My SHC Story: Finding My Voice

I’m from a small town in Alabama. The kind of small town that when people ask you where it is, you try to reference larger towns nearby but no one has heard of those places either. It still takes three dirt roads to get to my childhood home, and the cable company just laughs at you when you ask when high speed internet is coming.

baby alex (2)It’s there that I was born and raised. My dad worked in marketing, and my mom was a special education teacher. And my older brother and I were incredibly fortunate that we were raised by parents that invested in our education and always challenged us to do better.

But when it came time for me to start Kindergarten, I learned something very important about myself. I couldn’t talk. Well, I could, but no one could understand me.

Let me back up, I had a speech impediment growing up. But when your a young kid, you don’t really notice that kind of thing about yourself. I’m sure there’s a technical term for it, but I’ve always described it as “mush mouth”. I just didn’t enunciate, and everything sort of slushed together.

Looking back at home movies now, I realize how bad it was. Only my immediate family could understand me then, and I have to admit, adult me can’t really make heads or tails of it.

So when I started kindergarten, it was clear that I was in need of Speech Therapy. Thankfully, my mom worked in special education and knew what to ask for, and my school had a robust therapy and support program. So I was introduced to Mrs. Phillips.

Mrs. Phillips was an SLP working through the county to provide in-school services. Decades later, it’s hard to remember how often we met, but I don’t think it was more than 2 or 3 times a week. And I do remember that it was fun. I’d get to leave class and go play games with Mrs. Phillips.

Less than a school year later, we were done. I guess I got a passing grade from somebody because I stopped meeting with Mrs. Phillips after Kindergarten and have never seen her again.

But I can honestly say that her impact on my life has been echoing every day since. Over the years, I’ve made my way through the gift of gab. I would run for Student Government President, first in middle school and then in college. I’d give speeches in front of congregations, graduating classes and University donors. I’d debate in high school, and lead Model UN and Model Arab League teams in college. I’d major in Communications and then decide I love talking so much that I’d get my Master’s.

And then I’d end up at a company called Supplemental Health Care. Today, I’m the Director of Talent Attraction for a company that helps put people like Mrs. Phillips in schools to help kids like me.

In honor of Better Hearing and Speech Month, I can’t help but say Thank You! to Mrs. Phillips and the thousands of other speech language pathologists like her. Thank you for the work you do every day. Thank you making a difference. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for giving me a voice.

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