January 1979 I started my Clinical Fellowship Year as a speech and language pathologist. I have NEVER regretted the decision to become a speech and language pathologist. It has been a phenomenal adventure!
When I began my college career I had not really known a great deal about the field of speech and language pathology. My brother had visited one because of vocal nodules, and my sister was evaluated for an articulation disorder but it was determined that she had just picked up my mother’s Irish brogue. I went to a public college, Lehman College, a division of the City University of New York (CUNY) and when I began the tuition was free. It was after the Vietnam war and economically it was a bad time. This impacted what majors you were allowed to declare as the college wanted to ensure that you would have a job when you graduated. I had originally wanted to become a teacher but although you were able to take courses in education you needed a different major. I began as an economics major as I was working at Gristede’s a New York City supermarket as the bookkeeper.
One course that was required was a public speaking course. I loved it, as acting was a hobby that I had throughout my schooling. My boyfriend (and now husband, thanks, Bob) suggested that I take the section of the course that he took as he liked the teacher. The professor suggested that I do my end-term project on the field of speech and language pathology and invited me up to the clinic on campus. I fell in LOVE!
Top 10 reasons that you too will love this field
10. Communication: ” Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” Rollo May What other field is there that allows you to help people build communication skills and therefore relationships? I love working on joint attention skills and seeing a child recognize for the first time that they can impact their environment by a look, a word, a smile.
9. Age Span: There are few professions that allow you to have experiences from birth to the elderly. One of my first clinical experiences as a graduate student was working at Bernard Fineson Developmental Center. This was just after they closed the institution Willowbrook and the center had many of the people from this institution. I had the opportunity to work with babies with Down Syndrome to adults that had been released from the institution.
8. Variety of Settings: Do you love the medical environment, school environment, higher education, clinic environment or your own office? You are able to experience all of these as a speech and language pathologist and I have!
7. Science: Do you love knowing how the brain works? Are you curious about why some children learn things easier and others have such a difficult time? Are you interested in the latest scientific research? Our field is constantly evolving as science allows us to explore the science of communication. I feel so fortunate to have been able to participate in research projects, to be able to listen to and interact with leaders in our field and then apply this information to my practice.
6. Art: Therapy is also art. It is the marriage of science with relationships. Where else could I be a ‘Queen Rakovic’, have puppet shows, create sensory bin activities and be really silly?
5. Diverse disabilities; Most environments will offer you the opportunity to work with a variety of disabilities. Every day and sometimes every hour will be different. I may start my day working with a student with significant disabilities learning an augmentative communication device, then work with a teen in a social skills group, then a student with an articulation disorder, read a book and work on tier two vocabulary with a kindergarten class, work on phonological skills with a first grader and finish my school day consulting with a teacher about her student with a fluency disorder.
4. Specializing: If you would like you can specialize in a particular age range and/or disability. At various points in my career, I have had the opportunity to spend time researching, studying and working with children with a specific disability. In the nineties, I was working in a private school and clinic and we were seeing an upswing in students with autism spectrum disability. I joined a group of researchers, educators, and therapists in developing a framework for our state for the education of students on the autism spectrum.
3. Relationships: There are few fields that allow us to have such an intimate relationship with our clients and their families. Our treatment involves assisting a person and their family to develop a life skill. I have been able to follow some children and their families on their journey and what that gift this is!
2. Forever Growing: I love that even with 39 years as a speech and language pathologist there is still more to learn! The opportunities to participate in research, development of assessments, learning new technology tools, developing new systems of service delivery, exploring new evidence-based practices, the list of opportunities is endless.
1. It’s an adventure!!! Hearing a child say their first word, experiencing a child’s first foray into a developing friendship, witnessing a child hear their first sound, feeling a child’s pride as they read their first chapter book, all this and more is what you get when you become a speech and language pathologist.
Being a speech and language pathologist is a title I am proud of, and I love working with beginning therapists and those that are exploring if this is the profession for them. I look forward to many more anniversaries as a speech and language pathologist.
Oprah Winfrey says ” The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams” and I have!