Mr. Potato Head, play dough, bubbles and more bubbles – it really is fun and games being a speech pathologist working with children. What the children don’t always realise is that they’re practicing important communication skills at the same time as winning a game (which, let’s admit, the kids always win).
I never know what to expect each day at work, which is great and keeps you on your toes. Every child and family is different, so there’s always something new and challenging. I enjoy meeting a child, listening to them speak and trying to piece together what they’re doing well and what we need to work on. Always being on the go and working across settings in hospitals, community centres, schools and playgroups means that you get to meet lots of great people and learn from other professionals daily.
Seeing people sick or in difficult circumstances can be tough, and you need to have patience because progress can be slow. But at the end of the day, the rewards can be amazing. You have the privilege of making a difference: helping a preschooler improve the clarity of speech sounds so that people will understand him when he begins kindergarten; working with a teenager who is stuttering to gain confidence in speaking at school; helping a child with autism play and interact with his parents; providing support for the premature baby who is transitioning from tube to suck feeds; or finding the best alternative means of communicating for a child with cerebral palsy who cannot speak. Nothing beats enabling a child to say ‘hello’ and introduce themselves for the first time.
You will often find yourself working with a particular age group or caseload. Most of my work at the moment is around infants with feeding issues and school aged children with physical disabilities. More recently, I have spent some time in Bali working in community based rehabilitation, teaching and training locals in therapy. There’s an increasing demand for speech pathologists to work in developing contexts and lots of research opportunities. So whatever your interest area, you’re likely to find something you enjoy.
- TRUE STORIES: Joseph Majambere – Supporting people from all backgrounds to become who they wish to be.