After nearly three-and-a-half years in college, with only a semester of undergraduate education to go, you think you have your future profession pretty much all figured out. This is what I thought to myself while traveling to the 2015 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention. Little did I know, there is so much more to the field of speech-language pathology, beyond what you can learn in a classroom. I was pleasantly surprised and overwhelmed by over 14,000 professionals and researchers in attendance and hundreds of presentations pertaining to a variety of populations, classifications, and treatment approaches.
In an effort to make the most of my experience, I planned the sessions I would go to in advance. I wanted to attend a large variety of sessions from all areas of the field to better understand all of the emphases in speech-language pathology. I was successful in doing so for about half a day before I recognized where my heart truly lies: aphasia, dysphagia (swallowing), and traumatic brain injury. It also didn’t take long before I realized that it is impossible to learn everything. So while speech-language pathology may be a profession in which there are numerous foci, a professional must seek out significant education, research, and clinical experience to become an expert in any particular focus within the field. After this realization, I decided to target the sessions, posters, and tables I am most interested in. With each session on aphasia, dysphasia, and traumatic brain injury, I fell more and more in love with the possibility of one day working with clients who have been given these diagnoses and furthering innovative research in those same areas.
While many undergraduate students believe the ASHA Convention to be far too advanced for them, I would urge them to reconsider their attendance. With a minimal senior undergraduate level of knowledge, I attended intermediate level sessions and understood nearly all of what was discussed. Despite the brief moments of uncertainty, I made several invaluable connections with speech-language pathologists all across the country and confirmed my passion in the field.
Lab Assistant for Dr. Hidecker
Senior in Division of Communication Disorders