Impact on PWS

Hi! My name is Julianna Arellano and I’m a senior at CSUF studying speech-language pathology. Going into this field, I have known how rewarding this job can be. Sometimes it might not even feel like work after seeing how much you impact lives. My question is, have you had a moment in your career where you had a patient that has left your care, but months or even years later you come across them again and see how effective therapy was on their stutter? I would like to hear your experiences!

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Impact on PWS — 4 Comments

  1. Dear Julianna,

    HI! Thank you for attending the conference. Congrats on being a senior at CSUF! That is exciting.

    You ask such a wonderful question, and you do it with excitement and genuine joy in your writing. Thank you!

    There have been several clients that I might hear from again, and that is a true credit to THEIR hard work to evolve as people. We, as SLPs, are passengers for brief moments as our clients drive the bus during therapy sessions. We might give them some directions on where to go, but they are in the drivers seat and doing the hard work that usually is a life time of work.

    One story is I had a client come in to our clinic who was a young undergrad and a person who stuttered. He was struggling when life, his negative attitude toward his speech, and finding purpose. We did therapy for about 1 year and 1/2. In that time it was a great ride for us all. He discovered purpose in a his school and found a career he wanted to pursue. He graduated and later got married and found his courage and desire (which was always there as we found out in therapy) to move from his home town (never leaving the area before). In other words, he is living HIS chosen life.

    We as SLPs have so much to teach people who stutter, and, they have much to teach us. When we go into a conversation (any conversation with anyone) with this mindset, we can make changes in everyone’s life. The clients I have had the pleasure to work with (because it is a team effort) have shown me how to be a better person and taught me what THEY need as individuals.

    The bottom line is we want them to be successful humans. Not just improving communication skills. Speaking is important, yes. But life is about more than verbalizing. It is about connections with others, feeling confident and comfortable in our own skin, and evolving into the person we know we CAN be.

    Did that answer your question?
    Have a lovely conference!
    With compassion and kindness,

  2. Hey Julianna,
    That is such a unique question!
    Yes.. absolutely. There certainly have been moments like that. Like when one of the PWS I had seen for therapy took to studying law..
    There was this other girl who was extremely bright, well read, and had such interesting thoughts and insights.. I used to really look forward to our therapy sessions, because they involved tons of fun debates and philosophising! Her journey was long and hard though, from not having the willingness to utter anything, all the way to having the urge to share her thoughts with the world. She’s doing extremely well personally and professionally today and that makes me so proud.
    But proud of HER, and her consistent efforts, more than my therapy. As Dr. Scott wrote in his reply, the credit is completely hers! I was just fortunate enough to be a part of her journey, and make a tiny contribution to it.

  3. Julianna,

    Thank you so much for asking this question to the professional panel, and I ADORE this question! The nature of your question shows how much compassion and empathy you already have for this field! I have been in this field for 13 years, and I have ran into people I have served in the hospital with dysphagia or other diagnosis some years later. I have also had a kiddo that I served starting at the age of 3 for two years in the daycare setting and some years later his mother found my contact information and contacting me, wanting me to work with him again because she thought I was the best clinician they had ever had. The child was still a child but was older, and he didn’t remember me.. but I was very honored by her words and gave her and his work full credit- not me. 🙂 I will tell you one of my favorite stories with my time in this field though… it doesn’t have to do with stuttering, but it is my “Kings Speech” moment, so to speak.
    When I first got my CCC, I worked in a medical outpatient clinic, and I had the opportunity to serve a university professor who was status post stroke. This person was a well-published author in his trade, very well written and scholarly, and here I was: a brand new speech-language pathologist. This man had receptive and expressive aphasia to the tune of…. I was re-teaching him his alphabet, and he was mixing up some of the letters. We worked together for a full year and he would cry, wondering if he would ever lecture again. He worked hard… very very hard, and his wife was by his side the entire time. THEY worked hard together. I just provided them with the template of what to do. He battled visual deficits- and had to deal with double vision, wearing a patch on one eye. I magnified what we did in therapy, and got him magnifiers for home to work with. We re-learned the computer and how to type, and use email programs…. all of it. And I told him (going out on a limb), “I can’t wait to be at a lecture of yours some day.” Now mind you- we never can predict how much a person will gain back post stroke, but he had made so much progress I knew he could do that or I would have never said that. We have to be very careful with what we tell people prognostically, and I would have never said that had he not made the progress that he did. He ultimately decided to retire (he had worked for years at multiple universities and despite his stroke, it was time), but he gave a retirement speech to a room full of academics. He prepared the speech himself, and by that time I had discharged him from services. He discharged reading full crime novels of his interest, typing emails independently, and having independent conversations during lunch outings with friends; a much different picture of the man that I met when he first walked into my treatment room- a man who was re-learning his alphabet. His wife and himself gave me a personal invite to his retirement reception. My boss gave me the go ahead to attend.

    I was a tad late to the retirement reception. I didn’t take that day off, I just blocked my schedule for three hours, and the person on my schedule right before leaving for the reception had a medical emergency that I had to tend to and I was afraid that i would miss it. So- when I approached the reception room (a large room reserved at the given university where this person was retiring from), I could tell the reception was already underway, and food was being served. I opened the door, embarrassed I was late… but he (my former person), saw me right away and loudly exclaimed… to this room full of doctors, academics and scientists, “There she is everyone- this is MY teacher.” and the whole room (already apparently knowing who I was), stood up on their feet, gave me a standing ovation, and broke out in applause. I was escorted to my seat in front of everyone…. and he had sat me right next to him and his wife, at the head table. To put words to a moment like that is hard and did I cry in front of that room full of people- yes I did. The food had been served and they brought me my meal. And then it was time for his speech. I hadn’t seen him for therapy in some time, and I didn’t help him with it at all.. not even to practice.

    He did it. He did it on his own. And he introduced me to the group again, “my speech therapist, MY teacher” and spoke of our interactions together during the year that I had the honor of serving him. The room again broke out in applause. He said he wouldn’t be where he was, doing the things he was doing without me. I spoke and said, “you did the work” and he said, “not without you.”

    I will never forget that man and his wife. I will never forget that moment and our therapeutic alliance and the familial-type relationship that we had. And that’s what it is: a therapeutic alliance. The people we serve do the work- and we give them the template to do that work. But one cannot work without the other. I hope that this story brought you joy, and best wishes in your studies. This field is the best field that I could have ever gone in to, and I tell everyone I know that it isn’t a job- it’s a passion and a calling. Be well!

    • Steff,

      Thank you for your response and the beautiful story. If I’m being honest, it brought tears to my eyes. Whenever I’m exhausted from studying, struggling in a class or feeling like I want to give up, I will think of this story as my motivation. I can’t wait to impact someone just like you did!

      Take Care,
      Julianna Arellano

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