Today we’re hearing a story that is part personal and part professional. Theresa Richard is a Medical SLP, author, podcaster and also an autism mom.
Chromosomal Abnormalities and the Path to an Autism Diagnosis
In utero with her son, doctors knew that was something different but it wasn’t until birth that Theresa Richard and her family learned he had a very rare chromosomal abnormality. At the time the future was unknown and because of the rarity of her son’s condition there was no information and little to no support available. Initially, they immersed in therapies that were at times helpful and at other times felt like no one was really listening. After therapy became unavailable in their home state of New York, the family moved to Florida to seek the care they were after. Along the way to finding Theresa’s dream school and hand-picked therapy team, her son was diagnosed with autism. At age 4 this was a shock but for the family it opened the floodgates to resources, therapy, and support that are truly helping.
Medical SLP and Swallowing Disorders
Prior to the birth of her son, Theresa had been practicing as a Medical SLP working with geriatric patients and swallowing disorders for nearly 9 years. Medical SLPs only differ from Educational SLPs in that they choose a medical path after graduation and like a specialty seek out additional education and certifications. After trying the educational path first, Theresa fell in love with the medical side of helping elderly patients get quality of life back by regaining the ability to eat and drink. Theresa owned and operated a successful Mobile Fees Business that brought specialized equipment for swallow studies right to nursing homes. She also hosts the podcast Swallow Your Pride and as well as authored the book, So You’re Having Trouble Swallowing as a patient resource. During her work in the field, she felt that SLPs didn’t have the information and resources available to educate themselves on swallowing and has created an education website and online community at MedSLPEd.com.
A Therapist and Mom
It is always a unique experience for a therapy professional to embark on a diagnosis and treatment journey with their own child. For Theresa, her journey with her son has really changed the way she works with patients, and how she educates other professionals. Especially in her case of a child with a very rare chromosomal abnormality, there isn’t clear-cut treatment available and it’s important for therapists and providers to work with the family on their priorities, preferences, and consider the whole family and patient centered approach. Theresa believes in the evidence based practice triad, for providers to have evidence, but also have patient preference and clinical experience mixed in as well.
Swallow Your Pride Podcast
Theresa has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Medical SLP education and swallowing disorders, as well as advocating for her child. I really enjoyed this conversation and hope you have found some valuable information. You can find out more about Theresa Richard’s work by visiting her Medical SLP Education website or listening to her podcast, The Swallow Your Pride Podcast, or if you or some you know is experiencing swallowing problems, be sure to check out her book
Theresa Richard On The Turn Autism Around Podcast
Theresa Richard is a Board Certified Specialist in Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders and an ASHA approved CEU provider. After falling in love with the skilled nursing setting, she founded Mobile Dysphagia Diagnostics, a mobile FEES company that has serviced over 100 SNFs and has also helped over 90 SLPs start, grow, and scale their own mobile FEES businesses through her FEES Biz Blueprint course.
In witnessing the desire for further education from medical SLPs, she created the Swallow Your Pride podcast, which has over 3 million downloads. She was invited to present at the Charleston Swallowing Conference on blogs and podcasts and has been asked to be an invited keynote speaker for several state conventions this year. She also served as past President of the Nevada Speech & Hearing Association, and has been featured in Authority Magazine and Thrive Global.
Theresa created the Medical SLP Collective, which currently has over 6,000 members and contracts with over 80 SLPs and support staff. She also created MedSLP Education, which provides solid foundational medical courses exclusively for SLPs.
Theresa continues to work tirelessly to advocate for patients with swallowing disorders and was invited to contribute to 2 papers for the Dysphagia journal this year on assessing and treating dysphagia during COVID. The recent release of her new book for patients with dysphagia, called “So You’re Having Trouble Swallowing,” was an Amazon and Barnes & Noble bestseller.
- What support is available for rare chromosomal abnormalities?
- Autism and other medical conditions.
- What it’s like to move states to find therapy.
- Choosing your own providers for in school therapy.
- What is the difference between a Medical SLP and an Educational SLP?
- Education on Swallowing Disorders for SLPs.
- Swallowing Disorders versus Feeding Problems in autism.
- Sign up for a free workshop online for parents & professionals
- Dually Certified SLP/BCBAs on Collaboration with Parents and Other Providers | Panel Interview
- Autism in Siblings Risks and Diagnoses: An interview with Jenna P.
