Talking to Professionals—They’re Just Like Us!

Two years ago, as an undergrad, I had the chance to attend the ASHA Convention—a surreal experience! Not only was I surrounded by innovative research, but I was immersed in a setting with the most influential leaders of our fields. I was star-struck and crippled by my own thoughts …

“They’re not here to listen to my opinion or answer my questions. They’re here to present and learn about new research. I’m going to say something they’ve known for years.”

These thoughts stopped me from talking to the amazing leaders in our fields. I was afraid to ask questions and gain knowledge from those currently practicing for fear of appearing incompetent or annoying. What a missed opportunity!

My Aha Moment

Then I had a moment. While I was walking around the Exhibit Hall, I began a conversation with a professional who was working in an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) clinic. We started to chat about my experiences as a NSSLHA Student State Officer and through therapeutic horseback riding.

And the conversation continued! She was really interested in my volunteer work and how my CSD classes applied to the therapy. We chatted further about ABA which led to pursuing a position in an ABA clinic during my break before graduate school began!

That’s when I made a realization—currently practicing professionals genuinely want to talk to us! They want to connect with us and teach us. They want us to be caring, critically thinking, culturally sensitive sponges. We’re the future of the professions!

Ask 3

After getting home—even after this amazing experience—I still wasn’t sure how to approach professionals in my every-day life. I wanted to pick their brains about the professions but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Then I was taught the Ask 3 process.

Ask 3 involves using three resources—research, fellow students, professors, etc.—to not only determine if the question is valid, but to further define the question before asking an expert. This makes you more self-sufficient and shows professionals that you’ve really put thought into your questions.

Using Ask 3 In the Real World

For example, you’re assigned a mock case about a client with a possible language disorder. Before creating goals for your client, you need to pick the correct assessment. But wait, you’ve never completed an assessment before!

You’re stumped! What do you do?? Ah yes, Ask 3:

  • Think critically. Ask yourself, “What tests are available?” Then, search Google. You find 6 language assessments to choose from—but how?
  • Check to see which of these 6 assessments is available in your clinic. This narrows your list down to 3. You comb through each assessment option and become comfortable with 2. How do you choose which one?
  • Ask a professor. They’ll tell you that Test A takes 30 minutes to conduct and gives you A-C information; whereas, Test B takes 60 minutes, but gives you A-F information. Now you wonder, “Which test is more practical?”

Now you’ve redefined your original question and have a more well-thought out question to ask a current practitioner!

Keeping Up the Momentum

After my experience at Convention, I decided to join some of ASHA’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to connect with professionals in our field online—without fear of making pragmatic mistakes or asking questions that may have been answered earlier. Being part of these online groups allowed me to re-word my questions and comments before I sent them out for the professional world to see, making sure I was saying exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. Between this and following Ask 3, it worked—they answered!

Being able to have these targeted online conversations with professionals slowly grew my confidence. Now, I serve as a student member of ASHA’s SIG 2, Neurogenic Communication Disorders, and I’m working towards bridging that gap between students and professionals.

Understanding that your questions and ideas are valued is the first step in bridging the gap between students and professionals. So, break down that fear of connecting with professionals and expand your knowledge!

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