Stepping Outside Your SLP Comfort Zone - by Lyndsey Zurawski

Hi everyone! I'm Dr. Lyndsey Zurawski from Speech to the Core and I'm sharing how I stepped out of my comfort zone! Thank you Natalie for hosting a great series.

This is my 10th year as a practicing SLP. 10 years! To me, that's a milestone. Around my 7th year (think---7 year itch), I started wondering what else I wanted from our profession. I knew I loved being a SLP. Not just a SLP, but also a school-based SLP. The one area, that I take issue with, working in the school setting is there's not a lot of room for growth. I was beginning to get frustrated. Frustrated with my school, my caseload, my "no room" for growth, and not knowing exactly where I would be "5 years from now". I decided to apply to Nova Southeastern to the Doctor of Speech Language Pathology program (SLP.D); to my surprise and delight I was accepted. I met my husband at the same time I was accepted. Thankfully, he was onboard and supportive, although I don't think he actually knew what was in store for the next 3 years of our lives. That satisfied me for a little while. But, then I realized that even receiving my doctorate wasn't enough, I wanted more. 
One year later, I saw an email from ASHA offering a leadership development program. I thought that it sounded interesting! Again, surprised when I was accepted! A little extra information (for those of you that are curious!) about the LDP Program- Each year, ASHA runs 2 LDP cohorts (they change by the year). The year I participated there was the Early Career Professionals (the one I attended) and the School LDP. Last year, there was a health care LDP. The LDP program is set up so that you attend 1 live session either at ASHA Headquarters or during a conference. During this face-to-face meeting you have the opportunity to meet your other LDP cohort members and are placed into "break-out" workgroups. These workgroups become your support system throughout the program. I still keep in touch with the girls in my breakout group along with some others from my cohort. After attending the face-to-face session, every other month there are webinars led by two coaches. The webinar topics range from Emotional Intelligence, coaching, mentoring, leadership, and conflict resolution, amongst many topics. In addition, you are required to develop a leadership project. Your breakout group helps to keep you on track and is used as a sounding board throughout the process. The ultimate goal is to assist you with developing/enhancing your leadership skills to reach your own individual goals. You can apply for the newest LDP Schools by clicking here

A little sample of what my EI results looked like

The ladies in my breakout group!

I believe that participating in this program was the catalyst for change in my professional career. One of the major components of the program is discussing Emotional Intelligence. If you aren't sure what it is, you should Google it! It changed my life! I always considered myself to be "assertive". Turns out, according to my EI, results I was actually less assertive that I thought. One of our assignments was to take our results and discuss them with a mentor. I went and spoke with my principal. It was then, a pivotal learning moment, in which I realized I avoid conflict. I am good at being assertive when things are going my way. But, when things get sticky, I tend to shy away. So... now was the time to change that! Assertiveness here I come! 

In order to graduate from LDP I developed an Inclusion Mentoring and Training (IMAT) Program in my school district. I work in the 11th largest school district in the country. We employ over 380 SLPs (are you thinking, holy cow?!) so, I wanted to be able to tap into the potential of all of the SLPs we have in such a large district. So.... heres where the stepping out of my comfort zone comes in. 

In order to implement my program I needed to speak to my "big boss", the Speech and Language Impaired Program Planner. I scheduled a time to meet with her. But, not only was I wanting to discuss my IMAT program, I also wanted to discuss how I was feeling "stuck". I wanted a change. This is where my assertiveness had to come in. It all worked out, the following school year I became a diagnostician 1 day per week. I was also implementing my IMAT program. The change in my schedule was integral in changing my outlook on my future as a speech-language pathologist in the schools. 
I was granted what I asked for. Now, I'm much more open to asking for what I want. I know that I won't ALWYS get what I want. But, I do know now, that it will always be worth the effort to ask. What's the worst that happens? Someone tells me "no"... oh well! 
Sometimes, we think we know what we want because we're "dreaming" about it. This year I was presented with the opportunity to apply for a leadership position. I applied, but my interview did not go as well as I would have liked. However, I truly believe everything happens for a reason. While I did not get the job (you could see that coming, couldn't you?), I could not be happier in my role as clinician, CF supervisor, mentor, IMAT implementer, PLC leader and so much more! I learned that what I thought I wanted wasn't really what I wanted. I learned so much about myself because I took a leap...while I might have scraped my face on the way down; I'm no worse for the wear. 

To wrap this up... Over the past two years,  my comfort zone has expanded infinitely. I have presented at the state and national level. Co-presented with ASHA Staff, invited to present at the ASHA online Language and Literacy in Elementary Schools, became a blogger, and started developing products on TpT. Oh year, I also received my doctorate. I'm not sure what else our profession has in store for me. But, I do know I can't wait to dive headfirst! I still have my "comfort zone", but I'm not as terrified to take a step out. 

Try stepping out of your comfort zone and see what life has in store for you! I promise there will be at least 1 phenomenal thing out there! 


  1. Excellent article Lyndsey! Thanks for sharing. I definitely can relate to your desire for professional growth! This is year 11 for me working as an SLP & I constantly seek fresh ideas. Thanks for hosting this series Natalie.

  2. Thanks for this terrific post Lyndsey! I'm always so amazed by the incredibly talented people in our field. It was interesting to read about your experience with the LDP program--I had considered applying and your post has motivated me to move forward and give it a try! Thanks for hosting Natalie--Daria

  3. Great post, Lyndsey! Keep reaching for the brass ring. I'm with you; ASHA LDP changed my life!


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