I come from a long line of passionate teachers so my knack for working with kids is in my blood. I fell in love with Pediatric Speech-Language Pathology as a sophomore in high school and have never looked back.
No matter what you do in life, there are always defining moments along the path. I thought I’d share a few of mine I’ve gathered so far and hold very dear.
After my aunt, who is a Speech-Language Pathologist herself, suggested that this field might be a great fit for me, I went to work setting up a time to observe a young woman I knew was an SLP at a school in my area. I remember one thing from that day: she was about to get a young boy who worked on his speaking fluency. She told me they had been trying lots of different techniques but not having any success but she had something new to try that day. He came, she explained the new technique and he gave it a try. He produced a smooth sentence without any disfluencies!
I will never be able to forget the look of sheer pride and excitement on his face when he realized he did it. I went home at the end of the day and cried because I knew I wanted to help as many kids as I possibly could have that moment.
I had the opportunity during graduate school to work with clients at an adult respite center. One of my clients was a young man my age, but with severe delays which kept him from speaking or functioning at age level.
He was a happy, easy-going guy and we both enjoyed our time together exploring different ways he could communicate his wants and needs with the workers at the center. One day I came for our session and something was off. The workers told me he had been pacing all day and wouldn’t get close to anyone for long.
I gently led him to the large conference room we worked in and attempted to engage him with some of his favorite things: a bouncy ball, my scarf, and mini kit-kats. Nothing stopped him from pacing and soon he was moaning in a way that I can only describe as the sound of one’s heart breaking. He sat in a chair in the far corner of the room, rocked, and moaned.
I knelt down beside him and told him everything was okay, that he was safe, and nothing would hurt him. I had been repeating this for a while when his hand reached out and grabbed mine. He stopped moaning.
This isn’t a story of me knowing the perfect technique or even anything related to communication, but such a defining moment of how love, trust and compassion transcend all barriers. Communication progress asside, I know he trusted me and felt safe with me, and I’ll forever be grateful that he let me in.
During my internship in the last semester of graduate school, I worked in an elementary school. There was a student with autism who could recite every line from his favorite movie but he couldn’t verbally answer a question, tell you how he was feeling, or communicate an idea.
To make matters more challenging, he would often hit, yell, and throw major fits in his classroom.
Together with my advising SLP, we introduced an iPad with a picture system for him to point to instead of being expected to say his message verbally. It was rough at first and he didn’t use it as much as we did, but soon he realized what it could do for him.
His angry outbursts stopped when he was with us. He started requesting things he wanted to play. He was no longer completely trapped inside himself. I saw a young boy’s world expand before my eyes and my heart expanded right along with it.
This is why I do what I do, and I couldn't be happier.