We're getting a little personal this week. This post is going to dive into my particular journey toward where I am now in my career -- and why I continue to love it.
I came to the field of speech-language pathology by a less-than-straightforward path. I'm a list-lover, so I'll outline the general sequence of events in list form below:
-- Starting in third grade, I participated in school and district-level spelling bees -- just for fun, I swear! I think my favorite part of the process was the nightly ritual of practicing spelling words with my mom before going to bed (thanks Mom!).
-- In seventh grade, when I was asked to choose a foreign language to begin learning, I chose...Latin. There weren't enough middle schoolers interested in it to form our own class, so they stuck me, and one seventh-grade classmate, in with the high school Latin I class. I quickly became obsessed with it, despite being painfully shy and super intimidated by the ninth graders. I stuck with Latin for four more years, eventually getting to the point where I could sometimes read a text in Latin and comprehend it without consciously translating it. I give Latin credit for sparking my life-long fascination with the inner workings of language and how the human brain grapples with it to create meaning.
-- As an undergraduate, I chose to major in Linguistic Anthropology. Not exactly a vocation-track area of study.... But I loved it. I tried straight-up theoretical linguistics, but I found it a bit dry. When you mix it with anthropology, though, you end up with the study of the relationship between human cultures and language -- I was hooked. I focused specifically on American Sign Language and Deaf culture, planning on becoming a certified ASL interpreter and possibly engaging in participant-led research with the Deaf community after graduating.
-- While attending a part-time interpreter training program, I took on my first real job as a one-on-one aide and tutor for a fantastic 11-year-old girl with Kleefstra Syndrome. She had a lot of difficulty with speech, so she had been using some ASL for most of her life. I learned so much from working with her and supporting her learning and growth. Through her, I learned about the various related therapy fields -- physical and occupational therapy, ABA, and, of course, speech-language pathology. Meanwhile, the interpreter training program I was attending unexpectedly closed its doors, but luckily I had a different path to go down by then.
-- During grad school to become an SLP, I walked in on the very first day knowing that I wanted to work with people with complex communication needs for whom speech did not fulfill all of their communication needs. I was lucky enough to participate in a fellowship program that involved extra, targeted coursework -- as well as additional hands-on experience with clients -- focusing on individuals with autism who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).
And here I am now. Surprisingly, the overlap between the fields of linguistics and speech-language pathology is relatively small, but I still love dabbling in the area of my undergrad degree -- mostly through reading and internet browsing. I find that it's not only enjoyable but also helps give me a relatively unique perspective on how I do my work. If you want to step into my world a little bit and see some examples of the media I consume during my "free" time, check out the links below!