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Hello! I am a junior at a private Christian university with a major in Christian Missions and a minor in Biology. It was my original plan to go to medical school and become a missionary doctor, but as I immersed myself in the medical field, I realized that therapy was a much better fit for me. I am still very much called to the international mission field, and I would like to eventually work for/start a nonprofit that provides therapy to children in developing countries. Having said that, I am having trouble deciding what area of therapy to pursue. A little more about me... I am INFP personality type, I enjoy sign language, I enjoy writing, and I love working with children who are disabled.

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My daughter has multiple disabilities and has received a number of different types of therapy over the years including OT, general speech, auditory-verbal therapy, PT, Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, play therapy, and I'm probably forgetting some. There's a lot of similarity in terms of the type of people who will be successful in working with special needs kids- patient, kind, enthusiastic, having high expectations for the child and doing "with, not for", able to "think on one's feet" to take advantage of "teachable moments" as they arise during session, etc.

Good OT's and PT's tend to be more kinesthetic and less verbal than SLP's. If you're the type who think it would be a blast to coach a kids' sports team, you'd make a great OT or PT. If you'd rather lead story hour at the library, you'd make a better SLP. Does that make sense?

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It depends what type of therapy you want to work in. Would you rather help children develop fine motor skills, or help them communicate? I went into speech because I think the most important part of the human existence is the ability to communicate. I wouldn't feel like I am making as much of a difference in a child's life if I were in OT or PT (Not to say these fields are amazing and extremely important, they just aren't for me.)

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Don't forget that many OT's do feeding and swallowing therapy. I would look for a private pediatric clinic in your area that offers pt/ot/slp services. That way, you could shadow all three. I was torn between OT and SLP for a while as well. Shadowing helped- a lot. 

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With the traveling for missionary work I would also see which form of therapy is most needed or most sought out in addition to what you enjoy.  If that is the driving force behind this I don't know that speech would be a great fit unless you were specifically working with cranio-facial disorders (cleft palate etc) or perhaps swallowing?  Articulation and actual speech therapy would not make a lot of sense unless you are multilingual or bilingual and become certified with those languages in mind in order to put them to use abroad.

Whatever kind of therapy you decide it will definitely be a rewarding career helping others :)

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On the topic of humanitarian missions, I'm auditing a grad course this summer on cochlear implants (my daughter just had CI surgery so I wanted to take it now even if I won't be able to receive a grade due to my UG status) and the start was delayed because all the audiology students are off doing a mission. So that's a career you might want to explore. I think it would be much easier to do mission work as an audiologist than a SLP because the language barrier would be less of an issue. You'd still need an interpreter to give the directions and explain the results of course. But a lot of the work that an audiologist does isn't reliant on being fluent in the local language(s).

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I was on the same boat! I was a Missions major/Christian Ministry minor and sought to go overseas after building experience as an elementary school teacher. And I'm also an INFP ;) After working in private and public school settings, I naturally felt my heart lean towards speech therapy, seeing the potential impact it had on children and their ability to communicate. I've also volunteered in a multi-disciplinary private clinic and sat in both OT and SLP sessions, and realized that I personally enjoyed the language aspect of therapy.  If you enjoy writing, maybe you might enjoy working with speech therapy? I would also recommend shadowing just so you can get an idea of what therapy for both fields would look like on a day to day basis. 

I've heard that the demand for SLP's in international schools of some East-Asian countries are high if you'd prefer working in a school setting, and I believe someone here mentioned the need for treatment for cranio-facial & swallowing disorders that takes place in clinics or hospital settings. I know Columbia University has an international program that takes a group to Bolivia to explore this. I've also read multiple posts of SLP's with their own private practice in other countries as well, with English-speaking clients. The field of rehab may still be new in some countries, so I personally think it's one of the most rewarding fields to grow from to ultimately serve others. Feel free to message me if you need!

Edited by SLPFaith

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