- Down Syndrome and Autism with Angela Lee
- Dr. Keith Williams: Tackling Selective Eating in Children with Autism
- Jess Plus the Mess on Supporting Special Needs Caregivers
- Talk Tools & Speech Therapy for Autism with Mags Kirk
- Medical SLP Education
- Swallow Your Pride Podcast
- So You’re Having Trouble Swallowing – Theresa Richard
Theresa Richard – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript
Transcript for Podcast Episode: 178
Theresa Richard: Medical SLP and Autism Mom
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera
Guest: Theresa Richard
Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around podcast episode number 178. Today, I had the pleasure of speaking with Theresa Richard, who's both an SLP and the mom to a six year old with a rare genetic disorder, but also was diagnosed with autism at the age of four or five. And he is non-ambulatory nonverbal. We talk all about how she moved from state to state for better services. We talk about his need for feeding help and PT and a really multidisciplinary team and her positive experiences with ABA. And we also talk about Theresa's specialty, which is all about swallowing. She has a podcast, a book, and has reached millions of people through all of her efforts to train SLPs and even patients on swallowing. So it's a great episode, part personal, part professional, filled with a lot of great information, some of which I learned today. So let's get to this really great interview with Theresa Richard.
Narrator: Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast for both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed and lead happier lives. And now your host, autism mom, behavior analyst and bestselling author Dr. Mary Barbera.
Mary: Okay. Theresa, thank you so much for joining us today.
Theresa: Yes, thank you for having me, Mary.
Mary: Yes. So I heard you do an interview with my good friend Rose Griffin from ABA Speech, and I listened to the whole thing. It was great. And I'm just excited to talk to you today because you have a different kind of journey than I've interviewed before. You know the people I've interviewed. So why don't you tell our listeners about your fall into the autism world?
Chromosomal Abnormalities and the Path to an Autism Diagnosis
Theresa: Yeah. So I am a medical speech pathologist by trade. I worked with patients with swallowing disorders. I have a brother with cerebral palsy. So I very much immersed in the field of disabilities and special needs. I got pregnant with my son six years ago and, you know, they had suspected...suspected something they originally said, perhaps it's Down's syndrome, but they couldn't identify exactly what abnormality it was until he was born. And we had more further genetic testing done. So my son was born with a very rare chromosomal abnormality, a very rare trisomy of two different chromosomes that doesn't even it doesn't even have a name. So we don't even have a name like Down's Syndrome or Angelman Syndrome. So it's at the time that he was born, there were only nine other documented cases in the world of this specific chromosomal abnormality. I believe now there's 20 documented cases, but I think still not enough for us to get a fancy name and a community to go with it. So that was sort of hard for me because I didn't really have an identity or a support group when this all happened. We just had the most wonderful neonatologist in the McHugh and she just said, you know, these are the documented cases. He could be on a trach and vent his whole life. He could grow up and work and, you know, have a very normal life. So, you know, she was like, I don't really know what to tell you. The prognosis is, but I'm going to help you get as much care and therapy as early on as possible because, you know, we know what early intervention works. And so she was really wonderful and sort of not pigeonholing him into, okay, this child has very rare chromosomal abnormalities, you know, and just sentenced him to a life of whatever. But she was very encouraging and open minded. And I think that changed the trajectory of everything. But like I said..
Mary: How long had you been an SLP at this point?
Theresa: Eight, nine years maybe.
Mary: Okay. Yeah, yeah. You were familiar with the medical field and everything but still your first child and have a rare genetic chromosomal abnormality. I mean, how were you feeling back then?
