Fill Your Gap Year Taking time off before a speech-language pathology master’s program? Here are some ways to earn money and gain valuable experience. Student's Say
Student's Say  |   June 01, 2014
Fill Your Gap Year
Author Notes
  • Heather Johnson is a second-year student in the master’s program in speech-language pathology at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.
    Heather Johnson is a second-year student in the master’s program in speech-language pathology at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. ×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / School-Based Settings / Student's Say
Student's Say   |   June 01, 2014
Fill Your Gap Year
The ASHA Leader, June 2014, Vol. 19, 32-33. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.19062014.32
The ASHA Leader, June 2014, Vol. 19, 32-33. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.19062014.32
After graduating from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, Heather Johnson headed to Korea to teach English for a year before starting her master’s program.
For many students, the ideal path to becoming a certified speech-language pathologist is the straight and narrow one: a communication sciences and disorders bachelor’s degree, followed immediately by a master’s degree, followed by the clinical fellowship.
However, many students earn a bachelor’s in CSD but don’t proceed directly to graduate school: Perhaps they want to take some time off, need to earn some money, or weren’t accepted into a program. How do they fill the gap of time between undergraduate and graduate studies to become more effective SLPs?
Working as a speech-language pathology assistant might seem like the best option, as it gives you the greatest amount of exposure to the profession. But based on my own experiences and those of fellow graduate students, other options can prepare you just as well for graduate school.
Teach English abroad. In researching opportunities to teach English abroad, I found South Korea to be the best financial option—schools there pay a decent monthly salary and also provide flights and housing. Programs in Spanish-speaking countries, on the other hand, offer the opportunity to sharpen your Spanish skills. In general, teaching English abroad sharpens your linguistic analysis abilities. When your Asian students cannot differentiate /l/ and /r/ production, you can tell them not to let tongue and alveolar ridge touch for /r/ production. When a student asks you, “When do you use the, when do you use a, and when do you use neither?”, then you start analyzing language more closely.
Be a nanny. Being a nanny gives you the chance to earn money for graduate school while interacting closely with children who are developing linguistic skills (and you can fulfill your childhood dream of becoming Mary Poppins).
Tutor. School-based speech-language treatment often is similar to tutoring: You need to understand how a child learns best and focus on a child’s individual needs to maximize your time with him or her. You prepare materials to support what is being taught in the classroom and you interpret what the teacher has said to help the student access the curriculum. Tutoring a student who has a learning disability provides an excellent opportunity to improve your future speech-language pathology practice.
Learn another language. English-speaking children with language difficulties often feel like English is their second language. Learning another language will help you understand your future clients’ daily experiences. As you study a new language, the words often seem to run together in a single string until you have practiced each individually and can isolate it in discourse. Sometimes you think you understand a word’s meaning, but when you use it, you find that the context was incorrect. In addition to semantics, grammar and syntax, you have to incorporate cultural sensitivity. All of these experiences in learning a new language will help shape your ability to work with students for whom English does not come naturally.
Take classes. If you have the chance, take classes in different areas that may make you a more versatile SLP. Depending on your interests, special education, gerontology, linguistics, computer science, Spanish or American Sign Language could boost your expertise in that subfield. Graduate school is intense, and there is not much time to take extra classes.
Work at a preschool. If you are interested in early intervention, preschools provide an ideal setting for gaining skills working with young children. You will acquire a good foundation for play-based and literacy interventions by working with preschoolers before graduate school.
The students in my cohort all took different routes to graduate school. Because of our diverse experiences, we all have different strengths we can use to support one another in our studies and clinical activities. This makes us all stronger speech-language pathology students.
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June 2014
Volume 19, Issue 6