Addressing a group of 250 speech and language pathologists and audiologists at the USHA conference March 3, CoughDrop founder, Brian Whitmer, touted the immense value of re-thinking in speech therapy and beyond.
Delving into his experience with speech struggles revolving around his daughter (read more about her here), as well as insights gained in the business world and the creation of CoughDrop, Brian identified three major areas where we, as human beings -- as well as supporters of speech and language -- could benefit from re-thinking.
When we come into situations we are often handed an anchor which plants our mindset in a particular idea or arena. Sometimes these anchors can be constricting and deflating.
In the realm of speech and language, heavy anchor ideas -- limiting compartments that stifle what a person will be able to accomplish -- can become a solid barrier to forward progress if we don’t take time to occasionally re-think those limitations and open our minds to see outside an assigned box.
“There are communicators and individuals who have been constrained by anchors all over the world who are just waiting for any opportunity to ditch that anchor,” Brian said. “What are the anchors WE need to ditch, what are the things WE are assuming simply are the way they are, when maybe they aren’t really.”
While striving to become our best, we can accidentally plateau by getting good at something without realizing there is a whole other way to view it that would open the process to expansive new vistas. Occasionally we get trapped in a local maxima.
“When we look at the whole graph of awesomeness measurements there is sometimes somewhere else that is significantly higher than where we are, but we don’t see it because we are stuck on a local maxima," Brian suggested. "Everything becomes a nail because you are a hammer. There may be a better way to handle something but you just don’t see.”
CoughDrop is a good example of this. By incorporating the cloud into AAC and working toward a team focus rather than continuing the mindset of one dedicated device for one struggling communicator, CoughDrop blasted over a local maxima and is reaching new heights.
Sometimes re-thinking means looking at issues from a new perspective and believing the status quo is simply not good enough.
Making assumptions based on previous events often saves us from dwelling on meaningless information or from waiting for perfect understanding before we act. These insights are sometimes labeled "priors."
“Priors are very important,” Brian commented, “because they let us make decisions even without complete data.”
He reminded us, “People come with priors attached.” While it can be beneficial to build on past experiences and push forward from a platform of understanding, we must be careful that we don’t shoe-horn every similar case into a tidy little box of “this is how you handle these issues.”
Experience can be a powerful tool, but it can also limit our vision if we are unwilling to re-think how that application is working right now. Prior success does not automatically mean there is no better way to handle a case.
Re-thinking doesn't mean setting aside learning in favor of the newest therapy fad. Instead, it means evaluating and examining progress and maybe even deciding the current course is great. But in pausing to step back and take in the big picture, we might get a better view of the path we need to walk to help those trusting in our care reach their greatest potential.