Choosing and Working with the Right Speech Therapist

Finding a good therapist that you like is not always easy. Initially, I didn’t know what questions to ask or how to determine if the person was a right fit for Juliana or our family. Then, things started to stand out, and I would now say I have a mental list of deal breakers I use when I am looking for a provider. From my prior post Advocate, I’ve explained the difficulty we’ve had in finding good providers. In the area of speech though, we have been very fortunate. For over two years, Juliana has worked with the same speech therapist.

Paula Sumple is a private speech language pathologist who has been licensed and practicing since 1992. She began her work in the Atlanta area in 1995. Paula initially went to school to study computer science, but found her niche when she worked at a clinic that specialized in traumatic brain injury. There are a lot of professional and personal things that I like about Paula. But what works for us is that she is knowledgeable, patient and engaged with her sessions. And while it’s not a requirement, I am just genuinely impressed that Paula walks the talk. She has been a member of the Special Pops Tennis Board of Directors since 2009. She is a certified Special Olympics Coach in Tennis and a registered Special Olympics Georgia Unified Partner.

paula and julesAnd if these accomplishments don’t make her shine enough, she was recently honored as volunteer of the year from the Atlanta Youth Tennis and Learning Foundation. Her expertise at work and commitment to our special needs community shows me that she is serious about the part she plays as a special needs provider. So, I asked Paula to sit down with me to share with other parents what can be helpful when they are looking for and working with a speech therapist.

What qualities/experience should parents look for in choosing the right speech therapist?

“It’s important to find someone with experience that the family needs. The right therapist will work with the parents where they are, but will not sugarcoat or misinform them. Ask questions specific to the needs of your child”.

Along those same lines, what may be some warning signs to keep looking?

“I would say that is very much like the first question. They may not be the right person if they don’t meet your child’s needs; you want someone who realizes they don’t know everything. And, be willing to move on if they are not the right person”.

When parents finally find the right speech therapist and sessions begin, how would you advise parents to practically apply the therapist’s recommendations into daily living?

“Start small. Trying to do it all day long will backfire. Parents can identify what they feel comfortable with; maybe one activity a day; using that particular strategy within the activity”.

As it relates to speech therapy and their child, what one piece of advice would you give?

“Even though we are the professionals, parents need to be on board with the therapy plan; otherwise no amount of services will work. Be sure you understand what is going on so that you can apply it day to day. You with deal with different levels of understanding, ability and pressures. Take things one day at a time”.


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