I am so fortunate to have a profession I love. As a speech-language pathologist (SLP), I provide services in areas not often heard of before.
Most people furrow their brow as I list my skills and interests—speech, language, swallowing/feeding disorders, post-stroke treatment, cognitive-communication skills, social-emotional skills, autism, voice disorders, fluency disorders—and the list goes on. Fortunately, the field of speech and language pathology has evolved and we are now, more than ever, delving into so many needed areas of social communication and human relatedness.
I am so fortunate that my profession allows me to crawl on the floor with a two-year-old engaging in early joint attention and communication, talk Minecraft with middle schoolers, chat about dating and friendships with high schoolers, and work in acute care with patients, all in one week.
The most difficult part of my job is that I work with fragile, emotionally and psychologically compromised patients, students and families. Some of my patients suffer unimaginable brain trauma and are left without words, or without the ability to eat or communicate with their loved ones. Sometimes my students suffer such psycho-emotional trauma that they are highly reactive and unable to stay in class for 10 minutes at a time. It is difficult for them to form attachments or relationships/friendships as they have been in and out of foster care for most of their lives.
I want to do things for these people, take care of them, take their pain away and make it all better, but know that I cannot. What is most important is to be the best therapist I can be to my patients by teaching them the skills needed for them to move forward and helping them practice these skills again and again.
My priority remains to provide the best therapy possible. I am trained to teach others how to teach themselves. For those individuals that are unable to use those strategies independently, my job is to work with the caregivers to help support the student/patient outside of our sessions.
I’ll never forget the first adult rehab patient I worked with as a graduate student. This particular patient was struggling to find the words to say. I jumped in immediately with strategies to help. She looked my square in the eye and said, “Just let me try it.”
You know how some memories never fade and remain crystal clear? Well, this one still does. I remember this every time one of my students or patients is struggling with something. “Just let me try it.” I give them the tools they need and then support them in learning how to use them.
I am so lucky to write this as a proud SLP, who loves her job. Yes, there’s a lot of paperwork, tough days, emotional moments, questionable regression and struggling times. On the flip side, there’s the first words, the first eye gazes, the first A on a test, the leaps forward, the first successful social outing and so much more. This all happens because I help them learn to use the tools and be successful. I just let them try it.
[instructor id=”329″]Danielle Kent, M.S., CCC-SLP, has a B.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a minor in Psychology as well as an M.S. in speech-language pathology from UVM. She works with children who have social cognitive and general speech/language challenges, including autism and social-emotional communication challenges. Danielle lives in Montpelier with her husband, daughter and golden retriever.