- Can you talk about your journey from graduating from Touro School of Health Sciences to establishing a successful private practice in speech-language pathology?
I worked for about three years at Hyde Leadership Charter School, a charter school in a disadvantaged area of eastern New York, and then worked at several high schools where I provided a variety of speech services. Although each case is different, I have found that children with the most severe speech, language, and cognitive difficulties typically have underdeveloped facial structures, poor eating habits, difficulty with behavior and sleep, and attention. I kept noticing a close correlation that I was also suffering from a decrease in strength and energy. If these problems are left untreated for a long time, they often cause jaw pain and migraines in adulthood. During the coronavirus pandemic, I discovered myofunctional therapy and wanted to learn more. I ultimately decided to partner with my sister-in-law, who is a holistic dentist, to open my own practice in my hometown of Long Island, where I would focus on offering these types of treatment techniques.
- What is myofunctional therapy and what led you to specialize in this particular field of speech-language pathology?
Myofunctional therapy is a holistic approach that corrects the improper functioning of the tongue and facial muscles, ensuring that these very important parts of the face always move in the correct position. Although not widely known, this treatment is a niche area in which speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and dental hygienists can specialize. I have received orofacial myofunctional training. This means we can help children and adults reduce and improve speech problems such as tongue thrusting, eating, breathing, and even speaking more efficiently.
- Are there any memorable or challenging patients you have worked with that highlighted the impact of myofunctional therapy?
I learn something new from each client, but one that stands out to me is a child who has been in speech therapy and has been working on pronouncing the “r” sound for nearly three years. After assessing key factors such as breathing, chewing, and swallowing, we began implementing her myofunctional protocol and she was able to make significant progress in less than 10 of her sessions. People experience severe pain due to impaired movement of the temporomandibular joint and surrounding muscles, and even something as simple as changing the way the jaw moves or changing its position while eating can be difficult to perform on a daily basis. They don’t realize how small adjustments they are making to their lives. The water bottle they use helps reduce the pain.
- What important skills did you learn at Touro?
There are many things I learned during my time at Touro that I use every day at work. Dr. Blaustein taught me the importance of differential diagnosis and seeing the patient as a whole. Dr. Britman helped me find the courage I needed to open a private practice and understand the importance of continually staying on top of new innovations in this specialty. And Dr. Weil emphasized the importance of specializing in and excelling in specific areas of the speech field.
Additionally, the diverse courses and clinical experiences Touro provided shaped me into the successful clinician I am today. I really liked the small class sizes and high level of consideration from the professors. While completing my clinical requirements, it was extremely helpful to be able to meet regularly with my advisor to discuss what was going well and the challenges I was facing. Many of the topics we discussed during our time as Touro students, such as details about cleft palates and early intervention techniques, have allowed us to seamlessly navigate the scenarios we deal with on a regular basis.
- In your experience, how has the field of speech-language pathology, and more specifically myofunctional therapy, evolved over the years? Where do you see it heading in the next five years?
When I first started my career, I didn’t even know that myofunctional therapy existed, so I just thought outside the box and used the skills I was taught. But now that I’m practicing myofunctional techniques, I’m not only looking at obvious language issues, but also analyzing important patterns between language and other factors, so I’ve worked with a variety of clients over the years. It has become easy to bridge the gap that existed between eating.
In the coming years, I hope to grow in the field myself, network with other health care providers, and learn more about how myofunctional therapy can benefit children and adults alike. We believe it brings awareness.
- Please give some advice to current students and those aiming to become speech therapists.
Think outside the box, as you will almost always get better results if you look at each person through a unique lens while leveraging your vast knowledge base. Never limit yourself to what you currently know because you need to actively continue to educate yourself. This is a lifelong process. Never stop believing in yourself even during difficult times and keep in touch with your colleagues in the field regularly, as their feedback and advice is invaluable.