About the Owner
Many people and families have asked how I became interested in being a Speech Therapist. I shared my story with a friend and he said, "You should write that story and share it," so here goes.
When I was a junior in high school in the small town of Bliss, Idaho, my high school counselor organized a career fair. There were several professionals in attendance, but one person stands out in my memory. She was a Speech-Language Pathologist. I recognized this person because through the years she had performed my hearing screenings to make sure I had good hearing. She attended the career fair to talk about her profession of being a Speech Therapist.
I attended her class and I remember listening and hanging on to every word she said. I asked many questions and she could see my interest and fascination with her profession so she invited me to come with her to job shadow for a day. She said Speech Therapists help individuals from childhood through adulthood. They help babies who cannot swallow and adults who cannot speak due to the devastation of a stroke. The career seemed broad and very fascinating.
I scheduled my job shadow during spring break if my memory serves me correctly. You know, I remember every minute and every detail of that day. I remember the places we went including her clinic, the local hospital and a school. I remember eating lunch with her that day and I remember her telling me how satisfied she felt about her career choice and how happy it made her feel. The day flew by. One baby we saw in the hospital was having a difficult time sucking. We used some cold popsicles and things to stimulate her swallow while the baby was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Another child we saw was having a difficult time pronouncing the sound /f/ like in fish. His word for fish came out "pish".
There is one little girl that stands out more than the other patients of the day. She was little, I think around two years of age, and she had Down syndrome. She had red hair and she did not walk yet. She had a cute tummy that bulged and round little cheeks that were pink. I don't remember her talking and in fact, she did not talk or walk, but scooted around on her side and pulled her body with her arms. This child was the last child of the day and the therapist warned me that she didn't usually handle new people very well so it may be that I would need to leave the session because I, being new, would disrupt the session. The therapist needed to visit with the mom and so I sat on the floor in the corner of the room to observe. The little girl had a little board with squares she would press and the buttons would activate a voice that would speak. "I want milk" was one button and this adorable little girl would push it and push it. The therapist and the mom got distracted and so this little girl started looking at me and pretty soon she started scooting over to me. Then she crawled into my lap. She sat there looking up at me and then she touched my mouth. Then she poked my eye. I was really quiet and didn't say anything. Pretty soon the mom and therapist noticed what had happened and the mom's jaw almost hit the floor. She could not believe that her little angel had crawled to me.
The therapist then engaged me in the therapy. She moved the communication/button device to the little girl and I held her throughout the rest of her speech therapy session. When the therapy ended and it was time to go, the little girl cried and did not want me to leave. She kept clinging to me and would shake her head "NO" when her mom took her from my arms.
This experience was life changing. It was that moment, that day, that I knew what I wanted to be. Even though I was only 17 years old, my heart became passionate for children who could not talk or walk. The little girl with the bulging tummy and rosy cheeks inspired me that day. She inspired me to be a good person and to help others. You see, these children with disabilities are little angels upon this earth to teach us to be kind, encouraging, loving and passionate about advocating for their needs. Many people in this world are not able to advocate for themselves because they cannot talk and I believe I am here to help them. They have beautiful spirits and minds and wonderful personalities and it just takes improved communication to help with that!
Later, I enrolled at Idaho State University. I earned a Bachelor's Degree and then a Masters in Speech-Language Pathology and then another Masters In Early Childhood-Human Exceptionality. There were many hard days and struggles. The Master's Program was demanding and overwhelming but in the back of my mind, I knew my mission. I knew what I wanted to do and the little girl with red pig tails, bulging tummy and rosy cheeks inspired me to persist.
I have been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist for over 15 years and although I have a large number of therapists treating patients in my clinics, I still enjoy the opportunity to treat your children.
- Rachelle Ruffing, MS CCC-SLP, Owner