I was sixteen years old when I first learned the importance of resilience and determination. When I was advised to take a year off high school, I registered that fall without hesitation. When I was instructed not to compete in track, I worked twice as hard in physical therapy to regain my strength. When I was informed that a traumatic brain injury would forever hinder me, I physically, emotionally, and vocally declared: “Absolutely not! ” The tough cognitive rehabilitation I have undergone has been just one of the countless challenges I have faced.
Fortunately, I was privileged to have the support of a lovely speech-language pathologist by the name of Leslie. Leslie was knowledgeable, attentive and patient. She spent a significant amount of time teaching me the techniques I needed to prosper in everyday life. She was nurturing and always ensured my emotional needs were met. When I was less than compliant, Leslie was firm and encouraging. Most importantly of all, Leslie’s own struggle with multiple sclerosis taught me that, as long as I worked hard, success could always be within my reach. Leslie is a symbol of everything a therapist should be; the type of therapist I aim to be.
My unique passion for this field of study has provided me with a strong platform on which I have constructed my life. Instead of using my struggles as an excuse, I chose to use the acquired tools to propel me forward. Now, my life’s ambition is to use these experiences to give back to others. With ever denial received, I work twice as hard at achieving my goal because I want to deliver a message to future clients; that it doesn’t matter what challenge they’re faced with, there will always be the option of succeeding in an unfavorable situation.
I believe this message can inspire individuals on an intellectually deeper level, in the same way Leslie motivated me. After all, it was her battle with multiple sclerosis that forged the connection in my mind that a disability isn’t equivalent to disabled. I had a small taste of the goal I’m working towards while taking the Speech-Language Pathology Methods and Applications course with Joni Loftin at Idaho State University. The class was heavily geared towards hands-on clinical experience, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to follow a graduate student and her client for a semester.
The modules were directed in a manner that simulated the key learning experiences the graduate student had completed in preparation for each session. What I had absorbed in the classroom setting was put into practice in the clinical setting. During the semester, I attended multiple sessions as an extra communication partner and, on occasion, I was provided with a valuable opportunity to lead sessions. This enhanced my confidence and allowed me to feel at ease in the therapy room.
I enjoyed having freedom to explore the different possibilities of therapy and made the most of the opportunities that were presented to me. For example, the client I worked with was focusing on /r/ words. One of her objectives was to read short paragraphs containing initial /r/ words with 90% accuracy and to articulate correct productions of initial /r/ in story retell with 90% accuracy. To facilitate her progress, I developed a nine-page-long picture book that was populated with initial /r/ stories.
The correct production of the initial /r/ enhanced the client’s intelligibility level significantly. By the end of the semester, I had acquired 205 minutes of treatment time and developed several valuable skills as well. I genuinely enjoyed being involved in the experience and feel that the combination of theory and practical experience provided me with a comprehensive grounding that has prepared me for future work in the clinical setting during my graduate studies. I’ve also expanded my horizons through my work as a Training Instructor at CommuniCare, Inc.
This position allows me to engage with individuals who exhibit various disabilities including, but are not limited to, ADHD, autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and profound deafness. These client’s abilities fall on each level of the spectrum from hand-over-hand assistance through verbal cueing and/or prompting. Their language skills also vary significantly. I encounter ASL, 5-10 vocabulary words, severe stuttering, and even efficient conversational skills.
In addition to carrying out my basic responsibilities, which include maintaining a safe and suitable environment, I also provide clients with appropriate support that allows them to become as independent as possible. The tasks we complete daily are tailored specifically to each individual’s needs and data recording is completed concurrently throughout the day so that goals and tasks can be adjusted accordingly. At CommuniCare, I encounter numerous challenges. Some days are productive, while others it seems like everything goes haywire.
Improvising quickly and implementing key techniques specific to an individual has made the most positive impact on my relationship with the clients. Applying my educational experience allows me to reach new goals with clients that are otherwise labeled non-compliant. In regards to my future career, every routine provides a teachable moment that ultimately enhances my client’s personal development and my skills as a clinician. In addition to my passion for speech-language pathology, I am also an avid photographer and have found that photography has significantly aided my growth and healing over the course of the last eight years.
I originally used a camera as a practical tool to document everyday events. Thankfully, time and rehabilitation have improved my memory, and I now find more personal enjoyment in viewing the world through my camera’s lens. I have also launched my own small photography business and this, in itself, has allowed me to develop a number of critical abilities. Through my work with clients and social media interactions, I have developed strong communication and interpersonal skills.
I have also learned the importance of being self-motivated and managing my time efficiently so that I can effectively balance my school work with my business and work commitments and, thus ensure customer satisfaction is maintained. In addition, I have learned key business and organization skills, including scheduling appointments, tracking finances, and meeting deadlines. As with any job, I must maintain a strong work ethic at all times, and this requires dedication, efficiency, regulation, and responsibility. I am confident that all of these skills will be of significant benefit to me in my graduate level studies.
I understand that competition for places on the Speech-Language Pathology program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is steep, and that my GPA and GRE scores may not be as high as some of the excellent candidates who have applied. I’m also aware that, if I am admitted to the program, I will face obstacles that other students assume only their clients will have. I know that some courses will be challenging for me. However, despite all this, I am absolutely determined to make a success of myself in my chosen field of speech-language therapy. I am confident that I will be the most resilient person in the program.
My experiences, sufferings, and triumphs, have all motivated me to turn a misfortune into a driving strength. Adjusting to life with a traumatic brain injury was difficult, but it’s not the most arduous challenge I’ve faced. Graduate school will be demanding, but I have endured, and conquered, worse. I will be resilient, I will be determined, and I know I will ultimately be successful. I sincerely hope that you will provide me with a chance to study at the University of Nebraska and progress on my journey to becoming a speech-language pathologist.