Returning to her hometown was always part of the plan for Elmira’s first speech-language pathologist.
Rachel McKee has achieved her dream of running a private practice in opening Clearway Speech in the Clock Tower Wellness Centre on Arthur Street.
“Speech language therapy is a lot more than just speech language therapy. You’re essentially helping people communicate and connect with other people and also connect with their entire world,” McKee said.
She decided to enter the world of speech language therapy while completing her undergraduate degree. She took a career test that listed careers lining up with her personality and it was in the top ten. After that she decided to look into the profession and job-shadowed a woman working in the field.
“I was really inspired by seeing a speech therapist really help people. This particular client was the first one I observed. He was in a car accident and it was just amazing seeing how she could offer him hope through her speech therapy, even though he went through something really catastrophic,” McKee explained.
She worked in Toronto for a few years to get some experience in the field before opening her own practice. She’s worked with clients of all ages and with a range of communication levels, including people who have Parkinson’s disease, fetal alcohol syndrome, Down syndrome, and autism.“Part of the problem or the misconception of speech therapy is that there isn’t a need or that we only help with articulation, just helping get the ‘er’ sound or the ‘th’ sound or stuttering,” McKee said.
Those who have suffered a concussion or a stroke can find a use for speech therapy. Concussions can impact a person’s writing and strokes are the leading cause of adult disability in Canada.
“There’s a lot of people that have strokes and a lot of people don’t realize that their swallowing abilities are impacted, it’s the same muscles that are involved. Or just anything to do with communication, so their ability to follow conversation or find words to say or read or write would be impacted,” McKee said.
Speech therapy can also help people who’ve misused their voice, such as teachers who lose their voice after years of straining it. She’s also worked with transgender people to modify their voices. Even some children with learning disorders go to speech therapists to receive help with their reading and writing.
She can help with accent modification as well, which is a growing area with more immigrants coming to the area.
For McKee, speech therapy was the perfect fit because she’s able to help, counsel and teach people.
“You’re doing that every day in speech therapy so that’s pretty amazing. Speech language therapy is really complex in there’s a lot of different things that are involved, it’s not just articulation or just stuttering. I like the complexity as well,” McKee said.
She has lots of room for new clients and notes most medical plans cover speech language therapy. Since it’s a private practice there’s virtually no wait time. She’s had local clients from across Woolwich, but also ones from Waterloo who didn’t want to wait to see a speech-language pathologist in the city.
In general, she’ll start with a new client by doing an assessment and then she’ll create goals with them. From there, they’ll create a therapy plan and work each session on that, modifying as they go.
She’s encouraged by the results she’s seen.
“When you’re working with kids for instance and parents are in the room with you and the child says something for the first time or they combine words for the first time, we’re all just cheering because they haven’t seen it before,” McKee said.
And you’re never too old to start.
“Sometimes we’ll have clients come in who are in their fifties and they’re doing therapy for the first time. It’s just remarkable,” McKee said.
She encourages people to give her a call even if they just have questions about what she can help them with.
“Before I even did a lot of advertising for it people were calling me up – and I didn’t even know how they had my number – because they need it, they need these services and we don’t all want to drive to other cities for it and we don’t need to. There’s lots of rural areas around here that need this help.”