More about Melanie
So why Small Talk?
So what made me want to open up Small Talk? Well, when I first started, it was just little old me, branching out on my own with Small Talk Speech and Language Development (thanks to my hubbie for coming up with the name “Small Talk”!). I was a nervous wreck, hoping to establish a small clientele to maintain at least a part time practice. Wow did I underestimate! Now, five years later, I have a staff of 11 consisting of full- and part-time Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, and Stephanie, my Office Manager, who keeps it all together and running smoothly.
But why did I open up? Well I just had come from working nine years in the Greene County Public Schools, serving the preschool program as well as the Autism classroom. I loved it there and met amazing people who taught me invaluable skills. I heard time after time families’ frustrations at not having options for private therapy services that were closer to home. While Charlottesville isn’t too far from us, when driving small children and multiple siblings there and back, often after a long day at school already, it makes for an exhausting day. So this was a big factor.
Another big factor in my starting Small Talk was the frustration I felt working for the school and having to turn families away from services for their children that “didn’t qualify”. I just felt awful telling families, well, yes your child does have a speech/language deficit, but sadly it’s not “bad enough” to get services through the schools (not any fault of the school system….it’s just rules and regulations that are mandated for everyone to follow). So in 2012 my doors first opened, and I have been moving full steam ahead ever since!
So What are you good at?
Well this is always hard for me to talk about in general, but well, I feel I am pretty good with kids. I love kids and we have a lot of fun. Kids look forward to coming to see me. I have millions of books, games, toys, props, crafts, trinkets and gadgets, you name it, to engage and entice kids to “work” (aka, “play”). I love working around themes….Dental Health Theme, Camping Theme, Dr. Seuss Theme, and of course all the holidays and seasons, birthdays, the list goes on and on….I love it all! I try to also link into the public schools curriculum so we tie into our community.
Professionally, I have a passion for speech and language. It’s actually hard for me to pinpoint my “specialty” (I have been working for over 20 years in speech so I have seen quite a few cases), but I love working with motor-based speech disorders like Apraxia. I like to tap into the big picture and address the “whole child”, tying together sensory input, oral motor skills, and functional language. I have more recently taken off with the Oral Placement Therapy approach to remediating motor-based speech disorders when traditional therapy approaches have not been successful. I have done extensive training with TalkTools to gain invaluable skills in this area, and have seen wonderful success with my clients.
Another aspect of the oral motor and sensory components I enjoy is establishing feeding programs for children, many times children who are on the Autism Spectrum. Who knew teaching kids to “play with their food” could be so much fun! I have been to multiple trainings and workshops in this area and see this as an increasing need in our community.
What do you do in your spare time?
Spare time?? Do any of us have that these days? No but seriously I am one busy lady. I have a wonderful family consisting of my amazing husband, Adam, four talented and smart (and active!) boys, two dogs, Rosco and Teddy (Teddy is the Small Talk mascot, by the way, and is a local celebrity at the office), and I have two cats, Pepper and Dave. I also raise chickens, which comes in handy when feeding four boys. I love to travel, especially to the beach and to the mountains. I love to cook and to eat...pretty much anything. I also like to hike and be outside in the sun whenever possible, which is never as often as I would like these days! To relax, I love to sit down with a good book, even better if on my porch outside (and even better with a glass of wine!).
Despite the busy and sometimes hectic life I lead, it all makes it worthwhile when a parent texts me to say that their child can’t wait to go to “Miss Mel’s house” today, or when I am told someone’s daughter cried because it was her brother’s turn to come to speech that day and not hers. Perhaps this explains best why Small Talk is so special to me. After all is said and done at the end of the day, it’s the meaningful relationships and life-changing contributions to people’s lives that matters most.