It’s not JUST Speech
By Kathy Lake
When I realized that Alan Gravell was talking about me at the last RISHA Annual Conference in March as the recipient of the SLP of the year award, I was uncomfortable. Having been raised in a household where humility was prized and pride was disdained my discomfort made it difficult to even look around at all my smiling colleagues. From March to September, when I officially received the award, my feelings changed to being thrilled. It is a great honor to be recognized by RIDE and RISHA as the 2013 SLP of the Year.
After 37 years as a Speech/Language Pathologist I realize that I have morphed into a different kind of clinician than I was back in 1976. I learned that there is a ‘bag of tricks’ that every clinician carries. It is a bottomless bag with situation specific words, toys, games, pictures and books used artfully to elicit the best from each client. I learned that “thank you” from a family member, parent or student meant more than any gift card or even a raise. I learned that being an advocate for my clients is often more important than accomplishing a goal in therapy. But most of all I have learned that it is not JUST speech.
Over the years I have been in countless meetings where I heard the comment, “It’s just speech” when team members were considering initial evaluations, eligibility or service delivery. This phrase rankled me and I was forced to look at how this mindset came about. Team members often used this phrase to calm an upset parent minimizing the impact of the child’s delays. Some educators even added insult to injury by adding, “It’s not a real IEP, it’s just speech.” What part did I play in this?
For the sake of expediency I often remained silent. Later I realized how detrimental that silence was and started to use humor and then just plain talk to cue my team members into their inference. Soon they feared me and friends would let new members know, “Don’t say that around Kathy.” Now at the secondary level I use statistics since most of my current students were also my previous students 12 years ago.
SLPs have far reaching skills. To communicate is to be human. We enable clients to communicate optimally within various environments. What could be more important than that?
I am proud to be the RI Speech/Language Pathologist of 2013. Thank you.