. I’m super engaged in everything you’re saying, because you’re just very, very good at articulating. I think a lot of things we think and feel, um, but maybe don’t articulate it as clearly. And so, no, I honestly, if we felt the need to like ever jump in and stuff and we’ll do it, we’ve got no problem. But if you want us to do it too cause you’re like, why are they just staring at me like?

Lisa (27:39): We like you

Phuong (27:44): Really good eye contact. This joint attention that is happening right now via the computer screen is on point.

Sarah (27:49): I know, I was, I was like, this, episode’s going to be less of a conversation and more of just like our hour with Phuong.

Phuong (27:57): Aw.

Lisa (27:57): That’s the confession we want Phuong to never stop talking.

Phuong (28:00): I love it. I love it. But I do. I care. I care. I care so much about, about my people and a lot of my people. I mean, there are friends, right? And I just think it’s so sad when speech, you know, friends come up and they’re like, and they’re all wanting to quit. Not, not, not just change settings, but like, be like, I’m done. I want to be a doula and help deliver babies.

Sarah (28:26): Or I think Lisa said one time she wants to quit and work at Costco. I was like that is a different direction.

Lisa (28:36): Free hot dogs.

Phuong (28:36): What about Costco do you like?

Lisa (28:36): I like the structure, the open space, free hot dogs, hot guys walking around, not just, you know, all the women I see.

Sarah (28:44): That is true.

Phuong (28:45): We are a very female dominated profession, which is a part of the problem as well.

Lisa (28:50): Yeah.

Phuong (28:50): Do you like how I’m just segueying all over the place?

Sarah (28:52): Perfect.

Phuong (28:52): Um, yeah, I just, and I know y’all talked about this before in your previous podcast, but our field is a majority of women and I think as women and I won’t stereotype, but there are trends to our, um, to our gender. Um, and we want to help, right? We want to help. And we want to, and I kinda felt that too like when people are like complimented on it. You know, like if there’s a problem, Phuong is like all right, here’s the action item. Alright, Oh, Lisa, you get to do this, Sarah, I’m going to voluntold you to do this. And we’re going to come back in four weeks and we’ve got this and let’s say positive. And I will say, you know, I am positive and I’m honest, but I’m kind of done with the whole staying squeakly clean.

Sarah (29:32): Right

Phuong (29:35): We’re so good.

Sarah (29:37): Yup.

Phuong (29:37): We’re so good. And I’m imitating a California voice, which is not okay.

Lisa (29:44): You know it’s so good until It’s not, because I think that’s part of the SLP personality. And maybe as women and mothers and all of these other hats we wear is that we burn ourselves out. So we keep going, even if we’re way past burnout mode to where we’re then like, I can’t even go into work and I have this weird rash.

Phuong (30:02): Yeah. I can’t go into work—

Lisa (30:03): It’s like you make it work until your body physically says, nope.

Sarah (30:08): Nope, yeah.

Phuong (30:10): I mean, my bandwidth, like my bandwidth and I’m still not at full bandwidth, I’ll, I’ll be really honest. Like right now I will say that for me, something that’s helped a lot is because I’m here at, Bilinguistics and I have this luxury of writing about what I want to write about. I’ve written a lot about mental health and it all starts with me, right? So what has changed in my life since then, in terms of like, when it comes to advocacy, I think, you know, we talk about self care a lot and it’s this buzz word, but I think people still have this connotation that it’s this warm and fuzzy thing that you do with like bubble bath and chocolate.

Lisa (30:41): Yoga and essential oils

Phuong (30:45): I actually love essential oils, I love bubble baths. I don’t like chocolate. I like salty things like chips and salsa, but like self care is this thing that, that leaves us with some bandwidth, you know, and it’s, you know, people always do that analogy of like put the face mask first on yourself and that’s what you have to do. So like my days now, so my life is there is Phuong the speech language pathologist, and, and I’m a mother of three children and they all just had birthdays in um, this, um, pandemic. So they, uh, he just turned 11, she just turned nine and he just turned five. And my husband just turned forty and so you know, there’s the taking care of them as well. And then you go wait a second, I am eating like crap. I am drinking my diet soda, even though I know that it’s so bad for me, but it brings me at least a small glimpse of positive burn down so I can get to the next moment.

