I don’t have a story to tell about how my lifelong goal has always been to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. I considered it at one point, but I put it off and pursued other career options. One day, when my niece was younger, she was trying to explain something to me but I could not understand her. She grew frustrated and finally said “You can’t understand me!” At that moment, it was not just my inability to communicate with someone who I love dearly, but also being fearful for her quality of life as she grows older, that made me wish I could do more. She is now a few years older and her speech has improved thanks to having received speech services. However, that interaction has remained ingrained in my mind and prompted me to take another look into the field of Communication Disorders. After a significant amount of careful research, I made the decision that I would embark on the journey to becoming an SLP.
One of my philosophies is to consider how what you pray for will help those around you. Although my undergraduate degree is in Graphic Design, I never chased a career in it following graduation because it wasn’t something that truly set my soul on fire. Half way through my upper level coursework, I knew that it was something that I enjoyed doing but was not a career field that I would love into retirement. Over the following years, I considered nursing, social work, as well as mental health counseling. The common denominator between these professions is that at their core they help individuals work towards developing normalcy in their lives, and that is something that I have always sought to do. From a young age to now, helping others has always been important to me. I have been a reading buddy, a Big Sister with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a coach with Girls on the Run, and am currently mentoring an at-risk teenage girl. Even though I think I have an idea of which setting I want to work in, I recognize that it may change. Confidently, I can say that regardless of which setting I work in, whether it be education, home health, private practice, or medical, despite the day to day challenges of the job, the fulfilment I seek will not come from a paycheck but from seeing the individual changes and progress in the people I will encounter professionally.
Although I remain open to the variety of directions that are present within this field,
my main interest lies within education and early intervention. Also, after having worked with many children who use alternative communication devices, I am excited to learn more about assistive technology. One area of research that particularly interests me is the use of augmentative and alternative communication devices among children who have profound intellectual disabilities and are in self-contained school settings. My passion has always been for working with children, specifically in underserved populations. I realize that most of these children only receive speech services through the school system, although they need more intensive therapy. Yet despite the short amount of time their service hours allow, I have seen first-hand how pivotal clinicians have been in enhancing their lives through speech therapy.
Over the last year, I have worked in my local school system as a Communication Paraprofessional, assisting three school-based SLPs with their day to day needs such as paperwork and documentation, preparing therapy materials, and assisting with, as well as leading therapy sessions under their supervision and direction. Prior to taking on this role, I only had a vague idea of what SLPs do. However, this experience has been invaluable in forming a clearer picture of the job duties for a school-based SLP and I am extremely eager to continue and not only learn and grow, but also thrive within this field as well as use my continued education to enrich someone else’s quality of life, particularly the youngest among us.
In addition to working full-time, I have been taking prerequisite coursework in preparation for graduate level study. It is no small feat to work all day servicing children with special needs and in the same day, return to the classroom for yourself. However, unlike my undergraduate coursework, my prerequisite class content genuinely excites me and I remain anxious to absorb as much information as I can. I have maintained a solid GPA in my prerequisite courses, which is reflective of not just my dedication and determination, but also my sharp focus. I am confident that I will carry the same work ethic through my Master’s program. While I have worked with a multitude of communication disorders in children who have varying levels of abilities and have spoken with therapists from various settings who all have different years of experience, I know that I have much more to learn. I understand the program is challenging and success will require a strong commitment. I anticipate taking advantage of every opportunity I am given to learn all that I can about every facet of this profession.