Every May the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) uses Better Speech and Hearing Month as an opportunity to raise awareness about communication disorders and the role that ASHA members play in providing life-changing treatments.
This year the theme is “Communication Across the Lifespan.”
As a bilingual school-based SLP currently working in District 75, I specialize in early childhood services for students with special needs. I have had experiences in early intervention as well as rehabilitation centers. One of the reasons I first fell in love speech-language pathology was because of the versatility of the field. There is a wide spectrum of services and clients that we can help.
Before starting my undergraduate career, I was a part of a High School externship where I volunteered in the speech department of the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) unit. Being bilingual, I got hands-on experience because of the need for direct translation. Specific cases like those of a 26-year-old woman who got into a motorcycle accident and acquired aphasia, a 30-year-old officer who was shot on duty and suffered severe cognitive damage or a mom of three who had a stroke and needed to re-learn how to breathe, eat and communicate created indelible imprints in my memory.
More recently, I was reading Edwidge Danticat’s “The Dew Breaker” which is a collection of fiction stories (Fun Fact: May is also Haitian Heritage Month.)
In the story “Water Child,” Nadine is a Haitian immigrant nurse who works in the Ear, Nose and Throat unit of a hospital. Nadine talks about how many post-op patients “wake up bewildered to discover that their total laryngectomies meant they would no longer be able to talk. No matter how the doctors, nurses, and counselors prepared them, it was still a shock.” Halfway through the short story, Nadine tries to comfort a patient by telling her that a speech therapist would help her find a voice again.
While my heart ached for this fictional character, it also swelled with pride to be a real-life member of a group of people who help others find their voice no matter where they are in their life.
Take a moment to share this article with an SLP in your life and thank them for the work that they do because everyone deserves a voice, and SLPs help make that possible with the work that they do every day.