Phuong (31:44): Um, but yeah I wake up now and I take my medicine, which is not something that I’ve ever done before. And I was telling y’all I’ve cried for every single day of my life since the age of 26. And at the age of 26 my mother died during my CF internship here, which in case you can’t assume that was really cruddy. Um, and I didn’t realize that people don’t cry every day, like cry. Like I get in the car, I drop my kids off at school. I cry all the way to work. And then I work and then I still have to rush home to pick them up before 5:30. Cause they charge me a dollar per minute. Do I make a dollar per minute? I don’t know ‘cause I can’t do math that fast in my head, but like, I mean you know, and then I cry all the way there. And then if I get there at 5:25, I sit outside a tree in the parking lot to just have some decompression time.

Phuong (32:41): I pick up some children, I feed them dinner. And my husband, because of his job, doesn’t come home until 8:30. Like it–y’all we do so much.

Lisa (32:50): Too much, too much.

Phuong (32:54): And it’s, but it’s not us. Like it’s the system that we’re in. And we do so much at school and it’s not that you’re not good enough and you’re not getting your timeline done and you don’t write your reports quickly enough. You know, in terms of productivity the thing that impacted the most is having a chunky period of time that is uninterrupted to do something.

Lisa (33:14): Absolutely.

Phuong (33:14): So you all know how we write reports in the schools? We’re writing like seven minutes worth between sessions and sometimes the kid gets canceled and you’re like, awesome. I can write for 23 minutes after you figure out that their session is canceled, and then it’s time for an IEP meeting and you’re like, this is why it’s because the structure of our job right now is not set up for us to be successful.

Sarah (33:38): Yep.

Lisa (33:38): Well, and then worried about other people’s feelings working in a school and you’ve always got people that are either coming into your office or asking you questions or your phone is ringing. And I remember I used to talk to people about, put a testing sign on your door, keep it locked. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t look at your email. If you’ve gotta knock out a report or whatever it is you have, you are the first step in protecting your time. You can write it. I mean, try to write it into your schedule, but then you have to honor what you’ve written down.

Phuong (34:06): Yes, no, I think that’s, I think perfect, Lisa. I think honoring time– someone brought up to me, I did a, uh, um, one of our courses with a, um, psychologist, Dr. Amanda Johnson. And, um, she was like, well, what about office hours? Can’t you post your office hours on there? And I laughed, and I was like we don’t have office hours, teachers have office hours.

Lisa (34:29): A prep period.

Phuong (34:34): A prep period.

Sarah (34:34): Yeah, that’s a concept.

Phuong (34:34): It’s interesting how I think. So there’s this whole world of women, right? Where we’re kind of– we accommodate a lot and we pivot. We’re like, Oh, you want this? I’m willing to pivot myself to meet your needs, stop pivoting, just stop it. And then it’s like, then on top of that, there’s been ed and then there’s special education. So then we’re at another lower tiered level. So we don’t necessarily get the space that we need. We don’t get the tools that we need. We have the largest caseload and it’s amazing to me.

Phuong (35:07): Um, and I think sometimes like if you say it in that way, protect your time first and you say, hey, here’s the schedule that I have. I don’t know where else to fit these students in. Hey SLP lead, hey special education director, hey principal, tell me how I can, I can fit these kids in. It’s not that I play dumb sometimes, but whenever I say here’s what it looks like. And here’s what it sounds like it’s a lot better than just swallowing it and doing it because we’re doing our own death.

Sarah (35:37): Yeah, no, I love, love, love, love. I think I’m, I’m always hopeful. And I think this is what will happen is as these SLPs are driving in their car and listening to this episode, um, or you know, any opportunity they have to take a listen, is that they’re thinking to themselves, like, thank you, thank you for making sure, like for telling me that it isn’t my fault.

