My first job as a speech-language pathologist was at North Shore Children’s Hospital in Salem, Massachusetts. It was a magical place for me — one that offered intensive training and the opportunity to work alongside professionals from a variety of different disciplines.
My interests in spoken language sparked so many questions about written language, so I went on to study reading and writing as a doctoral student at Emerson College. I studied with some of the leading researchers in language and literacy and joined them as a faculty member, teaching graduate courses and supervising the clinical training of graduate students while completing my own research on writing.
I loved my years in academia; research, teaching and mentoring new clinicians was deeply stimulating and satisfying work.
I chose the latter and established a private practice alongside a clinical psychologist and a neuropsychologist.
Working closely with these highly experienced colleagues allowed me to see children’s language and academic skills within larger frameworks — ones that accounted for their cognitive abilities, emotions, and learning styles. That fueled my interest in working with a broader range of students than was typical for a speech-language pathologist at the time.
I also saw children who had no diagnosed learning disabilities at all; they simply were not doing as well as they wanted to be in school, and they needed more effective strategies for learning. Many of these children worked hard, but after experiencing failure in school, they felt dejected, defective, and downright broken.
Sometimes they were labeled “unmotivated,” which added insult to injury and left them feeling blamed for their struggles. The more I worked with them, the more I doubted that motivation was the problem. What seven year-old (or 17 year-old for that matter) wants to fail?
I believe that motivation is fueled by success, and these children weren’t experiencing enough of it to stick with things that didn’t come easily to them. It motivated ME to develop teaching methods that made sense to all students and helped them achieve the success they so desired.
That vision has always gotten me out of bed with a sense of purpose.
In 2004, I began to expand my solo practice by hand picking a staff whose vision, passion, professionalism, and expertise align with mine. They are superb clinicians and educators who, like me, believe that students need teachers, mentors, and cheerleaders — people who will believe in them when they falter, celebrate with them when they succeed, and stick with them through their journey.
All of us at Architects For Learning firmly believe that by working together with the students and families that walk through our doors, we can change children’s lives. We see it happen every day.