Sunday, June 10, 2007

Unlock a Door--Christine's NDT Journey as an SLP

My journey into NDT as an SLP began when a colleague (an NDT trained OT) recommended that I apply for the 8-week course. She told me that it would be great for me and that I would love it. So I applied and was accepted.
Little did I know I was embarking on the most difficult journey of my professional career. When I graduated from college and started working as an SLP, I knew that I wanted to work with children.
After I interviewed at Matheny, a special school for children and adults with developmental disabilities, I knew that was where I wanted to work. I have always loved the challenge of finding a way to ‘unlock a door” and help a child find a way to communicate, or dramatically improve oral feeding skills, and the kids at Matheny are the biggest challenge I know.

The longer I worked at Matheny, the more I realized there were pieces missing in how I needed to work with a child with cerebral palsy. I would see challenges my students were having, and I knew where I wanted to go, but I had no idea how to get there, and no matter where I looked for direction, I couldn’t find any.

When I started the NDT course, I had no idea how much I didn’t know about my field, and how much I should know about it. Honestly, I sat in class the first few days wanting to cry because I was so completely lost, but as the first week progressed, I started putting a few pieces together, and I started thinking, ‘why don’t they teach us this in speech school?’ The theories behind NDT really made me stop and think about the whole body and how everything works together.

As the 8 weeks progressed I started to see and understand that communicating and feeding are more than the mouth and language centers of the brain, they are the result of all parts of the complex machine we call our body working efficiently and effectively together. I started to realize that as an SLP, especially one who works with kids with disabilities, I should know why posture and movement are important to communication and feeding, and that changing ineffective postures and movement is critical to changing poor feeding or communication skills. NDT taught me to look beyond the traditional role of the SLP, and realize that to truly change communication and feeding in kids with disabilities, I have to be not just an SLP, but a little bit of a physical therapist and little bit of an occupational therapist. OT and PT are more closely related than speech therapy is to either.

As a result, I believe that the NDT journey for an SLP is longer and harder then for an OT or PT. Where we have to learn to be an OT and a PT, they don’t necessarily need to learn to be an SLP. Learning to think outside of the traditional SLP role was one of the greatest challenges I faced during my course, and one that I continue to face as I continue to integrate NDT into myself. My clinical skills have changed drastically since I began the NDT course.

My fellow speech pathologists at Matheny have noticed the changes in my skills more than I have! One speech pathologist told me that the kids looked so much better after I had been working with them. To have one of my colleagues notice a positive change reinforces that I am doing it right, and it encourages me to keep learning and integrating NDT. The more comfortable I become with NDT, the more I am able to share it with my co-workers, and the more I encourage them to consider taking an NDT course. Taking the 8-week NDT course was one of the best things I could have done for myself as an SLP.

Ms. Mayercik who completed her 8-Week NDT Pediatric Course with Lois Bly @ Meadowbrook, PA, 2006. She is the only SLP in this 8 week NDT course.


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