Theresa: Yeah, I mean, just awful. And I think, you know, the worst part, like I said, was that we didn't get a community to identify with. You know, it was like we didn't identify with Down's syndrome. We did. You know, I had a friend that had a son with Angelman Syndrome, and she got to go to all the support group meetings and they did all this genetic testing and we didn't have that. So it was very lonely and isolating in that aspect. Also dealing with therapists, you know, it's something that I've really become a passion of mine is really to help therapists ask the right questions and to approach things in a very patient centered way. There were sort of a lot of therapists who projected their own thoughts and beliefs on me and on my son and how they thought things should be. And I just learned a lot about that. And I'm really teaching a lot about sort of the patient preference in the patient side of things and the family and the caregiver. Obviously, that's one whole big, big bundle right there. But there's so much to be said about how to approach that and to take their feelings and considerations into effect and not just project what you believe they should be doing or what interventions they should be going after. So he had oh gosh, PT, OT, speech, feeding, vision therapy. He had the gamut literally a few weeks after he was born. And then it wasn't until he was, I believe, five. And we ended up moving to Florida in the middle of the pandemic because New York shut down all services for kids with special needs. And we just saw behaviors on my son that we had never seen before. It was absolutely awful. It was gut wrenching. It was not my child, but he just was so out of his routine. He was so used to his therapy routines. And we just were very structured and regimented. And then once COVID happened and there was none of that, it just spiraled. So we ended up coming down to Florida where he could get the services and we could get the help that we needed to sort of get him back on track. And we decided to move down here and we started looking for schools. And what is so interesting is moving from New York to Florida. The school systems are just so different and so opposite in the way that they work. And I think what's funny is that I don't know, I've always sort of beat my own drummer. But when we moved to Florida, I had so many friends say, you know, don't move there as a parent of a child with special needs, do not move to Florida. Their system is so messed up. You know, you have to do everything. You have to find everything for your own child. And my experience was the complete polar opposite. I don't want to...we had wonderful therapists in New York, but I think the system up there frustrated me beyond belief. And when I got to Florida it was almost an instant relief because we were able to choose and identify our own therapists. I basically got to assemble my dream team so my son goes to a private school. But the way that Florida does it is you get a scholarship to go to a private school and I get to bring in all his therapists. So we have PT, O. speech. We have all the therapists that come into the private school. So the school that we found for him was beyond amazing, beyond my wildest dreams. And like I said, we were able to assemble our dream team, which a lot of people discouraged me from doing because they thought that's, you know, that's so hard. You have to find all your own providers. And, you know, I just sort of put a positive spin on it. Like I get to find my own providers. Just like that, that sounds wonderful. But they, I can't remember how it exactly happened. But I think in Florida, you have to have a few specific diagnoses that you have to have in order to qualify for services. And I know autism was one of them. And I just remember he had one therapist and she said, well, you know, does he have an autism diagnosis? And I said, No, he doesn't have an autism diagnosis. Like my brain was so focused on his chromosomal abnormality. And I just assumed that every single behavior that he exhibited, we attributed to that. And she's like, Well, I really think you should get him assessed for autism. So we met with the psychologist, had a whole evaluation done, and I just was really shocked, to be honest, when she said, yeah, you know, we're giving him a diagnosis of autism and these are all the supports that we have. And this is all the, you know, sensory therapy with O.T. and this is all the ABA that's available to help him. And I just remember being like, my son does not have autism, like it was such a weird thing, but at the same time it was like such a relief to all of a sudden be able to get all of these services for him. So I think for me, like I hated the whole label stigma that came along with it, but I was so grateful for it because it just opened the floodgates to so many services and just so many wonderful providers that we've met since then. So I guess that's sort of my fall into autism.
Mary: Yeah. And so as an SLP you were focused more on Geriatrics and not on young kids. So you weren't in an SLP constantly in the trenches over early diagnosis... So your son is how old now?
Theresa: He is 6.
Mary: 6. So can you describe what his skills and deficits are right now?
ABA, Therapy, and Support for Varied Needs
Theresa: Yeah. So he's nonverbal, he's non-ambulatory. He uses a little gate trainer to get around. He is working with an AAC device, so he's made so much progress. He progressed right through PECS right away and now we're just using an iPad. What? We're trialing different AAC communication devices and he's just doing wonderfully with it. He, you know, I think everybody always says they just want their child to be happy and healthy. And he is the happiest, healthiest child ever. He has no major medical conditions, which is such a blessing. But yeah, it's interesting to have a child be so happy, that's non-verbal. You know, I think there's so many things that, you know, especially as a speech pathologist, I know something we you know, we want our patients, our kids to be able to communicate effectively. And, you know, how frustrating it is to not be able to and you know, I don't want to sugarcoat it that every day is rainbows and butterflies because it's not. But he is genuinely just the happiest kid. And I'm so glad that we found the right support. And we have such wonderful therapists that have helped us, you know, sort of get ahead of the curve before he spirals into some of these behaviors. So, you know, we've gotten very good at anticipating his needs. And yeah, I know some people don't don't agree with that and don't like that, but it works for us.
