Many people ask me how I came to be an SLP. Like most journeys, there are multiple starting points that reach the same destination. There are a lot of speech therapists out there who went through treatment themselves and saw the power of therapy from the other side of the table. Others may have had a sibling who struggled with sounds or a cousin who stuttered act as the gateway into this amazing field of study and work. Still others were introduced to speech pathology by career counselors. Not me, though. When I was 18, I had not even heard of speech therapy. A whole lifetime of public school education with parents who are teachers and I didn’t even know that every school I’d been enrolled in had a speech therapist. It’s funny to think about, because everything I do now relates to speech-language pathology! But, let me back up.
I was very fortunate to attend the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences in my junior and senior years of high school. The school is now called The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, but it was just ASMS when I was there. ASMSA is a residential high school where students are offered advanced placement courses while still in high school. At 16, I left home and basically went to college.It was, at that time, the best decision I had ever made.
I met people there who challenged me, cherished me, and changed me. I experienced powerful failure and powerful friendship. I learned a lot about academics, but more importantly, I learned a lot about myself.
A few things I learned at ASMS:
- My original plan of becoming a pharmacist wasn’t happening after my first few chemistry classes.
- I planned dances and made reservations for social activities as the Student Activities Counsel President and learned that Public Relations/Event Planning was not something I wanted to do for a career.
- It was probably best for all the world if I did as little as possible with numbers and most things math related. No, really. Trust me on that one. 🙂
- Being silly while studying is helpful for retention of information.
When I was almost done with senior level courses, I began completing college applications and I came to the line that read “Major.” I didn’t have an answer for that blank. I had a long list of things I knew I didn’t want to do, but that wasn’t helping me fill out that particular line. So, what did I do? I called my mama, of course.
Ashley: Hey. I’m filling out college applications and I don’t know what to put down for “Major.”
Mama: Well, what do you want to study?
Ashley: I’m not really sure. I know I don’t want to do much with numbers, and I know I don’t want to go to medical school. I don’t want to be teacher, but I do want to help people. Oh, and I like science.
Mama: Have you thought about speech therapy?
Ashley: What’s that?
Mama: You’re coming home this weekend, right? Why don’t you stop by before you go home and I’ll introduce you to the speech therapist at my school.
Ashley: OK. Can we have steak cutlets and green beans for dinner?
Mama: I think we can do that. I love you!
Ashley: I love you, too.
In that short conversation, a beautiful path began to unfold for me. Later that week, I observed the speech therapist at Mama’s school (and ate delicious, home cooked meals). Later that year, I enrolled in college at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and took the Intro to Speech Disorders course. I listened to all the professors talk about their areas of interest and study. I became absolutely hooked after learning about fluency disorders. Soon after that, I was completing my graduate degree at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. I accepted my dream job right after graduation and life has just been better and better ever since. I don’t “go to work” everyday. I don’t have “a job.” An SLP colleague of mine once asked me, “What would you do if not speech?” I’m still searching for an answer to that one, but I doubt I’ll ever find one.
This journey is amazing. I am living my dream.