As a master clinician, how do you advance Callier’s three-part mission?
I provide speech-language therapy and feeding therapy to infants and children. In 2005, I started Supportive Treatment of Eating in Preschoolers (STEPS), a small group program for children ages 2 to 5 with feeding disorders and their parents. Under my supervision, graduate students facilitate intervention for the children. Together, we partner with the parents, teaching them how to continue the intervention for their children at home.
In the typical medical model, there is not a lot of room for partnering with parents. They often sit in the lobby. You take the child back. You do the therapy, and then you give the parent a two-minute spiel about what you want them to do. In STEPS, parents are there 100% of the time; parent education is built in and ongoing. We model and roll it over to the parents, so they can do it with our guidance, rather than sending them home with a handout. Callier is able to offer unique specialty programs because we focus on the patient and providing quality care, not the bottom line.
I train 20-plus graduate students per year in feeding and speech. The practicum opportunities that I offer are unique and hard to obtain elsewhere, so I get a lot of requests. I also offer continuing education to speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and physicians. Recently, I coordinated the Responsive Feeding Therapy Conference, which was attended virtually by more than 500 attendees internationally.
I’ve worked with Dr. Tom Campbell (Callier Executive Director Emeritus) on several research studies. In an ongoing study, we are collaborating with UT Dallas engineers and computer scientists to develop an app that screens children for articulation disorders. The app is in beta testing.
I also helped develop the Callier Clinical Research Participant Registry, a database of participants who can be contacted for research studies. Through the Social Communication Mentoring Program, I supervise four employees — two UTD undergrads paired with two autistic young adults, who enter people into the registry. This program will expand Callier’s research and clinical efforts by providing subjects for research studies.
How does your work transform the lives of patients?
If I can help a child learn to eat on their own before they go to kindergarten, then they can participate in mealtimes and go to school and eat successfully and independently, which greatly reduces parents’ stress. For children with speech issues, I help them communicate with their peers and families, so they can express their needs and ideas to the world, and we can hear what they have to say.
Why do you love what you do?
There is nothing more rewarding than having a parent tell you they never thought this was possible — that their child would eat, or talk, or whatever the case may be. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and now I get emails from parents whose kids are graduating from high school. It’s amazing to realize that you changed the trajectory of a child’s life and made it a more positive one. It’s a huge deal for me knowing that I’m facilitating a better life for these kids through our work together.