Sunday, January 1, 2017

Tales From a New SLP: A Guest Post from My Niece Francesca



Francesca at her undergrad graduation in 2014


Hey guys!  Happy New Year!

I am so excited to start the new year off with my first ever GUEST BLOG POST from my niece Francesca.

Francesca (or Cesca for short) went to graduate school to be a speech language pathologist and just started her career.   At Christmas dinner I overheard her talking to another family member about her experiences as a new SLP, dealing with little kids, and the expectations of their parents.  

And I was blown away!  

I mean I knew that she went to school for this, but I was really blown away by her knowledge and her insight.  I thought to myself "wow, she really knows her sh-t!".  

And then it hit me!  She should be writing guest posts on my blog!  She can have some wisdom to share with some of you because she's a new SLP, but also because she's coming from a unique place of having autism in her world for over half her life (thanks to the king).

Anyway, late on Christmas Day I asked her if she'd be interested in writing some guest blog posts in 2017 and she jumped at the chance.  

For her first assignment I asked her to write an introductory post to tell you all a little more about herself, and to show how having the king in her life influenced her choices.  So without further ado, please welcome my niece Francesca to the world of blogging and to the Autism Daddy family.

Take it away Cesca!






Hello Autism Daddy Family! 

My name is Francesca. Autism Daddy is my uncle and I am SO EXCITED to do some guest blog posts for you! 

For my first post I thought I’d tell you a bit more about me:
• I’m 24-years-old 
• I just graduated with my Master’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders in May 2016
• I’m a new speech-language pathologist  
• I’m currently an early intervention (birth-to-three) service provider 
  -- Working in early intervention means I am usually servicing children pre-diagnosis. As a rule of thumb, children under 3-years-old do not receive a developmental diagnosis because they are still in a period of huge growth.  
   -- My caseload currently includes 34 children (and counting!) who I see for individual therapy sessions. Some children are seen once a week while others three times a week. 
   --Half of my day is spent at a facility where I treat with other professionals, including occupational therapists, physical therapists, and other speech pathologists. The other half of my day is spent traveling and doing homecare. 
• I’ve also worked with preschool, elementary, and high school populations. 
• And most importantly (in my opinion!) I’m the king’s cousin
Oh my cousin.  The king! 

MANY of the decisions I have made in my life all stem from my cousin. His life has had a huge impact on my professional life and personal opinions. 

Let’s go back to the beginning shall we? 

I am extremely family oriented and have been since I was very young. So whenever I had a free moment, I spent it with loved ones. 

I think I was about 12 years old when I started “helping out” with the king (so I guess he was under 2 years old) although in reality I was just along for the fun I knew we’d all have. 

We’d watch  movies, eat lunch, get an Italian ice, go to the park… it was always an adventure. 

Usually though, a small part of the day was spent in a therapy session. Whether it was at-home speech, an occupational/physical therapy gym, ABA - you name it, the king has had it. 

 Back then it just looked like a visitor coming over to play. It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I began to understand the full situation. Between school, therapy, family events, therapeutic recreation, and other things that life throws at you, the king my aunt, and my uncle had a full schedule. 

It definitely wasn’t easy for them. It’s sometimes tough to watch as a family member on the outside. You help out as best as you can when you are around, but at the end of the day when you take a step back out of the bubble, you realize just how easy your daily routine is in comparison. 

This may sound negative, but it's not meant to be. I say this because I feel it is crucial in understanding and being empathetic to the lives of those with special needs and their loved ones. No one likes to shed light on the negative side of disabilities, but lets face it – IT SUCKS. 

Any disability! 

I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when I was six years old. I love my life, but if someone gave me a “pancreas jump-start pill” I wouldn’t reject it, that’s for sure. 


No one wants to struggle or to see people they care about struggle. Some days it is harder to cope with then others. So please remember this before you roll your eyes at the kid having a meltdown at the restaurant (or something like that )  

Fast forward to college, I was studying biology (HA!) and was looking for a job in the medical field when my aunt and uncle came to me with an opportunity for a job at a special needs recreation program for kids & adults with developmental disabilities in the area. The king was (and still is) part of this AMAZING rec program and my aunt loves it there. 