Mary: So yeah, yeah, yeah. So we have several shows as you're talking. I'm thinking of we do have a podcast interview with a panel of a few SLPs including Rose Griffin, who and that's on AAC devices and we talk about that so we can link to that in the show notes. We have an interview with Cody's mom. And Cody is one of my the children featured in my online course. I worked with him from 2 to 5 or six. And initially the parents really thought he'd get a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. But he got autism first. And now and then he got visual impairment and then he got cerebral palsy kind of later. We have an interview we can link that. We had an interview with Jess from Jess Plus the Mess whose son had a stroke in utero. And so he got kind of a late diagnosis of autism, kind of the similar things as he was having, you know, some of these autism traits. But they were constantly going back to the stroke in utero or the rare chromosomal abnormality. Also, we did an interview with a woman who has a son with Down's syndrome, and she's a behavior analyst. And I've in doing some research for that podcast interview, realize that a good percentage of kids have both autism and Down's syndrome. Yeah. So I think this combination, we have people in our online communities who post that they have a child with X, Y, Z, chromosomal abnormality that do have a name for it. But, you know, there's like you said, there's no support. There's no support groups for that small little thing. So with or without a diagnosis, people can learn, you know, and get support online. So those are all really good things. I do think your move from New York to Florida and kind of I mean, that seemed like it really opened up a lot of things for you and your son. I usually tell people not to move. Yeah, because, you know, I say this in my first book, the verbal behavior approach is that in ideal situations and I do want to talk about your situation because I think it was completely unique. But in normal situations, it's like you could know where I am in Pennsylvania? And it's like when Lucas was diagnosed and people definitely move and they move to another state, another county school district. People quit their jobs. You know, you disrupt siblings, whatever. And you get there and then you find out classroom A that you thought was going to be good is too high functioning quote unquote too low functioning. The school board changed and they got rid of it. They're now shipping out kids to this whatever kind of school the teacher got pregnant and left. And so you just disrupted your whole life for. Not really. You know, not a good situation. And so I've always been. I've done several episodes, podcast episodes on advocacy. So I've always been a true believer in staying put and advocating. However, I also did a few episodes on COVID and how the shutdown just totally, you know, affected so many kids. And I can just imagine I mean, it affected our lives. It affected my 25 year old son who couldn't go to his day program and, you know, suddenly shut down and, you know, threw a curveball. I don't think in anybody's life there's no one listening that didn't completely affect their life. But when you have a non-ambulatory nonverbal child who's getting therapy and services, you know, many hours a week, and then they suddenly go like, hey, we're doing Zoom services, are you kidding me? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Theresa: We had the most wonderful PTA. We have had her since Cam was maybe three weeks old. I think she was just such a blessing to our family. But she was so funny and she was so frustrated because she's like, I can't do this over Zoom. Like, I can't tell you to feel behind his leg and what muscles should be firing. Like, she was just as frustrated as we all were, you know, and I understand it, I very much understand it. But for some kids, it's just it wasn't acceptable.
Mary: Yeah. Yeah. So what kind of school is he in now? Is it considered an ABA school? Or not not considered an ABA school?
Theresa: So it's actually a private school that basically has a private school that has sort of a separate little school attached to it for kids with special needs. And that it's really what it is for any kid with special needs, any they will bring in any service that you need. So you're allowed to bring in any service. That is probably the most like interdisciplinary program I have ever experienced. If you just think of, you know, what would your dream setup look like for your child with special needs? This is it. Because they just I've never been in a place that works like such a team does in this place. And nobody's feelings get hurt. Nobody gets territorial, like, oh, you can't take him out of this class. Or That's when I have him for this. It's just everybody works so well together. And, you know, these are his needs. These are his therapies, this is when it has to get done. So he gets all of his PT, OT, speech, all of that done, and then he also gets ABA in the times that he doesn't have that. So and I just you know, I know that we've talked about, you know, ABA has some strong feelings, but my experience with it at the school has been nothing but positive. I don't. I don't see any of the horror stories that people talk about. You know, he’s very happy there. It's very positive. We've seen nothing but positive interactions from him and his therapists. And so it's been really helpful to us. And to be honest, I never would have been thrown into this world of ABA. I really didn't know much about ABA until we got this diagnosis of autism and it opened up all these doors for us. So yeah, even being an SLP I didn't realize, I guess I, you know, work with adults. I didn't work with kids. So I didn't realize that this was such a sort of polarizing topic. But in my experience, I don't understand why I don't. I haven't seen any of the horror stories that people talk about. So.
