Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm not a mechanic.

Recently I moved to a new town and have been meeting a variety of new people.  During the getting to know you pleasantries, someone always asks what I do. The conversation usually sounds something like this:
Stranger: So what do you do?
Me: I am a speech-language pathologist.
Stranger: Blank stare…Wait like a speech teacher?  You fix kid’s lisps and make people who stutter stop stuttering.  I used to have a speech teacher.  I couldn’t say my r’s.  Is that what you do?
Me: A little but I actually work more with kids that have developmental disabilities, like autism or cerebral palsy.
Stranger: (slightly confused) You can fix kids like that?
And this is where the conversation gets hard.  I know what the good natured stranger means.  And yes technically my training as a speech language pathologist has taught me techniques to help teach children skills that will help remediate speech and language difficulties often associated with these and many other developmental disabilities.  Yet, I can’t ever in good conscience answer ‘yes’ to this question.  To say ‘yes’ would imply that children with disabilities are somehow broken.  You can’t fix a person like you fix a car.  A child that learns to communicate verbally is no more or less ‘fixed’ than the child who no longer speaks with a lisp or the individual who has just learned to point.  Speech-language pathologist cannot change who your child is.  We do not increase or decrease their general awesomeness.  All we can do is teach them skills that will hopefully allow them to communicate with those around them in the most effective and efficient way.  We, speech language pathologists, cannot fix what is not broken… but when we do our job right, we just may get to enhance.
-Megan, M.S., CCC-SLP

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