I’m sure there are many posts in this blog that include this place. I ended up working there all throughout college and WOW… It changed my life! 

I worked with hundreds of individuals, young and old. Swimming instruction, gymnastics, movie night, book clubs, summer camp, I even got to work some programs with my cousin, which was really cool. 

I was able to experience the good, the bad, and the ugly of physical, emotional, and developmental disabilities. 

However, if we’re being honest, I was basically getting paid to hang out! Because really that’s what it was. Yes, technically I was a “program aide,” but these men, women, and children provided so much more for me then I could have provided for them. 

It was the best thing that could have happened to me. After I began working there, I switched my major to communication sciences and started on the path to becoming a speech pathologist.  I got my bachelor's degree and moved on to get my masters.

While in graduate school, I became quite confident in my abilities when it came to speech therapy and I quickly learned that communication is one of the most important things we do as humans. 

I love talking to people, listening to their stories, sharing my own related stories, learning from their language/dialect, hearing the uniqueness of their accents.  Generally speaking, I love communication. 

We don’t really think about it, but imagine all the ways you need to communicate throughout the day. You text, you talk, you use gestures...it becomes second nature.

Imagine those who don’t have the dexterity to text.

Imagine those who know exactly what they want to say but they don’t have the ability to form sounds that make words and sentences.

Imagine those who need to use the bathroom, but are unable to speak, sign, or gesture this. 

I had a friend in grad school that was working on regaining speech with a 30-year-old man. This man was a son, a brother, an uncle. He had just graduated from college. One day he was walking, fell, and hit his head. He had such brain damage that he couldn’t move most of his body without tremors, let alone talk. 

As a medical professional, we are told “don’t bring your work home,” but being that my cousin is non-verbal, stories like this really hit home. Communicating your basic wants and needs is something we all take too much for granted. 

As a pediatric speech pathologist, this is the first thing I assess: can this child indicate that they want something, that they need something, that they like something, that they don’t like something. Usually, this ability is impaired in some way and I make it my priority to give them this ability before any other skill is learned.

Ok, so getting back to my cousin.  The king.  After reading all this you could say that the king’s life has changed mine in ways that I could have never expected. 

I truly believe that he exposed me to the world of holistic therapy and its benefits, but it is so much more then that. 

Because of him, I am able to see through so many different lenses. The individual with special needs, parents, the family, and friends – each group has a unique outlook, a unique need. 

He has shown me that:
-- everyone deserves happiness, in whatever way suits them. 
-- everyone deserves to be treated with respect. 
-- everyone deserves to have a voice. 

He has taught me to not feel sorry for individuals who live a “non-typical” life, but to embrace the quirks in it. 

Even more importantly, he has taught me empathy – for his own struggles, for the struggles of other individuals with special needs, and for the efforts of their parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. to insure that these basic privileges are not denied of them. 

He has taught me to walk a mile in someone’s shoes before judging their outlook. Through experiencing his life, I am more compassionate, more open minded, and more aware. 

These are all qualities that I hope to spread to others =)

With that being said, this was such a pleasure to write and I’m looking forward to being able to writing more! 

In the future I hope to write blog posts about my experiences, both as a family member and as a service provider. 

I’d like to tell some stories, answer questions, and give advice/tips to those who can find it useful. 

As a therapist, I definitely have information to provide, but I have also had all the same feelings as any family member who loves someone with special needs. I know the joy in the good news, the sadness in the bad new, and the fear of the unknown. This empathy gives me a unique perspective that I would love to share with all of you!

- Cesca
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks Francesca!  Ok, this is Autism Daddy again.  She's great, isn't she!  I gotta say that I made wifey read Cesca's post last night and she was crying 4 sentences in.  I knew why, but I asked her why anyway.  And wifey said:


"My heart swells with pride... everything that I hoped to achieve by exposing Cesca to his various therapies came true!  I just wanted my niece to grow up to understand our son.  So the fact that she has chosen to do this for a living surpasses my wildest dreams."


