Reflections — February 21, 2010 at 1:33 am

Reflections on a Career in SLP

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By Therese M. O’Neil-Pirozzi, ScD, CCC-SLP

I doubt that there’s anyone who hasn’t been impacted by the January earthquake in Haiti –  maybe you lost someone who lived there…  maybe you spent some time volunteering there…  maybe you were touched by photos that you’ve seen or by articles that you’ve read…

I’ve been following the news about medical teams that have traveled to Haiti, and I’ve read about the minimal technology available to assist them in their provision of care to those in need.  Reasons for this include the limited technology in place before the earthquake because of the country’s economy and the fact that much of the technology that was previously available was destroyed by the earthquake.  Nonetheless, the injured are benefiting from quality care, and the health care providers ministering to them are expressing great pride and satisfaction with the work that they are doing

You don’t have to be providing care in a country that’s just experienced an earthquake to be challenged by limited resources trying to do so-  maybe you’re employed in a school system with no monies to purchase assessments…  maybe you work in a medical setting that doesn’t have easy access to videofluoroscopy or endoscopy…  maybe you volunteer at a homeless shelter where there’s no quiet space to empower parents to stimulate their children’s language literacy development…  Nonetheless, you minister to your students, clients, patients, and “new friends” effectively, with these people demonstrating positive outcomes as a result.

As part of Speech-Language Pathology coursework, many of us completed assignments in which we created our own articulation tests, our own auditory discrimination tests, and our own language intervention kits.  I remember painstakingly trying to draw pictures of common objects and 3-step activities and then showing them to young nieces and nephews to see if they could tell what they were supposed to be.  One of my undergraduate final exams was as follows:  “You and a 7-year old boy are in a room with a table, two chairs, and a window.  You have a pencil, a paper, and a piece of string.  Do a complete speech-language evaluation on this child.”  Although I was sure that that final was going to mark the end of my future as a speech-language pathologist, I passed the exam and continued on…

Since then, I have had to conduct countless diagnostic and therapeutic sessions without the benefit of valuable technology and other equipment and materials that I find useful.  And, in spite of the obvious challenges that this presents, I feel that these experiences have made me a better clinician.  With my eyes, ears, a deck of cards, a free newspaper, and some continually evolving critical thinking skills, I have figured out ways to do what needs to be done to benefit those with whom I am working.  Is it challenging doing this?  Yes!  Is it my preference to do things this way?  No!!  But, I think that the fundamental key to our effectiveness as clinicians is not the tools that are available for us to use with our students, clients, patients, and “new friends,” but, rather, our ability to learn how to problem solve evidence-supported ways to do what we need to do with whatever we do or do not have.

…You have a lollipop, a cup, and a phone bill.  Do a complete diagnostic evaluation on a 57-year old female with suspected cognitive-communication impairments…

Therese M. O’Neil-Pirozzi, ScD, CCC-SLP
t.oneil-pirozzi@neu.edu

About the author

Therese O’Neil-Pirozzi, ScD, CCC-SLP is the SLP Graduate Program Director and Associate Professor at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. She is also a Clinical Researcher and Clinician for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Author of many research articles, she is a frequent presenter at ASHA’s annual conventions. Her areas of interest crisscross from adults to children, from voice to aphasia, from dysphagia to literacy. If Speech Language Pathology ever had a renaissance clinician, then it would surely be Therese. In addition to her body of work, Therese continues to find time to be a resource to practicing clinicians, an advisor to graduate students, a good friend for those of us lucky enough to know her, and a devoted Red Sox fan. Her email address is: t.oneil-pirozzi@neu.edu

If you would like to reflect on your career in Speech Language Pathology/Audiology, please submit your article for consideration to mullaneycccslp@comcast.net.

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