Sarah (36:00): That I’m not incompetent, that I’m not an imposter, that I’m not like I wasn’t sleeping through half of grad school. Um, that it’s just the system that I’m working at is not allowing me to be successful.

Lisa (36:11): Well, and it’s part of those pressures, again, going back to not only protecting time, but saying no, say–we have such a hard time saying no to things. So then you get yourself back into you’ve taken on too much and then you get into that burnout phase also. It’s ok to say no.

Phuong (36:25): Let’s practice, let’s let’s do a role play.

Lisa (36:28): Okay.

Phuong (36:29): Here are the strategies for saying no, cause I’ve had to practice this. Okay. So when someone asks you to do something, you can say no, and just stop right there. I think we have the tendency to keep talking and that just gets us in trouble. And you can say no and say, let me think about it, I will get back to you.

Phuong (36:49): Alright. So I’m gonna– who wants to be my person?

Sarah (36:52): Me, I’m actually really good at saying no.

Phuong (36:54): okay, so I’m going to tackle you then Sarah. Since she doesn’t need to practice.

Sarah (36:59): I am the worst.

Phuong (37:02): Try it!

Sarah (37:02): I am the queen of accommodation. Okay.

Phuong (37:04): Okay. Um, so let’s, let’s pretend, I’m your, I’m your SLP lead? Hey Sarah, how are you doing?

Sarah (37:13): Good. Thanks.

Phuong (37:14): Oh, you know, um, so I, so–

Sarah (37:18): Yes. [Laughter].

Phuong (37:28): I’ll do it!

Lisa (37:28): Whatever you need, I’m a team player just kidding.

Phuong (37:30): I love it, oh I just kinda wanna pet your head.

Sarah (37:35): It is adorable, isn’t it? Until I’m in a room with like white walls and um, it’s just me.

Lisa (37:44): A straight jacket.

Sarah (37:44): Straight jacket, yeah.

Phuong (37:44): But here’s the thing, I will say when you have hard conversations, one of the best books that I read is, um, crucial conversations, having these hard conversations. And I think for me as being a yes person and, and I want to make the world great. And I want everyone to feel fulfilled is that, you know, it’s okay to have these hard conversations and you can still do it with kindness and compassion.

Phuong (38:04): And why do I know you’re kind? Cause you chose the field of Speech Language Pathology, so you can still be kind about it. And I think at some point too, what happens when we keep saying yes is that we are telling the other person, you, I am not creating a boundary for you. And that is okay.

Lisa (38:21): Boundaries, that’s the other thing. You’ve gotta set boundaries that make you able to function, whether it be professionally or personally.

Phuong (38:27): Yes. And the thing is, if you don’t create the boundary and people take away from you. And what’s interesting is that when you start taking, you start creating those boundaries, in my case, I learned very quickly where people were taking advantage of me.

Lisa (38:43): Interesting.

Phuong (38:44): Because man was there pushback. And so then I thought about it and I think naming something too, right? Like now instead of I absorb emotions a lot, it’s something that’s really hard for me.

Phuong (38:56): And I think a lot of SLPs do it too. But instead of absorbing the emotion, like I just tell myself to observe the emotion. Like don’t absorb it, just observe it. And so when someone’s like but Phuong I mean, you’ve been doing it, or, you know, I’ll be sitting here. I’m actually at our clinic right now because no one’s here today. And people used to knock on my door all the time to ask me, can I bother you for a quick minute? And I always said yes, because they were crying or they needed help. And I wanted to help them. But then there came a day when an SL– it was last April, I was bawling every day. Not like just a little bit in the car. I mean, I couldn’t stop. And I remember the SLP walked in and I was crying and she said, I was so happy to see your car here in the parking lot because I needed your help on something.

Lisa (39:42): As you’re crying.

