Parent to Practice Name: Rita Planey, MA, CCC-SLP Title: Speech-language pathologist, Nichols Middle School, Evanston/Skokie District 65 Location: Chicago, Illinois Rita Planey (center) receives congratulations from her children after receiving her master’s degree in speech-language pathology. Don’t let the graduation date on Rita Planey’s graduate school transcript fool you. ... In the Limelight
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In the Limelight  |   January 01, 2012
Parent to Practice
Author Notes
  • Kellie Rowden-Racette, print and online editor for The ASHA Leader, can be reached at krowden-racette@asha.org.
    Kellie Rowden-Racette, print and online editor for The ASHA Leader, can be reached at krowden-racette@asha.org.×
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School-Based Settings / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   January 01, 2012
Parent to Practice
The ASHA Leader, January 2012, Vol. 17, 29. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.17012012.29
The ASHA Leader, January 2012, Vol. 17, 29. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.17012012.29
Name: Rita Planey, MA, CCC-SLP
Title: Speech-language pathologist, Nichols Middle School, Evanston/Skokie District 65
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Rita Planey (center) receives congratulations from her children after receiving her master’s degree in speech-language pathology.
Don’t let the graduation date on Rita Planey’s graduate school transcript fool you. It says she received her master’s degree in August 2010, but Planey is no wide-eyed newbie to special education. At age 60, Planey has seen changes and challenges in the public schools and now barely bats an eye at the antics of her middle school students with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). It’s just another step in her evolution.
“I’ve always enjoyed challenges, and I’ve always pursued what I’m passionate about—sometimes they go hand in hand,” she said.
Planey, a Chicago native, grew up enjoying and learning foreign languages. Her father spoke several languages, and Planey is fluent in French and Spanish. And even though she would have been a natural for the field, she had to make some stops on her way to a career in communication sciences and disorders.
After becoming one of the first female broadcast engineers in the early 1970s, attending culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and working as a food writer, Planey took on one of her most challenging positions: being a parent to three children.
As an involved parent, Planey volunteered at her children’s schools. She worked closely with the school staff and began to take note of the “fabulous things” being done for students by the school speech-language pathologists. She saw breakthroughs and triumphs and was intrigued. So much so that when her children finished high school, she took the plunge and applied to Northwestern University’s School of Communication.
“I could see how these professionals were making major changes in students’ lives,” Planey said. “My experience with my children’s schools led me to become a believer in the school system.”
As a more experienced student, Planey described her experience as empowering. Although her age was “definitely not an issue” with any of her fellow students, she recalled a few times being mistaken for a professor by other professors. (“Hey, it’s the gray hairs,” she said with a laugh.)
Planey is in her second year as a school-based SLP working in a mainstream middle school delivering services in the districtwide autism program. She helps students with ASDs succeed in regular education classrooms, working with functional and pragmatic communication, as well as academics, and feels that her life experience gives her an advantage in this position.
“Being a parent gives me such perspective—something I might not have had right out of college,” Planey said. “I’ve raised three kids, and I’ve seen the arc of academic achievement that children go through. I’ve witnessed it from kindergarten through a PhD candidate. My experience as a parent is a treasure trove I use every day. When I sit in a meeting and talk to parents [about their child], I feel like I have the ability to give that parent some peace in their hearts.”
Contact Rita Planey, MA, CCC-SLP at ritaplaney@gmail.com.
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January 2012
Volume 17, Issue 1