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Communication is Connection is Power: in Conversation with Speech Pathologist Dr. Joy Vivian

We all know now more than ever the importance of communication. Whether that be through texts, talking over the phone, emails, FaceTime, zoom or virtually, the options are endless—it is very critical to the satisfaction of our day-to-day lives.

What is even more important, that this pandemic has revealed, is the importance of face-to-face communication. Connecting with someone in person, in the flesh, in real life, does not compare to virtual communication. 

We are human. We crave attention; we crave connection. So, what about those who have difficulties communicating? There are people who are born struggling to connect with other people because they are stuck behind a boundary. They are stuck behind a language barrier internally. 

Dr. Joy Vivian is a Speech Pathologist currently working in Walton County Georgia. She obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s from the University of Georgia and holds a doctoral degree from Valdosta State University. 

Dr. Vivian stated, “I have been married since 2000 (so for 21 years) to Shane, the best man on the planet, and have two beautiful children. I have worked as a speech-language pathologist in multiple settings for the past 17 years, mostly school-based services but have done inpatient (adult) and outpatient (adult and pediatrics) hospitals, skilled nursing facility/hospice care, home health and private practice. School-based services are by far the most challenging.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing her for some more insight on what she does and why it is truly so important.

Her Campus (HC): What is a day in the life of a Speech-Language Pathologist?

Dr. Joy Vivian (JV): That depends on where you work. The field works with individuals from the moment of birth to the moment of death. You can find us in NICUs, hospitals, daycares, schools, clinics, providing home health care, skilled nursing facilities and in hospice facilities. We work with children with cleft lip/palate or those with other feeding/nursing issues from the moment of birth, children with brain injuries or developmental disorders or various genetic disorders, adults with brain injuries, adults who have had a stroke, adults with various neurological diseases (i.e. Parkinson’s), adults who have trouble swallowing food, adults after various facial/throat cancers and have had reconstruction or parts removed (i.e. laryngectomy) and this is just to name a few.

The day in our life is busy. We are always rushing from client to client, completing paperwork, advocating for our clients/students to get them what they need, working with various other professionals and learning something new. The field is constantly growing and changing. MY new kick is in neurodiversity and the importance of learning how various brains work and to work with individuals in the way they learn best to form connections and help them create connections with others around them. I am also loving the work that I do in teaching children to use a different language/mode of communication—Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC)—so that they can connect with the world and the world can connect with them. 

HC: Who do you help?

JV: Currently, I work with autistic children, children with speech sound disorders, children with developmental language disorder and some children who stutter. The majority of my caseload are three to five years of age, but I do work with older children as well. 

HC: What is the ultimate goal, or ultimate success?

JV: In my work my ultimate goal is communication. That may sound simple—we usually think of communication as talking, just sending a signal out to another—but that is an extremely limited view of communication. Communication is the sending of a signal, the receipt and understanding of that signal, and a response in which the other party can also receive and respond. It is a circle that never stops.

The same principle of ‘one is always communicating’ is true for neuro-diverse children, specifically autistic children who are minimally verbal or nonverbal. They are not broken, they just have different signals and it is my or our fault for not receiving and responding to them. The way many neurotypicals think the message should be sent and received is only one way. That way needs to be broadened. such

The ultimate goal for me is understanding and responding to the signals that a child is sending, that very few others seem to be receiving. Then, teaching the world around that child how to receive those signals and respond to them. I also work to give the child multiple modes to communicate with the world around them so that their signal can be received and responded to by many others. Once a child and their signal are validated and respected, then communication follows. 

HC: Finally why, would you say, is your work important? 

JV: My work opens opportunities for children who don’t have many opportunities to connect with the world around them. Children I work with may be nonverbal, minimally verbal, have trouble speaking correctly, have trouble learning or have trouble relating with the people around them.

They aren’t broken, just different. I help them navigate a path toward others as well as help others navigate a path toward them to form a connection. That connection, that path, creates communication. With communication comes power, a sense of belonging and personal validation. These are things that give a child their foundation for learning and connecting with others. 

To communicate is a gift. It is one of those things we do not realize we take for granted. And not just in how we talk or text or read, how we can connect to people without those things is a blessing. As Dr. Vivian put it, communication is a shared experience, it is power, it is belonging, it is personal validation. Communication is foundational to being human, and every human deserves that ability. Open up your mind and see how you are communicating and respect the world communicating with you in the “circle that never stops”. 

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Emma Edy Morris is currently a dance major at Florida State University. She will also be receiving her dual degree in Editing, Writing, and Media, and a minor yet to be determined. Emma is a passionate and driven individual. Her artistic ability and creativity in both of her expressive outlets have helped create the woman she is today. She aspires to join both the professional dance world and world of journalism in pursuit of capturing ideas and moments, and cultivating them in a way they can be gifted to the audience.
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