I MARRIED AN SLP!
I'm a slip-h. An SLPH.
I'm neither an SLP (Speech Language Pathologist) nor an SLPA (Speech Language Pathology Assistant.)
I'm an S-L-P-H: A Speech Language Pathologist's husband.
I'm married to a Speech/Language Pathologist. And constantly in awe of her.
Why? Because she, like most of the SLPs I've had the pleasure of meeting over the years, is imbued with traits that most of us mere mortals are not.
SLPs are caring, empathetic souls, driven by a desire to not only do good, but make a difference, even if that difference is sometimes merely incremental.
This is an extremely foreign concept to the rest of us!
Yvonne was like this when I first met her, and she remains this way 32 years later.
She's still working with little ones, still caring (sometimes, in my estimation, way too much) about each and every one of them, still bringing her work home with her, and still doing everything in her power to affect positive change in the lives of those kids she works with.
When this whirlwind of kindness entered my life, she was a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed newly minted graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University with a degree in Speech Pathology.
She was beginning work toward her Masters. In addition to her extern-ship working with adults, she was also seeing kids in a clinic at TC. She was hooked.
As we got to know each other during those first few dates, over beers and various eclectic Manhattan culinary offerings, her excitement and passion for the career she was embarking on, struck me like a thunderbolt.
You see, I worked in television news at the time and, while my friends were all smart, intelligent, wonderful people, nobody in my orbit was quite like this gal.
We were all jaded and cynical from dealing with all the crap the world offered on a daily basis. Every shift at work brought with it some sort of tragedy or sadness. Because of what we did for a living, compartmentalization was a survival mechanism.
But Yvonne was a blast of fresh, positive air. She was my Ghandhi. (You know, if Ghandi was a sexy, funny, caring twenty-something young woman with a great laugh, beautiful eyes, and unbridled sense of adventure.)
So I was all in.
There's something intimidating about being with someone who's doing something meaningful with their lives. It took awhile for me to get over scenarios like this, a common occurence at the end of the day.
Me: Honey, how was your day?
Yvonne: (choking up) Amazing. You know Brandon, the selective mute I've been working with? He talked today. His mom just called me in tears thanking me for all I did.
Me: Oh God, honey. That's wonderful.
Yvonne: Thanks, honey. What did you do today?
Me: (sheepishly) I produced a fun segment with Tom Hanks.
Ouch. I mean, Tom Hanks is cool and all. But there is no comparison here.
I'm not sure I've soaked up as much goodness as I would have liked in our three decades together, but I do know she's made me a better person.
And even now, as she has added another layer to her meaningful career, by inventing some amazing language-building toys and starting her own company, her objective isn't financial. It's still about helping the kids.
Her real goal, as she likes to say, "Is to get this felt touched by millions of little fingers." Because Yvonne believes that they are the ones who can benefit the most.
So what is it about SLPs and other difference makers that sets them apart? How do they wind up on an altruistic path?
According to author Larissa MacFarquhar, author of Strangers Drowning, people in helping professions often are drawn to these paths almost subconsciously.
"All these people have a feeling that they are living their life as they ought to. It's one of the differences between them and the rest of us: they don't feel that they have a choice about whether they should help others or not. What they show you is you can live a happy life, even with a very strong commitment to people who are not in your family, not in your community, people who have a need that you don't necessarily see in front of you."
In other words, for many SLPs, it's a calling. Some people are just drawn to help others.
There are other reasons for sure. Maybe someone becomes an SLP to give back - because earlier someone had a positive impact on them (sort of an SLPay it Forward) scenario. Or maybe it's a more conscious effort to break a cycle and do something positive for a change.
As MacFarguhar points out, there are different types of heroism. If you come across a car wreck, a person drowning in a lake, or a house fire, your urge might be to do whatever you can to help your fellow man and save a life. This is one type of heroism.
But to consciously devote your life to helping others, well that's another sort of heroism altogether.
A deep dive into Google comes to a consistent conclusion about the three most important traits that make a good Speech Language Pathologist:
From my thorough field research, by watching one specific SLP at home and through meeting hundreds more, I can attest to these three common traits being universal.
And that is why nowadays I proudly introduce myself as a SLP-H at ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association), CSHA (California Speech and Hearing Association) and TSHA (Texas Speech and Hearing Association) conventions.
So today, on Super Bowl Sunday, I raise a beer not to the Chiefs or 49ers, but to all those SLPs out there who really know how to tackle a problem and run with the ball.
#speechpathology #slp #asha #csha #tsha #heros #smartfelttoys #earlylanguage