Extra Xtra: Why some "entertaining" videos may do more harm than good.

Perhaps it's the result of being bi-professional, but I have developed a pet peeve regarding the use of a tool called xtranormal to portray what our professional lives are like. Every so often I receive an email, or read a facebook post or tweet, with a link to a video about "how true" some video is about life as an educational interpreter, community interpreter, educational speech pathologist, medical speech pathologist, etc. After seeing them enough times, I recognized a pattern:

  1. Introduce two parties in an "Us vs. Them" situation.
  2. Create dialogue regarding a specific problem or question common to a duty or knowledge.
  3. Portray the "Us" profession positively while simultaneously denigrating the "Them" profession.
  4. Carry on for 1-2 minutes in this fashion.

I have seen videos that portrayed teachers as unable to figure out that a deaf student is asking to use the restroom. I've seen others that suggest nurses are inflexible and know nothing about swallowing disorders, or outright refuse to let SLPs do their jobs. Pick your issue: use of thickened liquids, instrumental assessments, language or cognitive disorders, stuttering. Chances are there is a video of it out there, festering with frustration and negativity.

Are these videos cathartic? Perhaps. I am not suggesting our professional lives are a picnic. I really have had people ask me if my deaf client reads Braille, or is he able to drive. Not too long ago, I had to get a patient a new trach because his nurse washed the inner cannula with tap water. These things happen.

What all these videos have in common, though, is that they foster stereotypes. Often, the maker describes it as "based on an actual event", only instead of offering up a title that clearly defines it as a solitary incident, it is branded as defining ALL TEACHERS/EAs/NURSES EVER.

What is fundamentally wrong, though, is that we are not in competition with any of these people. We are meant to work as a team, and teams only get stronger when we don't work against one another. It isn't about proving you know more about something than the people you have to work with. It's about sharing your knowledge thoughtfully and being open about explaining what your goals are and what you have to offer.

By all means, please vent your frustrations when you have them. They are legitimate, and I will be right there to hear you out. But please be courteous and respectful. And please, when you come across these videos, challenge the negativity they foster, and know that we--as individuals and a community of professionals--are better than that.