Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tip Tuesday: Join an ASHA SIG!

Special Interest Groups - Logo
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At ASHA's Schools Conference last week, there was a SIG 16, School-Based Issues special interest group,  meeting held and all affiliate members were invited.  Of the 1100+ participants in the conference (and I don't recall the exact number), ONLY a handful of us attended.  Why was that?  Was it because there really were more members there but thought lunch was more necessary at the time?  Or was it that there really were so few affiliate members there at all?  So this got me thinking...do you SLPs out there know about the SIGs offered by ASHA and do you know the benefits of joining?  Hence, in that moment this blog idea was born!

As SLPs we are also looking for great learning opportunities and getting cheap CEUs doesn't hurt either right?  Well here's one of my favorites ways to do that.

Years ago, I was introduced to this wonderful hidden gem offered to ASHA members called the Special Interest Groups (SIGs for short).  Being just out of graduate school and trying to keep up with all the different disorders and deficits I was trying to evaluate and treat, I had NO time the first few years to look into ASHA and  see what the inner workings were all about.  I had no real idea of what ASHA actually did.  All I knew is that I had to save all year long to pay my $250 (in December...worst time of the year of course) to keep my CCCs and it seemed like a raw deal not getting much for what I paid in.  ASHA was so convoluted to me!  I had no idea what it took to keep this organization going nor how MANY professionals volunteer their time and talents to share their knowledge and love of this profession to mentor, guide and educate the rest of us!  Even now, to tell you the truth, ASHA in itself is very similar to a government (in my opinion) with all of its committees and positions, and who really understands the inner workings?  Not me that's for sure.  BUT over time, I, at the very least, realized that there are some nice benefits to being a certified member.  I'm not just talking about being able to keep my job (which is of course the most important perk! Ha) and reciprocity of state licenses (since I've worked in 4 different ones since graduating).  I'm talking about joining a SIG which, in my humble opinion, is DEFINITELY one of the perks!

So what SIG am I a member of and why to I love it so much?

I'm a member of ASHA's SIG 16, School Based Issues, and here are my reasons why I love it! 

(I cannot speak for other SIGs as I am not a member but the following reasons may also work for them as well)

1.)  Cheap CEUs: Let's be honest, this is probably the only reason many of us had ever even thought about paying an extra $35/yr to become a SIG member.  SIG 16 publishes 4 times a year (March, June, Oct, Dec) and if you read each publication of SIG 16 yearly and take the CEU test (each test costs $5...so an additional $20/year) you WILL get your 10 yearly CEUs.  For those of us who have worked or are working in school districts that provide NO CEU opportunities or reimbursement, paying out $55 bucks a YEAR for 10 CEUs is DEFINITELY AFFORDABLE!  You will NOT find cheaper CEUs anywhere!

2.)  Self-paced and LOTs of time to take CEU test:  I LOVE that the SIG issues are publications we can do on our own free time.  Years ago when I first joined SIG 16 they did not give much time (~3 months before the next issue was published) to read and take the CEU test. NOW, SIG 16 has changed the way they do things and have extended the due date for CEU tests sometimes for years!!! So you can go back to previous publications as well to obtain CEUs which is pretty awesome!  Word of caution, just make sure to check each publication to make sure when the CEU test should be completed, but I promise you, you will have MORE than enough time to do it.  I was so, so, so happy when I saw this change because as SLPs in schools we KNOW the busy times of year, the times we have NO TIME for anything BUT work so I appreciate that the leaders of this SIG have decided to accommodate for school schedules and allow members enough time to really read and LEARN before having to take the CEU test.

3.)  Issues are relevant and timely:  This is one of my FAVORITE things about SIG 16 is the issues that have been published over the last two years have really become much more relevant to the current issues school based SLPs are facing.  So we are learning in real-time what to do with the changes in education.

4.)  Issues relevant to ANYONE who works with pediatrics:  I know SIG 16 is called School-Based Issues and the committee does a great job keeping the information relevant for school based clinicians BUT I  left the schools a year ago and I find each issue has been worthwhile for my continued education as well.  As pediatric SLPs it doesn't matter if we work in the schools or in private practice we still NEED to know what is happening IN the schools so we can effectively support parents as well as school-based SLPs when sharing clients.  So I'm a big advocate of SIG 16 for private SLPs as well!

5.)  Volunteer Opportunities:  there are a number of volunteer opportunities available to SIG members.  One of which is being a state representative (I can't recall the exact name they used) at your state's speech and hearing conference to do some PR for the SIGs and another is peer review (I'm sure there are more volunteer opportunities but I don't know them all).  So if you ever wanted to get more involved in ASHA but have no idea how to go about doing it, here are some nice volunteer opportunities.  I had no idea about these volunteer opportunities until I went to the affiliate meeting at the conference.  Think you don't have the qualifications to be a peer reviewer?  Well I was ASSURED that you don't have to have a doctorate of any kind to offer this service and that most committee members were in fact Master's level SLPs.  So don't question your ability to volunteer and help out!

6.)  SIG online community:  This is my NUMBER 1 REASON TO JOIN SIG 16 (I'm sure other SIGs communities are great as well)...the online community is AMAZING!!!!!  We, as SLPs in the trenches are the experts!!!!  There's not hierarchy of education here.  There's no..."If you don't have a PhD., your response is not needed" mentality! Members ask questions and other members share their experiences to help answer those questions.  There are no right or wrong answers as state laws differ and everyone's experiences are valid and allow for a new perspective!  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this online community so much and often times free materials and educational resources are shared so it really is a win-win!  In addition, while reading these daily email updates, you really begin to feel a part of a community and a part of this huge conglomerate we call ASHA.

Some other perks:

Additional Discounts:  SIG members are ensured 50% discount on select short courses at ASHA convention.  Not really great if you don't have the dough to go to the convention but still cool if you will be there, why not save a few bucks right?

Online Chats:  all online chats can be accessed in the archives after the event for additional learning opportunities (no CEUs).

Affiliate meeting at schools conference:  and of course the last perk is you can put faces to names at the affiliates meeting as the schools conference every summer.

So hopefully I gave you enough incentives to at least look into joining an ASHA SIG!  We are life-long learners and this is a great, affordable way to support that.  I hope to see you all on SIG 16's online community asking and answering questions and sharing your experiences because we need to learn more from each other and you have so much to give!!!!

Until then...as always, happy talking!
Update 7/25/13: After I posted this blog, a member from SIG 16's online community shared with me how she has benefited from being part of this SIG.  She contacted SIG 16 when: 

"1 - When I had a "sticky" situation with a CF who I didn't think made the grade - Deborah Dixon did an excellent job confirming what I needed to do, and gave me lots of resources
2 - When  I wanted to discuss an idea that I thought would be helpful for ASHA members regarding testing
3 -  When I needed a therapist referral for a parent who was out of state
4 -  When I needed contact information for a clinician who I met at a conference
5 -  When I needed some practical info for a parent of a friend on an aspect of the field that is not my specialty"

She also wanted to share that: 

"You should also be aware that for a very low fee you can access the Perspectives magazine of another List for a 24 hour period.   I did this when I needed additional practical information on supervision.   It was very helpful to access the Perspectives from the Supervisors List."

Now can you see why I love this online community so much?  People come up with such great ideas I have never even thought of.  Anyway, check out the SIGs...you just might like them :)

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