Phuong (39:43): I need a moment for me, hang on. When it happens once you let it go, but if it happens multiple times I was a part of the problem. I was like, Phuong look at what you’ve allowed this whole time! So Sarah, um, as your SLP Lead we had to have budget cuts for our bilingual SLPs. And um, there is, you know, this campus Lily Elementary School, and I know you don’t speak Tagalog, but I’d like for you to take the campus, it’s, you know, it’s just gonna be, it’s just gonna be 17 students.

Sarah (40:21): You know, I’m sorry, but that’s not gonna work for me.

Lisa (40:24): What! Who are you? You said no?

Sarah (40:27): Yes. I would not say, I would not say yes to that.

Lisa (40:31): You would say yes to everything.

Sarah (40:33): I would be like, are you going to buy me the like, um, what’s the word? What’s the language called? Tagalog I never, I never pronounce that word right. I would be like, can you buy me the like Roseta Stone?

Phuong (40:43): Don’t say that! You can’t say that!

Sarah (40:46): How much time do I have to learn the language? No, I would. I think I would be able to say that.

Lisa (40:54): You know what I think is interesting?

Sarah (40:54): Sorry, I’m not going to be able to take that on.

Lisa (40:54): It might be because you and not just you, these are several SLPs. You feel student centered. That’s what your work has always been. And so when you get even real torqued about something at work, it’s been because it’s about students. So in that case, her mind probably went to, well, I don’t think I could be the best person to serve them. If it was another caseload that you felt that you were properly able to serve, even though your caseload is already at 60 or 65, what would you say?

Sarah (41:23): Yeah. I–

Lisa (41:23): That’s when you’re like, I’ll make it work.

Sarah (41:24): I know.

Phuong (41:26): You know your friend, Lisa who’s down the street? Um, Lisa needs to go on medical leave, you know, she’s having some medical needs and we love Lisa and Lisa has about eight students that she sees right now. And we just really need for you to take on this. And I– you’re so good. And at everything you do, and you’re so good at managing and, um, you know, whenever we sat in that room, we thought you, you are going to be able to support these student’s needs so well

Lisa (41:55): Just for a little bit of time.

Sarah (41:56): Yeah. Yes. (Unintelligible)

Phuong (41:58): The school year it’s, you know, it’s the end of April, it’s just for another five weeks.

Sarah (42:02): Right. Well I-I.

Phuong (42:02): How do you feel about that?

Sarah (42:05): I just had this amazing opportunity to speak to my new friend Phuong and she has convinced me that I have to say no more. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to go look at my schedule and just see, and let me get back to you on that. And then I’m going to go back to my office and shoot off an email in about 30 minutes that says, you know what, I’m sorry, I’m not going to have time to be able to take on Lisa’s caseload. I hope you find somebody that can.

Lisa (42:27): Well, and I will say in director speak too, this is where we get in trouble as SLPs is they do want answers beyond like I want, or I need. So just saying like, no, versus if you say here’s my schedule, I don’t know how I’d fit them in. These are all of the IEPs and METs that I have coming up, you know, takes me on average X amount of time to write these, even though you shouldn’t have to do this because you know that in itself takes your time and effort to generate an email like that.

Lisa (42:56): But that’s what tends to start to educate our administrators as far as no, you can’t just dump stuff like this on somebody, there is already something existing that it’s already a given no. Why do I have to say no?

Sarah (43:07): That is such a personality thing too I think a lot of us have. Cause I think for the most part, you know, we’re all very similar in our characteristics and while you’re doing that role playing, and you’re telling me how great I am.

Lisa (43:21): You’re like ok, thanks.

Sarah (43:21): And you know I can do it, in my mind I’m like, yeah I know I can too.

Phuong (43:26): Sure, exactly.

Sarah (43:26): And then I’m gonna be crying in my car.