Mary: Yeah, well, it sounds like your son is in a great place, so let's pivot a little bit. And so SLP is a speech language pathologist. I've probably done five or ten interviews with other SLPs during the three years that the podcast has been on. I love SLPs, love a multi-disciplinary approach, especially as a registered nurse. I worked in the neuro field and the rehab field, so it was always multi-disciplinary teams, multi-disciplinary goals, trying to get people to be more independent. And I think one unique thing that we haven't discussed on the show is, is there a difference between a medical SLP and an educational SLP that you would find in the school. I mean, they both have an SLP credential, but can you just explain the differences because you're clearly in the medical SLP role.
Medical SLP versus Educational SLP
Theresa: Yeah. So I mean, you're a nurse. Think about it. Right? There's a bajillion different settings you can work in and that's essentially what it is for us to we all graduate from graduate school with the same degree. We all graduate with a master's degree, but then it just depends what setting you want to work in. So if you want to work in the schools, you might, you know, focus more on language, expressive language, receptive language communication might be AAC there. If you want to work more in the medical setting. You would be in a hospital or a skilled nursing facility or working at an ICU. So helping some of these patients with trachs and vents learn to regain their speech after a stroke or a brain injury, helping them swallow if they have a feeding tube. So it sort of is like two different worlds, quote unquote. And yeah it just really depends what setting you want to work in there sort of is. Also, you know, there's the pediatric medically complex population, too. So there are SLPs that do work with kids, but they work with more medically complex kids. So that's always a really fascinating area to work in as well. So we all do have the same degree. It just depends which setting you want to work in. And then, you know, just like any medical professional, you just have to go on and learn more, you know, take certifications, take more courses. Yeah. To really hone in on that specialty.
Mary: So your specialty is swallowing, so why don't you tell our listeners just some of your accomplishments or what you're doing, your podcast, your books, what you focus on with swallowing? Because we probably do. I mean, I know we have SLPs listening right now and they may not know of you and so why don't you tell our listeners what you have for SLPs?
Theresa: Yeah. So I'm a board certified specialist in swallowing and swallowing disorders, sort of something that I just fell into. To be honest. I, I thought I would work in the schools. I thought I would work with kids and I just didn't like it. I ended up working in the nursing homes and loved it. So never in my wildest dreams thought that I would love working with old people. But I totally do. But I just really found this love and passion for swallowing, you know, I think, you know, there's such a quality of life component to it. You know, there's how many times at birthdays or celebrations or Thanksgiving or Christmas, it always revolves around food. And to be able to take that ability away from somebody is really detrimental to their quality of life. So I just found it to be really something I was truly passionate about and I just found it really fulfilling to be able to help these patients get back to eating or drinking, you know, at their, you know, family dinner or Thanksgiving dinner. So I started writing a sort of blog about, oh, gosh, maybe seven or eight years ago, I had started a mobile FEES company at the time, which is a mobile swallow study company. So basically I would contract with the nursing homes and I would bring equipment into nursing homes and do these swallow studies there. Yeah.
Mary: Yeah. I mean, most of the time if you're in a nursing home and you have swallowing problems, you have to get to the hospital.
Theresa: Correct. Yes.
Mary: Specialized equipment to get these testing done. Wow. So, you brought it all.
Theresa: So we had the equipment and brought it into the nursing homes. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mary: So is that nationally now or just in a couple of areas?
Theresa: So I actually sold that company last year. But yes, I did run it in a few different states. So but there's companies all over the country now that do it.
Mary: So were you the first to develop that?
Theresa: No, I was not the first by any means. No, but I definitely was the first in a few states. So yeah.
Mary: That's excellent.
Theresa: Yeah, yeah.
Mary: I didn't know that was a possibility.
