May is Better Speech and Hearing Month. To celebrate, we’re introducing you to a few of our speech-language pathologists (SLP). Today, meet Ashley Furlong.
Why did you decide to become a SLP?
For me it is difficult to place my finger on the exact moment that led me to become a speech-language pathologist. I think choosing a profession is a gradual process that sort of starts with an interest and evolves into a passion—or at least that’s what we hope will happen. For most of my life I always remember feeling compelled to have a career that allowed me to work closely with people and provide meaningful care. Initially, I was headed in the direction of special education, but somewhere along the way in college I decided to explore classes in Communication Science and Disorders, and I knew that I had to pursue the field of speech pathology. I couldn’t be happier with my decision!
What is the most exciting part about your job?
There are so many aspects and duties of this job that keep me yearning to learn and grow as a therapist. If I had to choose one thing, I would say direct patient interaction. It is so rewarding to have the opportunity, every day, to be a part of a person’s journey toward recovery. But even more so, I find it so exciting to have the opportunity to learn from the patients. They have taught me amazing things about strength, persistence, courage, and new beginnings. These values are things that I try to carry with me all the time.
Do you have a particular experience or patient that made an impact on your life?
During my first year of clinical experience, I worked with a young woman named Melissa. She was a nurse at the hospital where I was interning. One evening while she was at work, she had a severe stroke. Because I was new to the field, I was apprehensive to take on such a complicated case, but when I look back I am so grateful I had the chance to watch her make so much progress so quickly. By the end of her inpatient therapy, she was talking and singing like a star. She still writes me letters to this day. Despite her injury, she was one of the most optimistic and committed people I had ever met.
How would you describe your job to someone that doesn’t know anything about Speech Therapy?
Well I have to say, the title “Speech Therapist” can be very misleading to people who are unfamiliar with the role of an SLP. I’ve had so many patients in the past say to me, “Why do I need speech therapy? I can speak just fine.” As an SLP in the medical setting, we are committed to stimulating a variety of fundamental skills that can be affected after a stroke, brain injury, or in the presence of a progressive neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis. We provide direct therapy to help people regain communication skills, thinking and problem solving skills, memory skills, and the ability to swallow foods/liquids safely. We are responsible for communicating with the patient, the families, and the team of medical professionals to ensure that the patient receives the education, equipment, and treatment they need to maximize their quality of life.