Lisa (43:27): Yes

Phuong (43:29): Yes, yes. And you know, I know our time is dwindling. I will also tell our listeners right now is that if you can do a time study, which I know takes time, but time studies are so revealing and it’s like everything I remembered whenever I was in the larger school district and our bilingual SLPs, we in that year 2011, the state of Texas cut all this funding at the legislative level. So once it trickled down to special ed, we didn’t have money for bilingual SLPs, but our SLPs in the district, had to take on, you know, all of these caseloads, which is crazy. And so what we did, and at the time we had, um, a workload model, everything was point based, okay. And so I got our bilingual SLPs, cause I was one of them, to do a time study. Like how long does it take you to do X, Y, and Z?

Phuong (44:20): And I will say for our bilingual SLPs out there, I give you props because you have to do everything in two languages, your IEP meetings last twice as long, you are pulled into classrooms all the time to interpretation that you’re honored and proud to do, but holy bejeesus it takes so much time. And it wasn’t until I presented one week case study to our special ed director. And it wasn’t at that point about, so and so is tired. So, and so doesn’t want to

Lisa (44:45): Right.

Phuong (44:45): It was data. I said hey, here is the time and mathematically, it does not work out. So we were actually able to give more workload points to our bilingual students. Um, and that was what changed their tone. The other thing was for some leadership positions, they do not know our prime duties and those are all of our responsibilities. And I said it before, but it’s not just the therapy.

Phuong (45:12): It’s not. So until–and I have a prime duties list, whenever I was in my district, I’m like, here are all the things that we do and here’s how long it takes to do all these things, so the math does not add up right now. Like if somebody would just do some arithmetic in our field, I’m like, hello, you know?

Sarah (45:29): It’s language.

Lisa (45:31): Yeah. We’re not great at that. No, I think we would surprise ourselves though, too. I think we know that we feel a certain way, but we also don’t have the data to support that. And there’s– what’s that app that we used for awhile? We, even within our business, we’re like, we can’t even begin to identify how much time we’re spending on things to even justify do we need to–

Sarah (45:50): Toggle.

Lisa (45:50): Toggle. So toggle is a great app you just get a plus button,

Sarah (45:54): Yeah.

Lisa (45:54): Hit the minus button, have some set labels for things like writing reports, writing IEP’s spending time consulting. And if you did that even for one week, like what you said, I think it would blow the minds of the SLPs taking the data, but then it would make it a lot easier as far as when I get asked something I’ve already done this and I can go ahead and say, you know, here’s what my week currently looks like. I don’t know how I could fit that in, help me understand how maybe that would work. And I think when you present it like that, then it’s easier for them to be like, oh wow, okay, no, we’ll, we’ll get somebody else to do it. Somebody that hasn’t done a one week study on their time.

Sarah (46:33): Yeah because why did I always feel like whenever like I’d have my principal or administrator walk in is the time when I didn’t have students.

Lisa (46:39): Right.

Phuong (46:39): Right

Sarah (46:41): And I’m at my computer. And I’m like, I’m not shopping at Target right now.

Lisa (46:44): I was five minutes ago, but I’m not right now.

Sarah (46:47): I’m writing a report (unintelligible) every single time. So I-I, in his mind I have a feeling he was like, does she–

Lisa (46:53): Right.

Sarah (46:53): work with kids around here? Like what does this woman even do with her day? So I do, I think that would be super powerful.

Phuong (47:00): Yeah.

Sarah (47:01): One thing I wanted to, to have you talk about too is, um, and I had mentioned this when we were having a conversation before we started recording, was that, um, I called it a protest, but I realized it was more of a movement that there was something you were doing at, um, is it TSHA? It is TSHA.

Phuong (47:19): I think TSHA, the Texas, yeah.

Sarah (47:19): Yeah. And so there’s a movement. There was something that you were, um–

Lisa (47:23): Organizing

Sarah (47:23): encouraging other people to participate in. And, and I don’t know if that’s the same thing as the movement you have too with the stickers. Um–

Phuong (47:32): It is, it’s all in the same.

Sarah (47:34): Ok will you talk about that? Because I just, I love something that gives us, um, empowerment.

