We recently sat down with Annalise Colton, M.S., CCC-SLP, to dive into her background and experience, clinical approach, inspiration for becoming a speech therapist, and more. You can read more about Annalise here.
Can you spend a few minutes talking about your experience and background as a speech therapist?
Sure! I started working in the field at a school for children with Autism in NYC. I migrated to home care for older adults with complex medical diagnoses, as well as hospice, all over Manhattan. I’ve worked at rehabilitation centers and skilled nursing facilities for adults with Aphasia, Dysarthria, Dysphagia, social communication challenges, and aural rehabilitation.
I’ve spent a lot of time working in the I.C.U and Rehab at Mount Sinai’s hospitals treating adults with Traumatic Brain Injury, Post-Stroke, and those newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. At the same time, I was a supervisor for Clinical Fellows at a home care private practice in NYC, and an adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s speech-language pathology graduate program. At Columbia I taught Diagnostics and supervised graduate students in the clinic, treating various communication, cognitive and swallowing challenges. Having three jobs at the same time had its moments, but I found the work rewarding and the clients/patients kept me motivated.
During this time, I somehow found a passion for public-speaking (which had been a big fear of mine). I presented at ASHA’s convention and became a speaker for support groups nationally for caregivers and individuals diagnosed with various communication and cognitive challenges.
Then COVID hit and everything was at a standstill.
Finding Expressable has been the greatest gift and silver lining. I’m really enjoying evaluating and treating individuals across the lifespan virtually, as well as providing consultations to match the client with the best speech therapist for them!
Why did you decide to become a speech therapist?
As a young child, I had family members who needed speech therapy. I was fortunate enough to observe as well as participate in some of these sessions.
When I was 11 years old, I took a class in American Sign Language and became conversant pretty quickly. This led to me volunteering as a teacher’s aide for many years at an elementary school and high school for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. I was hooked on helping people communicate so speech language pathology was a natural career path for me.
What areas of speech-language pathology interest you most?
The beauty of speech-language pathology is that there is an endless amount to explore and it’s constantly evolving. One aspect of speech-language pathology that truly fascinates me is tapping into the potential of the brain. When I was working in the I.C.U/Rehab at Mount Sinai, I was assigned to a 62-year-old, post-stroke patient that had not responded to people or stimuli for over 2 months.
The patient’s family came to my first treatment session with her, and they shared with me how upset they were that she wasn't responding. I found out her favorite song was ‘New York, New York,’ by Frank Sinatra, and I played it while the family was with her in the hospital room. All of a sudden, the patient started singing the song and everyone’s jaws dropped on the floor! In that moment, I saw the strength and plasticity of the brain after a trauma, and realized how crucial individualizing therapy is for everyone. Fast forward 6 months and she was using a communication book, as well as speaking at the phrase level to her family and others.
What part of your job do you find most enjoyable?
I enjoy getting to know the individual while working on their speech therapy goals. It is very rewarding to work with a motivated client who puts the time and effort into making progress. And if I can leave that experience having learned something, even better!
Among all the clients you’ve taught throughout your career, is there a particular success story that stands out in your mind?
There are so many good ones! The most recent involves a woman who was an avid reader prior to her neurological incident. We spent countless sessions re-learning the alphabet, reading words, etc. She was extremely motivated and her daughter was consistently by her side, helping her in-between sessions to reinforce the teachings throughout the week. By the end, she was reading independently and we were discussing what we read! Where there is a will there is a way!
How do you assess and monitor your clients’ progress?
I generate highly individualized templates to collect data to monitor each client. Each session builds on the next with client/caregiver-led goals moving the work forward. I implement an outcome-oriented approach where progress can be objectively measured.
What attracted you to online speech therapy?
- The ability to provide intervention to individuals who are not mobile
- To evaluate and treat more clients in the day
- Quick commute time!
- To see clients relaxed in their natural setting
- To work with a more diverse population
- And as a wife and soon-to-be-mother, I appreciate the flexibility of online speech therapy
What are your hobbies or passions outside of speech therapy?
I enjoy dancing, kick boxing, ice skating, tennis, group fitness classes, watching crime shows, stand- up comedy, cooking/baking, learning languages, being by the water, and spending time with my friends and family.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’m very excited to be a part of the Expressable team. And I look forward to continuing our work together to provide the best outcomes for our clients.