“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” SLP Sets Sights High to Support Autism Research In the Limelight
In the Limelight  |   May 01, 2010
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
Author Notes
  • Kellie Rowden-Racette, print and online editor of The ASHA Leader. Contact her at krowden-racette@asha.org.
    Kellie Rowden-Racette, print and online editor of The ASHA Leader. Contact her at krowden-racette@asha.org.×
Article Information
Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   May 01, 2010
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
The ASHA Leader, May 2010, Vol. 15, 28. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.15062010.28
The ASHA Leader, May 2010, Vol. 15, 28. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.15062010.28

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Name: Jackie Knechtel, MA, CCC-SLP
Job title: Pediatric speech-language pathologist in New York. Her practice, Self Expressions, serves children in Westchester County and Manhattan. For more than a decade she has worked with children with a broad range of communication disorders, specializing in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and apraxia.
What are you planning to do? When?
I have set for myself a huge personal challenge—I’ve committed to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa (19,340 feet) in July 2010. Extreme altitude and inclement weather make this an arduous seven-day climb. My goal is to raise $10,000 for Autism Speaks. I chose Autism Speaks as the beneficiary because it is the nation’s largest science and advocacy group related to autism spectrum disorders. It is a trusted organization committed to giving the autism community a strong voice.
Why climb Kilimanjaro?
A friend had invited me to join his Kilimanjaro trek as part of my travels. I decided along the way that doing the climb would be an opportunity to challenge myself and raise money for a cause dear to me.
How have you prepared for this climb?
I have been traveling for the past six months and have completed several challenging hikes, including a four-day high-altitude trek to Machu Picchu in Peru, and also have hiked Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. I have only just begun my training for Kilimanjaro and will train by hiking as often as possible while traveling around New Zealand and Australia. I also will build in running and spinning classes to improve my cardio endurance; however, the most important training I need to do is mental. I am prone to altitude sickness and don’t have a lot of climbing experience. For me the biggest challenge will be conquering self-doubt and keeping a positive attitude. Every time someone pledges support, I feel more committed to completing this climb.
How did you become an SLP?
I was in eighth grade when I first began working with children with special needs. I did volunteer work with a little girl with Down syndrome who touched my life immensely. I decided then that I wanted a career working with these children. My cousin is an SLP and suggested that I look into it. I knew right away that this was the field for me.
What do you like most about the profession?
My work is so rewarding. I enjoy the challenge of working with the complexity of ASD and there is no greater feeling than being able to give children the ability to express themselves and improve the quality of life for their entire family. Over the years I have used an approach to treatment incorporating behavior modification principles, sensory integration, and a total communication approach. Incorporating the whole family into treatment has enabled me to form bonds, allowing me to reach even some of the most withdrawn children who are profoundly affected by autism. I also mentor students, helping them develop confidence in their clinical skills and learn how to bond with children and their families. I have found that treatment will be more effective that way. For me this is not a job, but a passion.
To support Knechtel’s climb, visit her page on Autism Speaks. For more information about Autism Speaks, visit their Web site.
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May 2010
Volume 15, Issue 6