Phuong (47:41): So I, in all of this unveiling and in having the privilege of talking to a lot of our peers and also being in the trenches at many schools and school districts, um, and state organizations, I feel like right now, we need to bring some awareness and some resiliency and some permission to our speech language pathologists to say, if you feel safe, when you feel safe speak up and speak out. And, um, the movement started, I would say it probably started with me writing The Heartbeat of Speech Language Pathology. It’s a book that is embedded in evidence based practice, which goes down to three points. Like if you look at ASHA, the definition of evidence based practice is one; that external research that we talk about all the time. It’s what we get nervous about right? Can you eat food in like in an IEP meeting? The second part of evidence based practice is talking about our clinical opinion and expertise. I think for me, that part is important because that’s a plus y’all, I mean, it’s us knowing that we can look at the research, but we can trust ourselves and our peers.

Phuong (48:50): And if I don’t know a lot about you know, childhood apraxia of speech, I can call my friend who is PROMPT certified. And we can talk about that, believe in yourself, that talks about the whole imposter syndrome that you mentioned before Sarah. And so I think we just need to give ourselves credit. We’re the second tier. And then the last part to me is kind of my powerhouse section. And I think we rarely talk about this. It’s what our clients and our students and our patients and our humans feel and their perspective. So whenever we think about evidence based practice, it’s all of these things. And so when we think about the people we serve and getting them the resources they need, we need to advocate for it. So I started writing the book and it has, you know, takeaways I’m busy. Like I don’t have time for these things, but one, I wanted to reassure SLPs that you’re, you’re so worthy and your worth is not based on that productivity, your worth is based on your humanity and the humanity you have in spades because you chose our important profession. Yeah? Yes. And then bring awareness to it. And then, so what happened is I worked really closely with the Fort Worth Independent School District. They are a powerhouse district in Texas. I think they’re the fifth largest district with 126 SLPs.

Phuong (50:09): Don’t (unintelligible) to that. And what they did is they, um, they believe in serving the students, having the resources for the SLPs, um, putting the SLP physical and mental health first. You take care of you. And, and then as lead and as the leadership team, we will support you where you need support. But give me the permission to say, I need help, right? Not shaming them, not– I’ve had other district leads that have said you signed a contract and you are obligated to help, right? Those are the two jugs–juxtaposed, that’s a lot of syllables, um, districts. But moreso, what they did is they got the book for everybody and then they had a red bracelet movement and it’s this beautiful bracelet. They gave it to every single SLP. And I can, did I share the video with y’all on the blog post? I can’t remember.

Sarah (51:03): I think so. I think it was linked to it.

Phuong (51:06): Ok but they gave it to every SLP and they chose the color red because it was so symbolic in terms of culture and humanity and pride. And they went into all of it. But it was just a reminder to say, love you first love your people. When you look across that U shaped table, if you got one, you lucky SLP, that’s what matters. You know, that’s what matters that everything else, let it, let it slide. And it’s not even sliding. We don’t even have the vocabulary for it. We have to let it go to let people know we need more support. So they started the movement. And I was just like, I mean, y’all should have seen me bawling at this video that they sent me. Um, because the book, I think the book for me means so much.

Phuong (51:51): And you know, for, I know you both read it. It’s, it’s embedded in my family story and in being a refugee and not having a lot of money and, you know, just, you just want to support our most vulnerable. And right now I think about SLPs in that case. And so districts have started doing it. And I think it just kind of re-centers us, right? It re-centers us to why we started this, it gives us strategies for how to talk to our administrators, our legislators, if we have the time to do it. And here’s the thing, SLP, if you don’t have the time to do it, let it go. You don’t feel safe doing it and you need your job, then let it go. But for those of us who feel safer and like Austin ISD this year, they were all over the news.

