Welcome to SpeechScience.org - we can't tell you how happy you are to have you here, and to grow from your input, needs, and passions in the coming years.
On behalf of all of our editorial and writing staff, guest bloggers, contributors, and well-wishers, I would like to personally thank every one of you for coming to visit our grand new experiment: A site dedicated to providing the most current research, ideas, and thought leadership in the field of Speech-Language Pathology and other related disciplines in a way accessible to anyone and everyone interested.
This has been a labor of love for some time for me, and I'm truly honored to be leading the charge as the editor-in-chief of a resource that I hope will be of great use not only to clinicians but to families, educators, paraprofessionals, and anyone else interested in learning more about the complex, nuanced, and beautiful gift of speech and language. Of course, not everyone communicates in the same way, and for too long both I and my colleagues in this endeavor believe that we have either ignored or made inaccessible many of the most critical issues in our field, be that alternative and augmentative communication, international issues in communication disorders, minority representation in the field, and many things in-between.
That statement does not mean to undervalue the fantastic efforts of many amazing clinicians and educators; it's not as though accessible materials are a novel idea. This site is simply our own humble effort to ensure that we as professionals provide the truth about communication disorders with the largest microphone that we can muster, and in doing so we invite input, collaboration, and feedback of any kind. Please share any thoughts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org - or to me directly at email@example.com. We really and truly want to hear what you think, and to invite your contributions to whatever extent you are willing to share them.
Several months ago I was in a particularly challenging IEP meeting (for those unfamiliar, a legal convocation in which parents, educators, administrators, and (ideally) the student in question participate in the process of planning their individualized education for the coming year). The student in question presented a unique set of challenges - not insurmountable, certainly, but requiring a great deal of effort from all parties. I'll never forget a moment when the student's mother, in tears, said: "All I want is for you to help my child to find a bit of light, rather than to help him come to grips with the dark."
Those words haunt me. We have a responsibility, a sacred obligation as clinicians to cast as much light as possible, as far as possible, to improve not only the skills of our clients but their access to activities of daily living. For my part, I will burn so very bright in that effort that I don't care if I'm scarred by the effort, because even after the most challenging days, the extra paperwork, the all-too-common sense of loneliness as the sole specialist of your kind in a school or facility - I wake up the next day smiling and ready to start again.
Cast off the dark. Let the light shine, not just from yourself but from your students, from your staff - from the very context in which you find yourself. Wake up each morning and assume that what you think you know is wrong, and convince yourself all over again with the evidence - that is what it means to engage in practice ethically, mindfully, and in a way that provides the best possible service for your clients.
As a private practice SLP who often contracts with small school districts, I've heard administrators several times recently refer to "high-leverage strategies" and how we need to learn and employ them to effect change. I propose here that there is no greater fallacy in therapy than the idea that a strategy, and our employment of it, constitutes leverage over client outcomes.
At our very best, as clinicians, our role is to be the fulcrum; to magnify the strength of the student's effort, to ensure that it's guided toward the outcome we want to achieve, and finally to - yes - use a strategy, but a simple one, the only one that matters: The tactic or motivation or pure determination that helps our student give that lever a little push. The student is, ideally, both the agent and the recipient of every therapeutic act - and it is through that philosophy that we can affect not only the most change, but the sort of change that generalizes out onto the playground.
In the same way, we here at Speech Science endeavor to be a fulcrum - one that takes the many levers of research and evidence and experience and magnifies that knowledge with as much strength as we can muster. You, our readers, also have a responsibility: Tell us when our aim is off, when we're on the wrong track, and when we can do better.
A wise man once told me that what we need to effectively spread humanity's collective knowledge of science is not an alternative system - meaning a lengthy path to a credential that yes, has meaning and value, but is not accessible to everyone, and certainly not accessible to parents in crisis. What we need, he said, is a system of alternatives. So, then: Welcome. Welcome to our contribution to that system of alternatives, to our contribution to that light that might reach a soul otherwise shrouded in dark, to our meager fulcrum of a collective few that serves to magnify the efforts of the many. Let's help make sure that parent in crisis who turns to Google for answers isn't met with a minefield of falsehood, snake oil, and horrors. Let's do better. Let's help. If not for the desire to help, then why choose this career to begin with?
I, for one, can't wait to get started.
Lucas Steuber, MA Applied Linguistics, MS CCC/SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist in private practice working both with individual families and under contract with rural school districts in Oregon and Washington. He specializes in Augmentative and Alternative Communication, and was the Director of Clinical Research and Development for the app Avaz FreeSpeech, which won Best of Show in its category in CES Asia. He serves on the strategic planning and core services committees of the Autism Society of America as well as several local nonprofit boards. For more information, see his personal website or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.