Swallowing Disorders and the Swallow Your Pride Podcast
Theresa: Yeah. Yeah. So you know, what I sort of realized with that was that there were a lot of nursing homes, like administrators, doctors, nurses that understood the importance of swallowing assessments. But our own field sort of speech pathologists, didn't recognize how important they were, why they needed them, why they needed the tools, the training to do these things. So I sort of embarked on this education escapade. So I started blogging. The blog was popular, it took off. I just didn't have the time to keep up with the blog. So I created a podcast. I have the Swallow Your Pride podcast. It debuted at number 11 on the Science and Medicine chart, and it has over 3 million downloads. So talk about all things swallowing disorders and you know, just kept discovering that so many people will want to know more about it. So I started an online community, a membership site for medical speech pathologists. We have over 6000 medical speech pathologists in that community, provide resources, webinars, things like that, and also own another company called Medical SLP Education and that's MedSLPEd.com. And that's more solid, foundational 8 to 10 hour courses on different areas of medical SLP and then just realizing that patients need more information about swallowing disorders, too. So I released a book last year called So You're Having Trouble Swallowing, and that was an Amazon and Barnes and Noble bestseller. So that book is written for patients. So if you're experiencing swallowing troubles or if you're a caregiver to someone that's having swallowing troubles, it just talks about what your options are, what tests are available, what treatments are available, what questions you should ask, what you should look for.
Mary: Okay. Wow. So Swallow Your Pride is the podcast? Yep. Correct. MedSLPEd.com is the website where you can learn about your courses and your membership.
Theresa: So medSLPed.com
Mary: MedSLPEd.com. Yeah. Okay. Well we can put those in the show notes if you're out listening and running or driving. We can have everything in the show notes. Okay. So let's talk briefly about swallowing problems in kids with autism. I know when Lucas was like one or two, we had a couple episodes where he would like it to be eating bread and kind of not know when to stop and be choking a little bit. And it wasn't extensive swallowing problems, but and I know I did, I have a whole chapter in my book Turn Autism Around about eating. And I know kids who have feeding problems, if they also have other signs of autism, are more likely to have it. And we can link Dr. Keith Williams, it is a really great episode in the show notes and he's an internationally known BCB who specializes in feeding, and he also has done some publications on swallowing and those sorts of things. But so how common, if you know, is swallowing problems in autism?
Theresa: Oh, gosh, I don't know. I don't know exactly that. I think the hard part is to separate swallowing and feeding, because that's the big separation. And my son has feeding problems. I wouldn't say he has a swallowing disorder. I wouldn't go that far, but he definitely has feeding trouble. So I think that that's the hard part because there is a lot of overlap there. Yeah, there's a lot there obviously.
Mary: What are his feeding problems if you don't mind?
Feeding Problems versus Swallowing Disorders in Autism
Theresa: So his is really just a strength issue. It's a tone issue. So he is low tone everywhere. Like I said he's nonambulatory. So he just has a very, very weak chew. It's very difficult for him to propel the food, you know, back into his esophagus. So he's not on. He can have some softer foods, but he has trouble chewing. If something takes too long for him to chew or it's too hard to chew, he'll just spit out. So we're working a lot on just really strength of his chew. So that's just something that we have to be cautious of. And, you know, I think what's so fascinating is, you know, he knows what he can and cannot eat. And there's things that, you know, some foods will put in front of him and I think he'll be able to chew them and he just won't put them in his mouth or he'll try to chew them, but just know it's too hard and spit them right out. So, you know, it's pretty amazing. You know what these kids are aware of themselves.
Mary: Yeah. So I did an interview with Mags Kirk, who is a BCBA and then an SLP for many years. BCBA for a few years. And she's also talk tools certified. When you said low tone and I'm not, I'm not sure if you're familiar with talk tools, but.
Theresa: Yeah I've done some presentations for them.
Mary: Oh, okay. So you're familiar. So yeah. So we have that interview which I think might provide if, if people are having kids with low tone and chewing and swallowing and talking problems, just to be aware of talk tools as one potential tool that might help. Yeah. Yeah. So how has your professional work changed at all since having a son with special needs?