Phuong (52:37): It was amazing. And the SLP who stepped up I will say, are the more veteran SLPs who are about to retire, um, Dane who’s, oh, I love her. You know when you meet some good-souled people and you’re like, yeah. She was like, I don’t care. I’m going to say what I’m going to say. And I feel safe enough saying it. So I am. So she did. So if you feel empowered to do so, do so on behalf of our peers, but I just kinda want to say, you know, you’re enough, you are worthy. And there’s some things that we can do to make it better because it’s worth it. Right? The people are so worth it. Those kids and students and families are so worth it and we’re worth it. I mean, we be changing the world.

Lisa (53:23): Right.

Phuong (53:23): We give people their sounds and their words. I say the definition of a speech language pathologist is we empower human beings to tell their meaningful stories. Everyone has a story and that’s what we get to do. So no one be in my way, because

Lisa (53:43): Move.

Phuong (53:43): (unintelligible) and protesting

Lisa (53:43): I love it.

Sarah (53:44): I’m going to be in front of you clearing that path and just let you go.

Phuong (53:50): it’s your machete with your machete. So if you’re excited about the movement, part of it, I think is you don’t have to buy anything. You don’t have to do anything, but just talk about it. Talk about mental health. Name the things. Talk about how hard it is. Talk about how there’s not enough time right now, bring it up collectively as a district, bring it up. And when people say, well, here’s what we have to do. Look at them and say, tell me what that looks like. Here is my schedule. Tell me what it looks like. Because for me, it looks like groups of 12.

Lisa (54:22): Yup.

Phuong (54:22): it looks like working every single night, because what’s the outcome districts? We leave. And then they have to find new people that they have to retrain.

Sarah (54:36): Yup.

Phuong (54:36): Like, it doesn’t make sense. Ok I’m done.

Sarah (54:36): Oh my gosh. It’s so good. I’ve said it before, but I do not think we could end this almost school year, which ended not in the best of ways, on a better note. I really hope this gives everybody something to just really reflect on and think about. Use this time over the summer to like empower yourself. Well first and foremost, rest.

Lisa (55:02): Rest.

Phuong (55:02): Rest, take a nap.

Sarah (55:03): Yeah, take a nap. But then just get ready to be rejuvenated and empowered and, and stand up for yourself. Say no. I’m going to work on that one. That’s going to be the big one for me. Um, but we adore you. That was– it’s just been an amazing conversation. Um, and I hope we get to see you in real life at a conference someday. Whenever that happens.

Lisa (55:24): At the latest (unintelligible)

Phuong (55:24): I believe I’m seeing y’all in July

Sarah (55:28): Yeah.

Phuong (55:30): Right? I’m seeing y’all in July at the–

Lisa (55:32): Oh! SLP Summit, yes.

Sarah (55:33): Yes, I was thinking that like, cause I know [inaudible].

Lisa (55:40): I thought she meant Connect.

Sarah (55:40): Connect, I was like we’re not gonna see you there.

Lisa (55:40): I was like we are?

Sarah (55:40): yes, and we’re actually getting ready to do an announcement, but like the save the date and everything for the next summit. And yes, we’re so excited to have you present. And anybody listening to this episode right now is going to be like, woohoo.

Lisa (55:52): And at the very latest we’ll grab some hugs in what is it March next year or February for TSHA? Phuong (55:58): I forget. But it’ll, it’s one of those. Yeah. It’s around then.

Sarah (56:02): I hope it happens. I need to see my people, the conferences to me, if anything, that’s my opportunity to be with people who really get me.

Lisa (56:11): Even if they’re in different settings. You feel that pulse of other SLPs who know, who see you.

Sarah (56:16): right.

Lisa (56:17): Who know you.

Sarah (56:18): Right. And like you said, we oftentimes feel siloed. So it’s important for us to have this community. And so we just appreciate you. Thank you so much for taking the opportunity to have this conversation with us. Obviously super important. Um, yeah. Anything else?

Lisa (56:32): Nope. That’s awesome. Yeah.

Phuong (56:34): Alright, thank you for the meaningful work that y’all do. And, um, love to all the SLPs.