Let's set the scene, you are working and you are new or a veteran therapist but are not used to treating children with multiple disabilities. You suddenly feel anxious and start having self-doubt. As someone who has been practicing for nearly 10 years and specialize in Augmentative and Alternative Communication let me tell you that to this day I still feel anxious and always unsure where to start with a child. Feeling anxious is completely normal! After all, you want to do everything you can to help your patients communicate effectively and connect with their loved ones. However, what if I were to tell you that anxiety is actually a good thing? It may sound counterintuitive, but bear with me. In this blog post, I'll explain why anxiety can be a good thing for AAC SLPs—and how you can use it to your advantage.
Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience from time to time. In small doses, anxiety can be helpful because it motivates us to take action and get things done. For example, if you're about to give a presentation at work, a little bit of anxiety can help you focus and prepare thoroughly. Anxiety doesn't have to be a bad thing. It can actually be a good thing if you let it be. It means that you're growing and expanding your comfort zone. The key is to change your mindset from one of scarcity to one of abundance.
Mindsets are a set of assumptions that help you distill complex worldviews into digestible information and then set expectations based on this input. For example, you may believe that you do not know enough about this child's disorder, or about the different AAC systems, or what language program to pick. This is may be overwhelming and cause you to feel anxious. Mindsets can impact your outcomes by determining the way you think, feel and even physiologically respond to some situations.
So what does this all mean for an AAC SLP? Well, it means that if you're feeling anxious before meeting with a new patient or giving a presentation on AAC, or training a new SLP in the field of AAC and you have never done that before you need to bring yourself to change your mindset.
4 different mindset shift when you are feeling anxious:
Curiosity: Instead of feeling nervous about not knowing what it takes to help this child or clinician, use it as an opportunity to go build your repertoire. Go seek out different CEUs, read articles, watch presentations, email and reach out to other professionals.
Self-Identity: Accept that you won't know everything and that's okay. You are still professional, capable, and will figure it out.
Change: Embrace the change and uncertainty. It will be an adventure!
Shared Experience: Draw on past experiences where you've been in similar situations (even if they aren't exactly the same). Use those experiences to remind yourself that you can handle this too.
If you're an AAC speech language pathologist who experiences anxiety, know that you're not alone. Feelings of anxiety are normal when faced with complex situations like working with children with multiple disabilities. But by shifting your mindset from negative to positive, you can channel that anxiety into something productive. Stay curious, remember that you are more than this one experience, be open to change, and find others who can relate to your journey. With this positive mindset shift, anything is possible!