L4K: Ronda, thanks for taking the time to chat with “Apraxia Monday” readers. Since we’re all connected to apraxia (CAS) in some way or another, we’re interested in knowing what your connection to CAS is.
R.W., SLP: I have been connected to children with apraxia both in my personal and professional life. I have friends who have children with apraxia and I believe that has enriched my perspective in my professional life – it has enabled me to understand how a family is affected on a deeper level. I remember the very first child with apraxia that I ever worked with – it was during my first semester of graduate school. He was an eight year old boy who was very distressed because he had so much difficulty with his dog’s name (and he always wanted to talk about his dog). Being a huge dog lover myself, we instantly bonded and I was so motivated to help him. I really enjoyed working with him and his parents.
L4K: How long have you been practicing as a SLP?
R.W., SLP: I have been practicing for ten years. Speech Pathology was such a natural fit for me, once I actually stumbled upon the field. I had started out as a business major at JMU and was considering Hotel and Restaurant Management. Then, as I was exploring my options before committing to a major, I went to JMU’s career planning center and participated in some career counseling sessions and took the recommended career and personality tests. When I received my test results, there were dozens of careers that were offered as potential matches. Speech Pathologist was at the top of the list. I had never even heard of this career before. After some investigating, I enrolled in Introduction to Speech Pathology 101 to check it out. The rest is history. I received my B.S. in Communication Sciences & Disorders from James Madison University in 1996 (GO DUKES!) and my M.S. in Speech Pathology from the University of Hawaii in 2000. I have worked in both the public school and outpatient rehabilitation clinic settings.
L4K: Can you tell us a bit about your practice and the population you work with?
R.W., SLP: Since my husband served as a Marine Officer for nine years, I have been blessed to have lived and practiced in a variety of places – from the public schools of Oahu, Hawaii, on to the public schools in Virginia, then on to Schreiber Pediatric Rehabilitation Center in PA (cannot say enough GREAT things about this place!), and eventually to the public schools of New Jersey where I currently work. I have covered everything from Developmentally Delayed Preschool to High School over these ten years. I currently work at a Middle School.
In 2007, I launched The Speech Place Publishing to write and produce the first hardcover children’s picture book that explains the concept of speech therapy. Since then, I have been on a mission to educate the public – participating in book signings, speaking at educator nights to share information with teachers and parents, doing school readings, and seeking out various opportunities to raise awareness of speech/language impairments. My website is www.TheSpeechPlace.com.
L4K: You have a wonderful children’s book, “Speech Class Rules,” published in 2007 by your own company, The Speech Place Publishing. Wow. How did you “dream” up this project?
R.W., SLP: When I was in graduate school, I started looking for a book that introduced speech therapy to children who had just begun (to help them make sense of it all). I assumed that there was a book out there much like the books about the first trip to the dentist or doctor, but for speech. I was wrong. After an extensive search, I ultimately realized that no one had ever written such a book. I told my husband that I was going to write one year after year. But with huge caseloads, military moves, life……I never got around to it. My husband kept saying “You better do it before someone else does”.
While my husband was deployed to Iraq, I was home with our newborn, so I trained for a marathon to keep busy. There is nothing like running to organize your thoughts….so needless to say, my mind kept working on the book. I had a rough idea of where the book would go. Then I spent over a year researching the process of publishing. Finally, in 2007, I realized that there would never be a convenient time – I just needed to buckle down and complete this project that had been rolling around in my brain for years. So with a 3 year old, a 3 month old, and an approaching relocation, one day I just decided it was time to do it – no excuses. It was a long process, but worth every bit of hard work and lost sleep. When I presented Speech Class Rules as an exhibitor at the 2007 ASHA Convention in Boston, so many SLPs came up to my table and said “I had the same idea – I was going to do this!” I was so glad that I had listened to my husband and made it happen.
L4K: Can you tell us a little bit of the process of writing the book?
R.W., SLP: Well, obviously writing the actual story was the first step. I wrote, edited, rewrote, edited, rewrote…..you get the idea. Then, when I had it almost perfected, I called in the expertise of Bonny Becker (author of the award winning books “Good News for Bear” and “A Bedtime for Bear”) to help me fine-tune the copy and work out the kinks. Once that was finished, the real work began. I spent countless late nights on the computer finding and hiring my illustrator and designer, doing the art direction as the illustrations were created, and basically overseeing every detail until I felt that the book was what I had envisioned. Lastly, I worked with the printer to see the book to completion in my own hands. I’m sure that my team thought that I was a bit of a perfectionist, but it was so important to me that this book was authentic to the experience of our children in speech therapy. Otherwise, we would have lost the whole point. I’m so thrilled with the results – I think we really captured the essence of the experience of so many children.
L4K: What advice, resources, and/or recommendations would you give parents who are somewhere in the middle of this apraxia journey?
RW, SLP: I would give the same advice to parents of children with any type of speech or language impairment – get involved! Get involved with your child’s teacher, speech therapist, local speech and hearing association….participate with your child in therapy and learn how to take what they are doing in therapy and bring it to the home environment and elsewhere. This is a family journey, so treat it as such. And remember to celebrate each and every small victory along the way – this is how we ultimately get where we are going.
Could Ronda Wojcicki be any cooler?! I think her message is a good one: get involved with your child’s apraxia concerns, motivate and educate the public about CAS and celebrate all of those small victories.
Of course–a book give-a-way is in order! Here’s what you do: Tell me (and fellow blog readers) what your first experience with speech therapy was like–whether it was when you took your child to an SLP for the first time, recollections of other kids growing up, or your own experience with speech-pathology. Click on “comments” on this page or email me firstname.lastname@example.org The 5th comment to come my way wins a brand-new copy of Ronda’s book, “Speech Class Rules.” (valued at $18.75) You have 24 hours from the time this posts to comment. Good Luck!
A little more about the book:
- Bronze award-winner in The 2008 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for raising awareness of a children’s health issue.
- Earned Gold in the 2010 Mom’s Choice Awards.
- “Speech Class Rules” is a ‘Recommended book about Communication’ by ASHA (The American Speech Language Hearing Association).
- Finally, it has received numerous glowing reviews by Speech Pathologists, parents, and librarians on amazon.com and various other speech related websites.