Sam’s Student Lounge:
Fighting the Fluff
By Samantha Weatherford
I have been pondering what to write for my first blog post on The Hearing Journal’s website for a few months. Literally, months. Would I lie to you? No, I would not. Seriously, months!
When the editor asked me to write for The Hearing Journal in February, I was so excited and honored, but then I remembered, “I am a speech-language pathology student. Why would The Hearing Journal want me?” Then I felt sad because I would have to tell her the truth and risk being shunned. My speechie ways would be sent packin’. I was assured, however, that SLPs read The Hearing Journal. Whew!
Flash forward three months, and I am sitting in my mom’s apartment (I do not have Internet access in my studio apartment — whatever) staring at a blank Word document. The Hearing Journal has been waiting patiently for me to get my act together, and all I have is a blank page and a blank brain. This is my brain on grad school.
I wanted to write about, at first, why AuDs and SLPs should be best friends. I probably will sometime in the future, but I recently attended a conference and have been in contact with professionals in the field. I always come out of conferences with epiphanies, and I have some realizations to share. You should go to conferences, too. Your brain will hurt, but it is totally worth it.
What I want to tell you, students and professionals alike, is to be critical thinkers. Associations at the local, state, national, and international levels are in kind of a panic right now, as I understand it. Professionals do not want or cannot afford to be members of associations on top of their licensure and certification costs. They certainly cannot find the money to attend the conferences put on by associations. When professionals do not join associations, they do not have any money. As my youngest brother says, “No monz, no funz.”
Associations that do not have money cannot pay the big names in the communication sciences and disorders field to come speak at their conferences. Attendees, on the flip side, do not want to spend money on a convention with no reputable presenters. It is a classic Catch-22 situation. This is where we need critical thinking.
Associations still want to have conferences, and obviously professionals need CEUs and want to attend, but we need presenters and lecturers. Every year there are calls for papers, which are bombarded by top researchers, grad students like me doing their theses, and people trying to sell their products. National associations have a little more oomph and can weed out the good from the bad. Some associations, however, are really hard up for strong convention presenters. We are now seeing an influx … of poor presentations.
What makes a presentation bad? Things that are not legitimate, meaning they have no data, references, evidence-based practice, backing by professional organizations, or position statements. Basically, it is filled with fluff.
I am telling you this because, from what I see, this is happening more and more. If you find yourself at a presentation like this, I want you to step back and say, “What are they telling me? Do I believe this? How would I use this in my practice and with whom? Is there more to this than what they are presenting?”
I think it is easy to get sucked in and think, “Oh, this is really cool!” The presentation topic could be the greatest thing in the world but listen and analyze. Ask yourself if it is evidence based, and what kind of evidence is being presented. Do not let yourself be sucked in by the cool factor.
A strong clinician, AuD, or SLP is someone who is detail-oriented, analytical, and intuitive. Go with your gut, and do not be afraid to raise your hand and ask questions. Get all of the information before you start implementing it into practice.
How should we combat this modern-age trend? Submit your own papers! I think my teensy pilot study thesis has more research beef to it than some lectures. Encourage your peers, colleagues, coworkers, and professors to join associations, attend conventions, and present. We have to stop the snowball effect that is plaguing our professions and get quality lectures and information disseminated. I think it starts with students, who may be more inclined to continue if they get involved early.
Anyway, my posts in the future might be like this and they might be more ridiculous. You never really know. I hope you got something from this, and please feel free to contact HJ if you have any questions about this article, getting involved, my life, grad school, what it is like to raise two rodents, or about the time an old man poked me in the forehead at Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Ms. Weatherford is a second-year, speech-language pathology graduate student at Missouri State University in Springfield.