Speech-Language Pathologist Discusses How Speech Therapy Enhances Rehabilitation
Mary Ellen Clear, M.Ed., a 12-year veteran at Shepherd Center, is a speech language pathologist at Shepherd Pathways.
Q: What kind of patients do you see at Shepherd Pathways?
A: We see adults with brain injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, stroke, dual diagnosis (brain injury and spinal cord injury), and non-traumatic brain injuries such as cancer and anoxia (oxygen deficiency in the brain). The therapy approach at Pathways is all about individualized treatment planning with a focus on community re-entry while achieving as much independence as possible. We focus on cognition, language, speech and swallowing, with a priority on increasing safety, independence and overall quality of life.
Q: When you first meet with a new patient, what are your first steps with them?
A: My first goal is always to get to know them as a person, not a patient. Establishing rapport is vital in gaining someone’s trust and respect. It is very important that we – me, the client and any family/caregivers – identify client-centered goals that guide the evaluation and treatment process in an effort to provide care that is individualized and meaningful to the person’s life.
Q: How does speech therapy complement the work of other therapies, such as physical and occupational therapy?
A: One of the best parts of my job is being part of an interdisciplinary team. The therapists at Pathways have an excellent understanding of the importance of incorporating elements of all disciplines into each therapy session. For instance, in a speech therapy session, I may be having a patient complete a planning task (speech therapy), while incorporating visual scanning strategies (occupational therapy) and ensuring they complete an adequate weight shift in a timely manner (physical therapy). The overlap of therapies is crucial, especially for our clients experiencing memory impairment.
Q: What brings you the most satisfaction in your work?
A: I love when former clients come back to visit and are excited to share their accomplishments about going back to work, school or back to their role as a parent. It’s humbling to see their hope and strength, as many of them are going through the most traumatic event of their life. I’m grateful to be a part of their recovery.
EDUCATION / PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
University of Georgia,
Bachelor of Science in Education in Communications Sciences and Disorders
Master of Education
Member, American and Georgia Speech-Language-Hearing Associations (ASLHA & GSLHA)
- Mary Ellen is married to her high school sweetheart, Marc, who is an architect. They have two children, Ada, 5, and Andrew, 2.
- Unwinding after work means a dance party with the kids, a trip to the park or a new mindfulness-based stress-reduction class.
- Secret talent: Many people at Shepherd Center know that Mary Ellen can zoom around a ballroom dance floor, but she also knows how to whip around a Frisbee. In college, her UGA Ultimate Frisbee club team won the 2001 national championship.
- Parenting philosophy: “I try to raise my children to live their lives with a priority on kindness and compassion. Kindness makes a lasting impact too powerful not to teach.”
Interview by Phillip Jordan
Photos by Louie Favorite
Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, multiple amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. Ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals for rehabilitation and the best in the Southeast, Shepherd Center treats more than 850 inpatients and 7,600 outpatients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.