April 7, 2011 1:51 pm 29 commentsPenny Castagnozzi - I know what you’re thinking, “Why would anyone ever need help in working with someone as capable as me?” They don’t. You’re fantastic. You’re competent, astute, systematic, analytical, committed, analytical, sensitive… did I mention analytical?Okay, you may see where I’m coming from. As wonderful as SLPs are, they are in a class by themselves among professionals, and it’s just going to make life easier for all concerned if people realize that they don’t have to try to change the SLPs in their lives -they just have to understand them. Having spent the last twenty years as the business partner of a speech pathologist, and the last 52 years living in close contact with that same SLP (this brilliant business partner is also my adorable sister!), I feel not only qualified to share my thoughts, but actually justified to finally be unleashing my opinions on life with an SLP!As a disclaimer, I might mention that, of course, not all speech/language pathologists are alike. Throughout my career, though, I have worked with hundreds (if not thousands) of speech pathologists, and although you are a beautiful tapestry of individuals, there are indeed some colors that seem to appear quite frequently in the artwork!As my gift to the world (no, I’m not re-gifting the corn-cob roaster that my adult children honored me with over the holidays!) I’d like to offer ten tips on dealing with the elite individuals who I lovingly refer to as “Speech Paths.”Ten Tips for the SLP-Blessed:1 Don’t even bother to ask, “Do you know what you’re going to do today?” Of course she knows what she’s going to do. She’s a Speech-Path! She made her mental list the night before and has been rehearsing it ever since, unless she’s written it down on a small piece of paper, which she’ll copy neatly onto another, larger piece of paper right after she has her first cup of coffee.2 If there’s any verbal confusion, it’s your fault. She’s a speech pathologist, and knows how to express her thoughts – all of them – all of the time.3 Nobody takes more notes than a Speech-Path. They may not be legible, or organized, but the thoughts are on the paper! (Without being conspicuous, continue to take your own notes at meetings so you can read and understand the important facts!)4 Nothing is simple. A statement like, “He has a sore throat,” will surely be followed by, “What time exactly did this start? What was he eating at the time? Did you take his temperature? What do you mean by normal? Is it his normal or everyone’s normal? Are you sure he hadn’t had ice cream right before you took his temperature? Does he have any rash? Maybe we should x-ray his throat to make sure there is no bone sliver in it! Did you feel his neck? Were his glands swollen? (I know – you’re thinking, “These are actually all very good questions to ask.” That’s my point! Of course it all sounds reasonable to you -you’re an SLP!)5 They are like elephants. No, I’m not calling them gray and wrinkled…that would be describing me right now. What I mean is that they never, ever forget anything that happened in the distant past. What’s amazing is that not only to they make mental notes that seem to last forever, but, when asked, they can pull these figures and facts out of thin air in any disagreement. Are they all true? I don’t know! I clearly do not have the kind of memory to know this or I wouldn’t have asked Speech Path in the first place! Sometimes the memories are just a wee bit too vivid and detailed to be believable, but how can you prove that something thirty years ago wasn’t true if you’ve already admitted your ignorance by asking the question?6 Don’t try to compete with their work ethic. Speech Paths can, and will, stay up all night to finish an important project, an evaluation, a paper, or a speech. Just say, “I don’t know how you do it!” as you wave to them and drag your weary body off to bed or out of the room.7 Be prepared for long emails. In the spirit of thoroughness (Yes, “thoroughness” is a word, and I’ll email you the web page that proves it so you’ll believe me!) every detail of every thought will be put on paper to explain a point. Maybe we should start an email “game” with them, called “Say it in Three!” There are only two rules to this game. One – in any email, there can only be three sentences. Two – no sentences are allowed to have more than 4 clauses. It’s not that I don’t need and appreciate the information, but my brain (remember, I’m 52) can only hold on to three details. That’s it. If I ask for directions to a location, only give me the first three steps. After that, I’m pretending to listen. (I know what you’re thinking, “Hmmm, poor short term memory for linguistic information…this woman clearly needs some intervention…)8 Expect them to find flaws. Don’t take it personally – it’s their profession that causes this behavior. They’ve been trained to look for imperfections in speech and language. Looking for something to fix comes naturally to them, and the skill transfers much too easily to other areas of life. On a day you’re prepared to speak in front of an audience of 100 people, you may be standing there minutes before the presentation starts, confident in your tailored slacks and the jacket that hides everything you don’t want the world to see. Speech Path comes up to you and whispers, “You have something white in your hair – I’ll get it” or “There’s a string hanging here – let me pull it,” or “There’s some black under your eye… no, there…no, a little higher…” It’s a wonderful esteem booster.9 Enjoy the fullness of life with a Speech Path. Because of all the details they notice and report to you, you’ll live more richly, see more fully, step more securely, and, if you’re with a Speech Path that’s just like mine, laugh more heartily. They are truly involved in all they come in contact with, and that vitality and commitment to make things better is not only endearing, but commendable. The world is a better place because of Speech Paths.If you see yourselves in this article, pass the tips on to those you love or those who may occasionally react to you with a smile and a slight wince. If you don’t recognize any of these traits, just explain this article away as merely a way for some poor middle-aged soul who needed to vent openly (nationally?) about a sibling she may be spending a little too much time with lately! Oh, and for those of you who are disturbed because I had promised ten tips…I just wanted to see if you were paying attention! I knew you would be – you’re Speech Paths!