What jobs are the most valuable? Those that yield the highest paychecks? Perhaps but, if so, SLPs, teachers and educational specialists probably wouldn’t make the cut. But what does it really mean to be “valuable?” According to my personal definition, I would say helping professions like ours rank among the highest in value.
The journey to becoming an SLP was both intense and fascinating. It felt rewarding to learn how to help people communicate. We need food, water and shelter to live but we need communication to feel alive.
When I entered the “real world” and embarked on my career as a newly minted SLP, I enrolled in a life-long course in how to be a great clinician, counselor and human-being. The lessons I have learned and continue to learn from those around me have been humbling, as I recall…
the mother without a car who walked in the rain to attend her child’s PPT meeting;
the social worker who gave her a ride so she didn’t have to walk home;
the reading specialist who gave a child a beautiful brand new book on her birthday;
the special education teacher who purchased supplies and found extra time in her packed schedule to help a student in need to complete a big homework project;
the overworked classroom teacher who spent his whole weekend thoughtfully differentiating lesson plans so his special needs students could participate fully and thrive;
the dedicated school psychologist who worked tirelessly to build a rapport with teen boys to prevent them from dropping out of high school;
And finally Speech-Language Pathologists who do so much more than what is reflected in films and media. While we do indeed help vulnerable individuals with lisps and stutters, our reach extends even further. I feel inspired every day by the SLP who helps an unintelligible child be understood, a stroke victim swallow thin liquids, a language impaired student understand a classroom lesson, or a nonverbal child communicate with a speech-generating device and so much more. In honor of all the wonderful SLPs out there, I’ve written this poem about what you do (which fits in a 4×6 frame for your desk).
Perhaps it was Helen Keller whose miraculous words most profoundly encapsulate the value of our work as SLPs, educators, specialists, family members and many others who seek to make the world a better place for their fellow human beings:
“Children who hear, acquire language without any particular effort; the words that fall from others’ lips they catch on the wing, as it were, delightedly, while the little deaf child must trap them by a slow and often painful process. But whatever the process, the result is wonderful. Gradually from naming an object we advance step by step until we have traversed the vast distance between our first stammered syllable and the sweep of thought in a line of Shakespeare.”