My Personal Journey
(I was asked to give a speech at Hofstra University to the undergraduate speech and audiology students at student orientation on September 27, 2007. I was asked to describe my experiences at Hofstra and my journey as a speech/language pathologist. I want to thank all of my friends from the National Stuttering Association and all the speech/language pathologists who stutter who gave me words of advice to help me overcome my fear of public speaking.)
Good Afternoon. I am glad to be back at Hofstra after all these years. I want to tell you about myself. I have stuttered since age 4 and am a speech/language pathologist. Hofstra University was supportive of my decision to become a SLP despite being a person who stutters (pws). I recently have had the opportunity to speak to a few SLPs who I know who stutter and not all of them have successful graduate stories to tell. I am fortunate that I have one to share with all of you. I graduated from Hofstra with a Bachelors degree in Accounting in 1985 and a Masters of Arts in Speech Pathology in 1992.
My experience as a PWS influenced my decision to pursue a career in Speech Pathology.
I wanted to help children and adults overcome their communication difficulties. I didn’t want them to experience the obstacles that I had. I presently run my own private practice, All Island Speech Therapy-The Center for Stuttering Treatment and Communication Disorders, where I work with children and adults who stutter and other communication difficulties as well. I am near completion of my Board Recognition in Fluency Disorders from ASHA. I am the Chapter Leader of the National Stuttering Association on Long Island.
I also run practice groups for people who stutter. In addition, I contract with various agencies and provide consultations to schools in the area. I feel honored to have been asked to speak to all of you. It is hard to believe that I have been a speech pathologist for over 15 years now.
I was an accountant for 5 years before I decided to return to school. My undergraduate experience started back in 1981. I lived home at the time and commuted to Hofstra. I decided to move onto campus the next year and live in the Netherlands housing complex. I pledged a sorority called Wreath and Foil, which went National after I graduated. I worked in the admissions office while pursuing my accounting degree. I was never overly happy with my accounting major but wasn’t sure what else I wanted to do. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine myself in a speaking field because my stuttering was severe at that time. In 1989, I had become very involved with practice groups for adults who stutter. Most of the adults either were either graduates of the air flow technique, which was a popular technique at that time or The Precision Fluency Shaping Program, which teaches strategies to enhance fluency. This is what I use. I started to feel like I had finally found what I wanted to do with my life. I happily, but not easily left accounting, and went back for my masters. I had two schools in mind; the first discouraged me from going into a field where I talked to parents on a daily basis. I next interviewed at Hofstra with a woman named Dr. Audrey Eisen who was the department head at that time. From the moment I met her, she unconditionally accepted me into the Hofstra speech department. She never questioned my choice and supported me 100 %. I will always be eternally grateful for her words of wisdom explaining to me that many speech pathologists went into the field who stuttered. The entire speech department was helpful and always willing to answer questions and offer advice. I remember being petrified to participate in my first clinical experience in the Hofstra Clinic. My first client was a wonderful man in his fifties who had suffered a stroke. I remember thinking what if I stutter? What will he think? What will my supervisor think? Will I be able to help him? Worse, how will I handle it? Well, I was lucky to have had this man on my caseload. When I started speaking, he looked at me and said with labored speech “You have a speech problem too?” and then said thank you. What more could a beginning speech pathologist ask for? My supervisors praised me from that day on and were sources of constant encouragement. I had two off-site externships. At that time, the ASHA clinical hour requirements were less than it is now. My first one was at a special education preschool. When I went for the interview, my supervisor was afraid to take me on. She thought stuttering was “contagious” and other children would catch it from me. I immediately went back to Dr. Eisen with fear and she said it was ridiculous. She told me to go back and tell them that I was being placed there. The first two months were not easy but I made it through with an A and an experience that taught me to believe in myself. My next experience was with developmentally disabled adults. This one was much easier. I had a very wise and well respected speech pathologist as my supervisor. He was able to see past my stuttering and realize my value as a clinician. It also gave me insight into a population of adults that I would have not ordinarily sought out.
I graduated in May of 1992 and was offered a job at United Cerebral Palsy in Commack fro my clinical fellowship year. I worked in various schools over the years before opening my own practice. I have always dreamed of specializing in working with people who stutter. I recently decided to pursue my Board Recognition in Fluency Disorders from ASHA which is a huge undertaking, one that I encourage all of you to pursue. I am also trained in the Lidcombe Program for Early Childhood Stuttering. A large part of my practice is devoted to parent education and involvement in their child’s therapy. I am also starting a newsletter called INSPIRE which is aimed towards encouraging school aged children and teens to pursue their dreams despite obstacles they face. I am also Certified in PROMPT Therapy which is a method used for children with oral motor dysfunction and apraxia. I want to remind everyone that October 22, 2007 is International Stuttering Awareness Day. You are all invited to participate in the ISAD conference online of which I am a part of. Also, if you are interested in observing a National Stuttering Association meeting, please contact me at Lori@allislandspeech.com. It is impossible to understand the difficulties people who stutter have in performing simple tasks like saying their own name or asking for directions when lost. The advice I would give all of you undergraduates is to learn as much as possible about each type of speech and language disorder you can. Eventually you will concentrate on a few. Meet as many people as you can who stutter, have had a stroke, lisp etc. The best type of learning is from people who have these disorders. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and attend as many conferences as you can. Seek out the unknown. You never know what you might find!!
I want to thank Hofstra for inviting me to speak today. I have never looked back on my decision to pursue speech pathology and attend Hofstra. I hope you don’t either.