How I became a Speech/Language Pathologist

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(I was asked to give a speech at Hofstra University to the undergraduate speech and audiology students at student orientation on September 27, 2007. I was asked to describe my experiences at Hofstra and my journey as a speech/language pathologist. I want to thank all of my friends from the National Stuttering Association and all the speech/language pathologists who stutter who gave me words of advice to help me overcome my fear of public speaking.)

 

Good Afternoon. I am glad to be back at Hofstra after all these years. I want to tell you about myself. I have stuttered since age 4 and am a speech/language pathologist. Hofstra University was supportive of my decision to become a SLP despite being a person who stutters (pws). I recently have had the opportunity to speak to a few SLPs who I know who stutter and not all of them have successful graduate stories to tell. I am fortunate that I have one to share with all of you. I graduated from Hofstra with a Bachelors degree in Accounting in 1985 and a Masters of Arts in Speech Pathology in 1992.

My experience as a PWS influenced my decision to pursue a career in Speech Pathology.

I wanted to help children and adults overcome their communication difficulties. I didn’t want them to experience the obstacles that I had. I presently run my own private practice, All Island Speech Therapy-The Center for Stuttering Treatment and Communication Disorders, where I work with children and adults who stutter and other communication difficulties as well. I am near completion of my Board Recognition in Fluency Disorders from ASHA. I am the Chapter Leader of the National Stuttering Association on Long Island.

I also run practice groups for people who stutter. In addition, I contract with various agencies and provide consultations to schools in the area. I feel honored to have been asked to speak to all of you. It is hard to believe that I have been a speech pathologist for over 15 years now.

 

I was an accountant for 5 years before I decided to return to school. My undergraduate experience started back in 1981. I lived home at the time and commuted to Hofstra. I decided to move onto campus the next year and live in the Netherlands housing complex. I pledged a sorority called Wreath and Foil, which went National after I graduated. I worked in the admissions office while pursuing my accounting degree. I was never overly happy with my accounting major but wasn’t sure what else I wanted to do. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine myself in a speaking field because my stuttering was severe at that time. In 1989, I had become very involved with practice groups for adults who stutter. Most of the adults either were either graduates of the air flow technique, which was a popular technique at that time or The Precision Fluency Shaping Program, which teaches strategies to enhance fluency. This is what I use. I started to feel like I had finally found what I wanted to do with my life. I happily, but not easily left accounting, and went back for my masters. I had two schools in mind; the first discouraged me from going into a field where I talked to parents on a daily basis. I next interviewed at Hofstra with a woman named Dr. Audrey Eisen who was the department head at that time. From the moment I met her, she unconditionally accepted me into the Hofstra speech department. She never questioned my choice and supported me 100 %. I will always be eternally grateful for her words of wisdom explaining to me that many speech pathologists went into the field who stuttered. The entire speech department was helpful and always willing to answer questions and offer advice. I remember being petrified to participate in my first clinical experience in the Hofstra Clinic. My first client was a wonderful man in his fifties who had suffered a stroke. I remember thinking what if I stutter? What will he think? What will my supervisor think? Will I be able to help him? Worse, how will I handle it? Well, I was lucky to have had this man on my caseload. When I started speaking, he looked at me and said with labored speech “You have a speech problem too?” and then said thank you. What more could a beginning speech pathologist ask for? My supervisors praised me from that day on and were sources of constant encouragement. I had two off-site externships. At that time, the ASHA clinical hour requirements were less than it is now. My first one was at a special education preschool. When I went for the interview, my supervisor was afraid to take me on. She thought stuttering was “contagious” and other children would catch it from me. I immediately went back to Dr. Eisen with fear and she said it was ridiculous. She told me to go back and tell them that I was being placed there. The first two months were not easy but I made it through with an A and an experience that taught me to believe in myself. My next experience was with developmentally disabled adults. This one was much easier. I had a very wise and well respected speech pathologist as my supervisor. He was able to see past my stuttering and realize my value as a clinician. It also gave me insight into a population of adults that I would have not ordinarily sought out.

