Speech is a near-universal form of communication that allows individuals to connect with one another. But what about those who struggle verbalizing their thoughts? While many young children require speech therapy, older adults with certain conditions can also develop speech challenges. Luckily, there are exceptional speech therapists that can help clients of all ages articulate their feelings, form stronger interpersonal relationships, develop positive self-esteem and become lifelong learners. Ashley Small is one such fine example.
Small, a New Jersey native, has been a speech-language pathologist for six years. She specializes in helping children and adults improve their language development, articulation skills and reading and writing skills while also helping them gain more self-confidence.
Through word of mouth—and an increasing number of success stories—Small was able to grow and develop her business in order to help more people than ever before. She also understands how overwhelming it can feel for parents to navigate the therapy world for their children, and enjoys coaching parents and offering consultations during the process.
While her business normally operates through home visits and in-office appointments, due to the ongoing pandemic, she has transitioned to telehealth. Despite the changes, Small has found telehealth to be just as effective as meeting in-person with her clients.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” Small said. “I was worried that there would be some difficulty in doing therapy virtually, but I’ve found there’s actually a lot of positives, too. Especially with my younger clients, there are a lot of ways for me to keep them focused and hold their attention, and as a result I’m able to successfully reach their goals. When I’m working with kids, they enjoy using the computer or phone. The one-on-one sessions include fun technology and games, and are prorated for the perfect amount of time that works for each kid’s attention and engagement.”
Small also works with adults, especially those with Parkinson’s disease. Speech issues can be debilitating regardless of one’s age, which might result in poor self-confidence and other concerns. Helping people correct those issues is something Small has found incredibly rewarding. In fact, it’s one of the reasons she decided to pursue a career in speech therapy in the first place.
“Forming relationships is so crucial and important, and when people have trouble doing so it can really have a negative impact on their lives,” Small said. “This isn’t a problem that just plagues people of a certain age range––I have clients as young as 1 and as old as 93. Helping people communicate has been so rewarding because I’m not just helping them with their difficulties, I’m also helping them feel good about themselves. I’ve seen how frustrating it can be when my clients feel they can’t articulate what they’re feeling. When you struggle with communication for so long, once it’s finally corrected, it’s a huge confidence booster.”
For grade-school kids, speech and language difficulties can lead to classroom difficulties, as students will often feel dissociated from the lessons because they can’t fully immerse themselves in them. Small, who also works with kids who have dyslexia to develop reading and writing skills, feels that tackling those issues starts with a multisensory approach.
“We ‘learn to read’ at a young age, but as soon as first grade we ‘read to learn,’” Small said. “Without that first building block, everything else has trouble standing on its own. So, for a student who is shying away from participating in class because they struggle to engage with the material, I use multisensory reading programs that tackle different stages of decoding and raising fluency in a systematic and hierarchical way. Dyslexia is a condition that so many people struggle with, and though it might be difficult, the key is patience and having an understanding mentality. I want all my clients to feel comfortable not just in themselves, but also their abilities, because they are just as able to learn as their classmates. They just benefit from an approach that works for their learning needs.”
Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at www.adamssoapbox.com.