She almost had me crying too.



Anyway, I'm gonna end it there.  But I hope Francesca will write a bunch of guest blog posts for me in 2017.  And if you have topic ideas for her, or specific questions you'd like her to answer please let us know in the comments.



Otherwise just like, comment, and share to welcome Francesca to the Autism Daddy family!


Thanks and Happy New Year!




-- If you're gonna shop Amazon anyway, can I ask that you enter Amazon by using the search box above or by going to http://www.amazon.com/?tag=a050ef-20  This way I can make a little money to help pay for my son's after school & weekend therapies.  This blogging thing has been awesome & life changing for me... but I must admit that it's taking up a lot more time than I ever thought... so if I can make a few bucks it'll make it easier for me to justify....Love you all! Thanks!!

8 comments:

  1. Great post! The King is blessed to have this type of love and support from the extended family. I can't wait to hear more from Cesca! I started to cry, too, because it's so obvious that Cesca truly loves her cousin and her work. My son does not have this type of relationship with any of our extended family (13 aunts & uncles, 12 cousins, 5 grandparents), and the rejection is devastating to us.

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  2. Welcome Francesca! So wonderful that the king has someone else in his family who loves and accepts him... Truly, it is a huge blessing for our special ones and their parents. Our daughter is working toward her OT, also heavily influenced by her 6 year old non-verbal ASD brother. It is so exciting to read what she has to say, and I look forward to hearing more of her perspective, both professionally and personally.

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  3. Welcome! My son has been getting speech therapy since he was 2.5, he's 7.5 now, and I LOVE SLPs! I look forward to your posts.What a unique point of view to have on here, SLP and Auntie to the king 😊

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  4. Wonderful post and way to start the new year! I was very moved by Cesca's perspective! I look forward to other posts from her!!

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  5. This.is.fabulous. Just the kind of therapist us Autism Families need!

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  6. Thank you in advance for sharing knowledge and advice. Would appreciate some practical tips as well as a sense of perspective. Are there improvements in children's speech? What seemed to contribute most? How long it takes to catch up with neurotypicals (if at all).

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  7. What a great post! Welcome. My son is a high functioing 8 and is as his dr's put it "aspergerish" We came to this party late- as in Kindergarten. We were the classic aspie family who didn't see the issues that were right in front of us until school started. When we were approached by his school with all the CST services the one that stood out for me was speech therapy- 3x a week!! I remember saying 3 times a week!??!? But he speaks perfectly and at the time was (as his K teacher said) the only kid in class who came into K reading. I had a kid who spoke and read and he needed speech therapy 3x a week?!?! But now, as I look at him as an 8 yr old- that speech therapy was the most important therapy he needed. For my son, it wasn't about being able to speak- it was HOW to speak. The art of conversation, the back and forth, the social skils. He is in 3rd grade now and still gets lots of speech therpy- one on one, social skills groups, and the 'social thinking' program we do on weekends. I've seen such growth that I never thought I'd see- he no longer goes off on his own in social settings- he converses with kids hiw own age (it maybe akward, but he can do it now) - he even plays board games now! That's HUGE! and right before Xmas I saw him have a normal back and forth conversation with his friend before his cub scout den meeting, then during the meeting he was having a group conversation with the rest of the boys!! Even another mom mentioned to me afterwards how much he's matured and 'gotten better' at the meetings with following directions, participating and interacting. We still have our issues- like learning when the other person no longer wants to talk to you, ordering at McDonalds, etc. But I tip my hat to the SLP world. I never knew what it was you guys did and how it was so much more than 'speech' best of luck to you as you start your career.

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  8. I really enjoyed this post, and I look forward to hearing more from Francesca!

    P.S. Happy New Year, Autism Daddy and Family! Wishing you all the best.

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