 

I graduated in May of 1992 and was offered a job at United Cerebral Palsy in Commack fro my clinical fellowship year. I worked in various schools over the years before opening my own practice. I have always dreamed of specializing in working with people who stutter. I recently decided to pursue my Board Recognition in Fluency Disorders from ASHA which is a huge undertaking, one that I encourage all of you to pursue. I am also trained in the Lidcombe Program for Early Childhood Stuttering. A large part of my practice is devoted to parent education and involvement in their child’s therapy. I am also starting a newsletter called INSPIRE which is aimed towards encouraging school aged children and teens to pursue their dreams despite obstacles they face. I am also Certified in PROMPT Therapy which is a method used for children with oral motor dysfunction and apraxia. I want to remind everyone that October 22, 2007 is International Stuttering Awareness Day. You are all invited to participate in the ISAD conference online of which I am a part of. Also, if you are interested in observing a National Stuttering Association meeting, please contact me at Lori@allislandspeech.com. It is impossible to understand the difficulties people who stutter have in performing simple tasks like saying their own name or asking for directions when lost. The advice I would give all of you undergraduates is to learn as much as possible about each type of speech and language disorder you can. Eventually you will concentrate on a few. Meet as many people as you can who stutter, have had a stroke, lisp etc. The best type of learning is from people who have these disorders. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and attend as many conferences as you can. Seek out the unknown. You never know what you might find!!

I want to thank Hofstra for inviting me to speak today. I have never looked back on my decision to pursue speech pathology and attend Hofstra. I hope you don’t either.

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* “All Island Speech and Lori Melnitsky are definitely in the vanguard when it comes to offering direct-approach methods for treating disfluent speech – particularly in young children –  as evidenced in her work with our preschool-aged son who stutters. She was able to perform her magic through endless age-appropriate activities and games to keep him engaged both at home with us and in sessions at her office while delivering the Lidcombe Program, which has resulted in significant improvement in both our son’s speech fluency and clarity of speech. Lori definitely knows what she’s talking about and has a very caring and thoughtful way about her, backed by her years of experience as a speech therapist and as a parent herself, as well as by her own experiences as someone who overcame a severe speech disorder. If you are serious about treating speech disfluency no matter the age or degree, you could do no better than to choose All Island Speech. THANK YOU, LORI!!”(Parents of a 5 year old preschool child, NYC, 2018)

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* “I wanted to thank Lori for being such an amazing person and therapist for my daughter. Besides being fluent from the Lidcombe Program it changed my daughter’s whole personality. She is happy, confident, cheerful,sassy and a very talkative 4 year old. (Stacy, daughter age 4 Howard Beach, NY-February 2017)

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* “I was starting a job with a new airline and my speech started to deteriorate with the stress of training. I thought I was not going to be able to make it through the rigors of the training environment and initial flying experience in a new plane with new things that had to be said on demand. Lori helped me a great deal by getting me back to the fundamentals of speaking that I knew from therapy, but was not applying them properly. After five sessions with Lori, I was able to more comfortably continue with the training process and now I am progressing well with continued practice. Lori was great at getting me back on target.” (Matt, airline pilot, adult who stutters)

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* “Lila started kindergarten this month. We wanted to let you know that she was screened by her school speech therapist this week. When we told the speech therapist that Lila had received services for stuttering, she said she would have never known. Lila does not stutter anymore and we can’t thank you enough.” (Kelli and Matt, parents of Lila)

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* LIDCOMBE WORKS- “We took our daughter, Angelina to Lori for speech therapy for about a year. We are very happy with the results. Angelina started stuttering when she was approximately 2.5 years old and was becoming aware of her speech problem. On her worst days she could not say a word, which worried my wife and I tremendously. My wife Victoria found Lori’s information online and we visited Lori in Long Island (from NJ) and started the Lidcombe Program. Over the next year, Angelina’s stuttering rating dropped from 9 to 10 (very severe) to a virtually unnoticeable pauses in our daughter’s speech. My wife and I are very thankful to Lori for working with our daughter and helping her overcome stuttering.” (Steve and Victoria M, NJ-daughter Angelina, 4 years old now)

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* “I truly believe my son would not be talking in sentences today if it wasn’t for your help.” “Your understanding of language and processing made all the difference in the world. “(Linda, parent of an 11 year old autistic boy)

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* 12 year old girl- Dear Lori: Thank you so much helping me with my stuttering. You are an amazing speech therapist. Now I am in middle school. I am able to present , answer questionsand even read aloud. Other therapists did not help me like you did. You changed my life! If I know anyone that stutters in the future I will recommend you to them. I’m sure that you will change their lives. Thank you for your hard work. (Sam W, age 12-June 2011)

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* 6 year old-We are so glad we brought our son to you as he entered kindergarten. You helped him learn how to learn so many new words and improve his spelling. Thank you Lori (parent of a 6 year old with reading and writing issues)

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* “My son was 2 and non-verbal when he met Lori.
Prompt changed his life. He talks in sentences now. Thank you Lori!”

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