My decision to become a speech-language pathologist was supported by two very significant life experiences. The first was when I was in the third grade. My amazing teacher taught an entire unit on people with different abilities. We met individuals who had vision impairments, hearing impairments, paralysis, and a couple of the families in my class shared their experiences with learning disabilities. We learned their stories and got to experience their differences in creative ways. We learned some sign language and visited the Tactile Dome in the Exploratorium to experience blindness. I remember winning the opportunity to have a ride in a completely accessible vehicle, controlled by blowing into a straw. We also visited a state-of-the-art assistive technology office where children and adults could go to use computers that were designed to support their particular strengths and mitigate their mobility and sensory challenges. I was very touched by this unit and it has stayed with me throughout my life, but I did not know at the time that I would integrate this early learning experience with my own talents and interests. It was amazing to me that there were ways for all people to be contributing members of our society, in spite of, or because of, their differences and that there were ingenious ways to make a successful life more accessible.
The second experience happened when I was a junior at UC Davis studying for a degree in linguistics, but I did not yet know what I wanted to do after graduation. One of my cousins asked me what I loved. I told her I loved language, working with children, one-on-one interactions, and teaching. She was an occupational therapist and suggested I look into speech-language pathology. I immediately signed up for an internship with a speech therapist who worked in early intervention in clients’ homes. I was blown away. Not only could I integrate my love and interest in language with working with children, but I could get paid to work with Mr. Potatohead! Being a speech-language pathologist would enable me to give voices to people who needed specialized help to communicate. It was kind of perfect. Soon after, I started working with children with autism, enrolled in graduate school, and the rest is history.
Posted by: Piera, Speech-Language Pathologist