Mary: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Theresa: You know, I think what I talked about a little bit before is that I, I focus so much more on the patient now. I think, you know, when I, when I started as an SLP and when I was really working and seeing patients clinically, I just thought the research was everything. I thought everything we did had to have a research study. We had to have the most amount of evidence to support something. And if we didn't, it meant it didn't work or it meant that we couldn't even try that. And everything shifted when I had my son. Because what do you do when there just isn't anything to support what's going on with him? You know, there's nine documented cases of his condition. If everything we did was by a textbook, there's nothing for him to do. So, you know, basically, our family preferences have driven a lot of his care. And, you know, that's just one thing that I preach so much is that I want SLPs. I want other medical professionals to think about what the patient wants, think about what's important to them. A lot of times we have these treatment plans, these beautiful treatment plans that we think is the best way for the patient and the best way for the kid or the family. And come to find out, it's just not even something that's important to the family or they have something that's disrupting their lives way more than than this specific thing. So for me, it's it's turn everything around and what I sort of preach and, you know, I believe very firmly in the evidence based practice triad. We need to have evidence, but we need to have patient preference and clinical experience mixed in as well. And I think, you know, especially through COVID, the clinical experience was worth so much because we didn't have research as to why we would do this during COVID or how we would treat this during COVID, or what's Covid's impact on this. We didn't have research to show, so it really went a lot by the clinical experience. So I just think it takes a lot of pressure off of therapists and medical professionals to know that you don't have to know the research in every single one you know, you don't have to know every published study about every single topic. Of course, you need to be familiar with it. Of course you need to know, keep up to date with things, but have conversations. Have conversations with the patient and their family, with the kid, have conversations with your colleagues that are used to seeing these types of kids or these specific conditions. And I think there's just so much more we can learn from each other and stop relying so much solely on textbooks.
Theresa Richard on the Turn Autism Around Podcast
Mary: Yes, I totally agree with that. Okay. So before I let you go, part of my podcast goals are not just to help the kids, but also to help parents and professionals listening to lead happier lives, be less stressed. So do you have any self-care tools, stress management techniques that you use that you would like to recommend?
Theresa: Oh, goodness. Probably a lot. I've gotten very selfish in the last year or two and I love it. I think it's made me a much better mom. It's made me a much better professional. I don't know if people have heard of 75 hard. It's a challenge. I've done that a few times. It seems you look at it and it seems so daunting. You have to work out twice a day...
Mary: I just learned about 75 hard, just like two weeks ago, one of my friends looked into it. I'm like, Oh, that seems a little much for me.
Theresa: It does, but it's amazing to discover how much time you actually truly have in the day that I got very intentional with. My time was either me time, it was work time or it was time with my family and there's just no time for anything in between. It got rid of a lot of drama in my life. It got rid of a lot of things that I would, you know, I would just be searching Instagram to find answers. You know, you just be off searching things and hoping you'll find the answer. And all that stuff just leaves you even more confused and anxious. And I think once I got really clear on my, you know, my personal and physical fitness goals, it just made it so much easier. So I'm a big, big proponent in being selfish with yourself, with your fitness, with eating healthy. I drink a lot less wine now than I used to. And I have always been one of those that loved wine and thought I needed wine to sort of cure every rough day.
But I realized, I think so much clearer and I'm such a better mother without drinking, which I didn't think I would ever say those words.
Mary: But yeah, no, I love that, being selfish. Yeah. Saying no if it's extraneous things, there's only so much time in a day and there's only so much time in your life. And so making the most out of it, I think, is a great, great tip and a good way to wrap this up. Well, hopefully everybody enjoyed this interview. I think it was really helpful in terms of a lot of different things. Hearing your journey, hearing the combination of a genetic chromosomal abnormality and autism, even if it's not an official diagnosis, there is help. I mean, my courses, for instance, are like, it doesn't matter if you have a diagnosis, it doesn't matter if you have a diagnosis of anything. These are just child friendly practices to help parents become the, quote unquote captain of the ship, to make sure that the parent is empowered to know what to do during COVID, after COVID, you know, to coordinate because there is a lot of coordination that is just falls onto the parent's lap. And so I think you've really helped us understand the differences between medical SLPs and educational ones and really the value of the multidisciplinary team. So thank you so much for your time today. I hope to keep in touch with you and good luck with all of your endeavors in terms of helping people learn more about swallowing.
Theresa: Thank you, Mary. Appreciate it.
Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at MaryBarbera.com/workshop where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism, and you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again, go to MaryBarbera.com/Workshop for all the details. I hope to see you there.
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