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When I began college at Western Washington University, I had intended to go into education. I knew that I wanted to have an impact on the world in a positive way by helping people. In the spring of my junior year I was faced with a difficult decision. I had been playing football at Western and had suffered injuries that required three separate surgeries (to this day, I am up to five). At that point I had to give up something that had been a part of my life as long as I can remember.  I stopped playing football, and as difficult as that was, it provided me an opportunity to find a path where I could change the world for the better. I sought out a variety of different areas that I thought would be interesting, and in what seemed to be a fateful moment I received a pamphlet in the mail about Speech and Language Pathology at Western Washington University. I decided to take a course in this field and it was a hit for me, with a combination of medical, creativity and helping people. I was instantly hooked on learning about this amazing profession.

After I transferred to Southern Illinois University and began to implement services I was offered an opportunity to help create a rural outreach program for families that did not have access to services in their communities. This was a collaborative effort between speech and language pathology and the behavior analysis program. To create something, to put in the effort and see the children progress and to see the relationship with the parent and child blossom was inspiring. This was one of three moments in my career that have had a lasting effect on me and gave me focus on what my future was to be about. The second moment was when I was providing therapy and playing a bean bag toss game and the child I was working with was laughing and having a good time. I asked him to pronounce the word “finger” (he was working on the “f” sound at the beginning of multi-syllabic words). He looked at me and with all the physical and mental effort he had, he said, “fingawinga.” Although this was not the accurate pronunciation of this word, the point is that it was fun to work hard and achieve something that he was not capable of doing previously. He said his “f” sound for the first time. Another moment that has stayed with me was when I was working with a two year old who was non-verbal. I worked directly with the parent, coaching them on how to interact and promote communication. It was an inspirational moment when the child looked at his mom and said, “mom” for the first time. His mother instantly broke down and gave her child a hug. Of course there have been many other moments with children and families that I have been fortunate to share and I am grateful for all of them.

Posted by: Dan, Speech-Language Pathologist

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