Goodbye to Paper A speech-language pathologist reflects on a long, rich career that’s all about people. First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page  |   July 01, 2014
Goodbye to Paper
Author Notes
  • Pat Jackson-Colando, MS, CCC-SLP, is in private practice in Irvine, Calif. She writes fiction under the penname PJ Colando.
    Pat Jackson-Colando, MS, CCC-SLP, is in private practice in Irvine, Calif. She writes fiction under the penname PJ Colando.×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Practice Management / Professional Issues & Training / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   July 01, 2014
Goodbye to Paper
The ASHA Leader, July 2014, Vol. 19, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.19072014.72
The ASHA Leader, July 2014, Vol. 19, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.19072014.72
I said goodbye to thousands of people in the past several days, destroying their paper representations. Details of restoration and recovery of skills, details of loss and rebirth, notes of triumphs and tears—all documented in manila files. Saying goodbye to paper and hello to the digital world.
I finger-traced all the names, recalling our sessions, the concerns, the compliments, and the questions of the clients, their family members and friends. The trust, the labor, the M&Ms, the play with blocks on the floor. Behavior management enforced, even when I didn’t want to; variable reinforcement precisely administered, too. Gliding among the scope of talents I’d learned like an Olympic skater.
I recall vividly the 3-year-old in my office when the Challenger disaster struck (emotion does that to you). Ever the space enthusiast, I’d delayed our session to be able to witness the launch on the waiting room television. Going into my office to conduct a session with that doe-eyed little girl—wearing my best cheery attitude as armor—strained every ligament of my professionalism. I learned well how to smile and carry on, skills that would help me, in turn, when my parents died.
That the little girl’s last name was Smiley couldn’t have been a coincidence. Her chin-length hair even flipped up like smile lines beside her ears. Mine did, too. Perhaps this small detail lifted our spirits to bless the new residents of heaven. A metaphor, if you will.
The wonderful little girl named Annie who requested a shiny penny as reward for an entire session of effort. Pennies were cheaper than stickers at the time, so I went for it, selling the notion to many a child thereafter. But the penny had to be shiny new, not some trivial piece of copper. As if I’d made it myself that morning (which I sort of had because her mother paid me in cash).
Then there’s the child who fell into psychosis at age 5, calling me bad names after kicking me; the 2-year-old bully whose older sister was the only one who told him “no”; and the several toddlers who impulsively slapped me in the face. You gotta work close when you’re helping children talk, but those were too close for comfort. I mourned the respect that these children’s parents likely never received.
The treatment plans, behavior charting, the SOAP notes [subjective, objective, assessment and plan], the carefully written clinical reports. Goodbye to a life of paperwork, from 1984 to the present. From now on my practice will be paperless, saving trees in addition to salvaging people’s communication skills. What good is a life when you can’t even say “papa”—let alone “paper”? Or “M&M” when you want or deserve to have one. What good is the people’s planet without green?
I am a speech-language pathologist, always and forever. I am still licensed—to give. I will remain a practicing SLP, as I remain a writer. Knowing that who I am makes a difference has kept me solid in a career I adore. It’s nice to give for a living—and then to give more. I am grateful.
As I often said to clients and their families, the goal of speech services was to progress and move on into a life with communication ease. I said goodbye over and over again, with simultaneous sad and glad heart. Although I said goodbye to people on paper, they remain imprinted in my heart: the local political figures, the grandchildren of many pediatricians who’d referred their patients to me, the ones whose parents declined the labeling of Asperger’s and pervasive developmental disability—as did I. Thank goodness the American Psychological Association finally caught on and slammed the open door of the diagnostic criteria. The younger and older siblings whose feelings I affirmed, having grown up with siblings who had communication problems and knowing the impact primally. I hope that they are growing up well and moving on, too.
I especially acknowledge the speech-language pathology peers who trusted me with their children; one of those SLPs helped me maintain my private practice by subbing for me through chemotherapy days.
Soars to glory, moments in the pits—each workday resounded with bits of wonderful. Hero days of purpose. Resurrection and rescue. Cherish.
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July 2014
Volume 19, Issue 7