A strong leader puts the needs of others above her own, has the confidence to stand up for what she deems significant, and rallies others to succeed. Through my studies in Linguistics with a specialization in Speech and Language Sciences at UC San Diego, I have learned effective communication skills are necessary to build strong interpersonal relationships. Today’s society has become insular where individuals often belittle those different from themselves. I aspire to combat these behaviors by guiding individuals to enhance their communication skills and to play a large role in fostering their emotional connections within their respective communities.
Children and adults alike know when they are cast aside due to their differences, yet they often stand powerless despite their best efforts. I always strive to be an advocate for those who do not have a voice. Therefore, I envision the field of Speech-Language Pathology will become more pragmatic-centered in the future. In this sense, social interaction skills will be given a higher priority to help bridge a more effective approach to combat these socio-emotional hurdles.
Having observed SLP sessions at Saddleback High School, a Title I public institution, I have observed the scope of this powerful career. I previously thought that sessions aimed at teens would be similar to those involving pediatric-aged children. I quickly realized, however, that this age group practices techniques which are geared towards improving social skills necessary for daily living over articulation and other such practices. Many of the clientele I observed were noncategorical special education students who comprised Intellectual Disability, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Down Syndrome. As these students will be going out into the world absent of family or advocates who might speak on their behalf, real world role-play activities prepare them for many of the interactions that most people take for granted. I know first-hand what it feels like to struggle to achieve with a disability. Diagnosed in 5th grade with visual tracking disorders, my ability to read has been adversely affected. Growing up, I compensated the best I could, lest anyone realize that there was something different about me. I was constantly stressed and it is those adverse memories that drive me to want to help students with communication disorders. Unfortunately, with this type of condition, concealment is far less feasible. If there is an impairment with language or communication skills, it is uncomfortably apparent. Many of the students I observed know they are different from their peers. They cannot make friends easily and are often rejected by the public who will not take the time to understand their condition.
Consequently, I see a greater need to work on social skills and pragmatics for all age groups in SLP. Communicating one’s needs and having the ability to form relationships with others is a vital part of daily life regardless of age. Our experience with the pandemic is a prime example of the devastating challenges put forth by social distancing and school and/or clinic closures. Not being able to see someone smile or have any type of physical contact severely limits the necessary social cues for clear communication. Even without the pandemic, the social needs of children are often hindered by limitations on therapy coverage. I want to be an advocate to help bring these issues to the surface and to help provide a strong support network just as I had with my own disability. The emotional needs of all individuals must be valued.
Instead of leaving future clients vulnerable to their difficulties, we should continue to lead by example and provide the necessary tools to allow their capabilities to shine.