May is “Better Hearing and Speech” month. As a professional, it’s an exciting time for me to share my passion to increase awareness about communication sciences and disorders. I have loved every moment of seeing articles, hearing radio interviews and also listening to TV personalities talk about fluency disorders after watching The King’s Speech. Fabulous!
But, I confess that I have an ulterior motive. I am a speech-language pathologist. I am confident in my ability to diagnose and intervene with communication disorders. My first love in the field was working with aphasics in the hospital to help them remember that they have a voice. My professional path led me to working in the schools with children to help them find their voice. I love this field. I don’t think that I was too bad at it either. I loved clinical practice.
My first confession is that I don’t need to go anywhere to practice. Both of my children and my husband all have a communication disorder, of some sort. My husband is a person who stutters. He received services in the schools as a child. He isn’t often disfluent. Only when he is anxious or when very tired. My daughter has some pragmatic differences secondary to ADHD. She needs reminders not to isolate herself and to talk to others. My son has been receiving articulation and language intervention since he was two. At two, he had a few words, but his connected speech consisted of one almost word: “biggum”. He would excitedly tell me about his day with perfect prosody using “biggum” over and over again. I had no clue what he was saying. He is going into 7th grade next year. The only thing left on his IEP is very stubborn distorted vocalic r.
My next confession is that I couldn’t fix them. As much success I felt as a professional, I felt like a failure as a mother and as a wife. My days are filled with intervention tips and tricks. I have tried everything that I know how to do, yet they all still struggle with communication. It was very difficult as a young mother and wife. Now that I am slightly more seasoned, I have come to look at the strengths that come with it. I can very much relate to the parents that I speak to. I know what their nights are like when their children can’t follow one step direction. Although, universally, I will say that they really do understand “Clean your room” and “Do your homework” after the first 100 times you ask. That’s just choice. But, I know the tears and the frustrations. I know the exhaustion. I know the prayers that you have to just help your loved ones be able to express themselves.
For years, I thought that I failed them. I felt that they were worse despite of all of training and expertise. A very wise person reminded that maybe they are better because of my training and expertise. May be the patience and love that I can provide them helps them be more confident to try the techniques taught to them by other professionals, their SLPs.
So, as your colleague, I appreciate and value the work that we do together to advance ASHA’s vision of making effective communication, a human right, accessible and achievable for all. As a parent, from the bottom of my heart, I value the work that you do to help my family find their voice.
Andrea “Deedee” Moxley, CCC-SLP, is Associate Director for Multicultural Resources at ASHA. She worked at Montgomery County Public Schools prior to coming to the National Office. Deedee is responsible for responding to technical assistance questions, developing resources for working with diverse populations and co-managing the S.T.E.P. Mentoring Program. Her areas of interest include cultural competence, bilingualism and health literacy.