If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, "What made you decide to become a Speech Therapist?" I would have...five dollars. I became a speech therapist by accident...yes, i said it, by accident.
Here's the short/long of it: I went to community college because I truly had no idea what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to be a psychologist or a lawyer or major in art all in one month. I couldn't even decide what I wanted to eat for breakfast. I remember my adviser asking me what my main goal was. I knew I wanted to help people in some way. Change a life or two, ya know? So when I eventually transferred to Indiana University of PA, I decided at that point that being an interpreter for the deaf "might be cool".
On transfer day, I went to the appropriate room for the director of clinical services for audiology and speech pathology. Little did I know that he signed me up for "Speech and Language Pathology" (which I assumed was right, because I had no idea what that meant) and off I went and well, 6 years of schooling and two degrees later, Viola!
The best part is, I am TRULY helping people. As any therapist knows, or anyone who has a job, some days are hard, just plain hard. Some days you work and work and get nothing done. Some days there are no words of kindness or acts of gratitude. Some days you are tired, stressed out, and whine like some of your students/colleagues. Some days you are just well, tired.
Then one day when you least expect it, you have a beautiful, bright shinning star tell you that you've made a difference today...
I was driving home on the PA Turnpike about a month and a half ago, when I stopped at a rest stop for some caffeine and to let my dog stretch his long legs. As I hooked Tux to his leash and led him out of the car, a younger boy (maybe around 8), came running around a car yelling, "Doggy! Doggy!" His grandfather ran after him scolding him to watch out for passing cars and general safety nightmares that every parent worries about, but the boy paid no regard to his grandfather and ran up to my dog and wrapped him in a bear hug. If you know my dog Tux, he will lick you to death. He loves people, other dogs and even cats. He is quite the gentle soul. As he licked the boy's face, his grandfather apologized profusely. He escorted the boy into the rest stop and I was then faced with his grandmother who was also apologizing. She said, "I'm sorry, he has some issues we're working on." I told her that it wasn't even a second thought. She asked me what I did for a living and I told her I was a speech therapist. She lit up like the sun and said, "We could not be more thankful for my grandson's speech therapist and his occupational therapist who we love. They have been there since the beginning and have been a driving force in where he is today." As we said our good byes, I couldn't help but smile, because it's so easy to forget that we matter. It's so easy to take a bad day and use it as fuel for another bad day.
But every day, I am some child's best hope. Every day, I help someone communicate. Every day, I make a difference.
That's why my job is "no thank- you" required.
Samantha Kessler, M.S., CCC-SLP