We recently sat down with Dr. Givona A. Sandiford, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BCTS, CAS, SHRM-CP, to dive into her background and experience, clinical approach, inspiration for becoming a speech therapist, and more. You can read more about Givona here.
Can you spend a few minutes talking about your experience and background as a speech therapist?
When I graduated with my Master's degree in speech-language pathology in 2005, I began working in the public school setting right away. However, I also decided that I wanted to keep my skills fresh in other areas with different populations. This actually created a situation where I found myself working eight jobs at one time for a short period of time!
It was an exciting period in my early career. I worked in the public school system, a few skilled nursing facilities, two private clinics, home health care, and a facility for medically fragile children - all at one time. I wasn't able to sustain that schedule beyond a few years as I soon decided to pursue my doctorate degree in 2008. After finishing my doctorate degree in 2012, I gained experience working with children and young adults with severe behavior challenges at a non-public school. After this, I transitioned to working in a private clinic as lead speech-language pathologist to a team of amazing clinicians and assistants.
At this time, I decided to gain some experience in teletherapy and became dually licensed in Maine and California. I saw students before work from my home and loved it! Following this, I was offered a chance to share my dissertation research with the world by traveling with a continuing educational units (CEU) company. I saw this as a way to help many individuals at once through training therapists and teachers, so I accepted.
While traveling with my CEU company, I continued to work at clinics and Hospitals with children and adults. When the pandemic hit, I was working teletherapy already and had just had my first baby. The opportunity to continue to serve others from home has been a major blessing.
Why did you decide to become a speech therapist?
I was babysitting for a young boy when I was a teenager and was tasked with helping him with his speech homework. I found that I enjoyed working on the "buzzing /z/ sound" with him and decided to look into how I could do this as a profession. I interviewed the head of the department at the local university and she set me on my current path with a few words of advice. She recently passed away, but I kept the notes from our meeting to this day.
What areas of speech-language pathology interest you most?
I enjoy multiple areas of speech-language pathology. My experiences in the field have helped me to be a generalist in that I am comfortable treating almost any area, from a child with an articulation delay to an adult with aphasia. However, much of my research is in the area of autism, particularly nonverbal autism and I am also a Certified Autism Specialist (CAS).
What part of your job do you find most enjoyable?
I enjoy working with people and helping them meet their communication goals. I enjoy seeing measurable progress and sharing that joy with my clients.
Among all the clients you’ve taught throughout your career, is there a particular success story that stands out in your mind?
My favorite story is about a young man who was 7-years-old and nonverbal with autism. I'd worked with him for a year and he'd made progress in receptive language but had never said or imitated a word (or a sound). We were working towards having him communicate with a device when one day I sang his name in a joking manner. He stopped, looked at me, and sang his name back to me. This was the day that my dissertation research on Melodic Based Communication Therapy (M.B.C.T.) was born.
How do you assess and monitor your clients’ progress?
I use data collection and clinical observation to monitor progress. I discuss targets with my clients during each session and share progress with them.
What attracted you to online speech therapy?
I was initially fascinated by the idea of working from a home office and I also had a strong dislike for sitting in California traffic for hours! I was able to see the huge benefit of being able to give greater access to care to those who may not otherwise be able to receive specialized services. When the pandemic hit, it became clear that this would be a great model for individuals whose families were no longer able to receive in-person services. Providing therapy online has allowed me to remain home with my husband and baby during the time shortly after our son was born and during pandemic-related closures. I believe teletherapy is the wave of the future.
What are your hobbies or passions outside of speech therapy?
I enjoy spending time with my family, especially my (now) toddler, and anything related to health/fitness. I've actually been featured in the Muscle & Fitness Hers magazine for winning a fitness competition. I'm also completely plant-based in my diet and have been for 15+ years.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I recently obtained my board-certified telepractice specialist certification (BCTS), which has allowed me to gain new skills in teletherapy! I'm excited to work with a variety of clients through Expressable and am so happy for the opportunity to be a clinical manager and speech-language pathologist for a company that allows greater access to care for those in need!