My Journey to a Career in Healthcare

Hello, my name is Savannah Gardner.  As a graduate student at the University of Montevallo pursuing a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology I had the opportunity to complete an internship at United Ability this summer. We have many clinical placements throughout our five-semester program, and for the most part where we are placed is out of our hands. This is not a problem because as graduate students, we have a multitude of things to learn, and any site we are placed is another opportunity to further our knowledge in this field. However, I must confess that when I started graduate school I was hoping and praying that I would get the chance to intern at United Ability for more than one reason.

My journey in deciding on speech-language pathology as a career path goes much farther back than declaring a major at the age of eighteen. I was born two and half months premature and as a result, I have Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy. I grew up with a mom who is an occupational therapist (OT), and participated in countless physical therapy (PT) appointments myself. Needless to say, I was surrounded by the OT and PT world. As it came time to seriously consider a career in life, I knew without a doubt I wanted to do something to give back to the healthcare field that gave so much to me. The only problem was, OT and PT were too physically demanding and limited me in many ways, so my mom suggested that I consider a career in speech therapy. I was reluctant to entertain this possibility at first because I had never let my having CP limit what I set out to do before, and I certainly wasn’t about to let it limit what I chose to do with my life. Nevertheless, I decided to try a few Communicative Disorders classes my freshman year at the University of Alabama, and I have been in love with the field of speech-language pathology since then.

Four years later, when I began graduate school, United Ability was at the top of my wish list for a clinical placement. I wanted the opportunity to learn under someone here because of the incredible reputation United Ability has in the healthcare field, especially speech-language pathology, but I had personal reasons for wanting to be at United Ability as well. As a preschooler, I lived in Anniston and attended the Cerebral Palsy Center there.  My family and I also drove to Birmingham for physical therapy and doctor’s appointments at Children’s Hospital where I first met Dr. Charlie Law. Around the time that I entered high school/adulthood, Dr. Law moved to United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham, now known as United Ability, to be able to see adult patients. Luckily for me, I have been a patient of Dr. Law’s for pretty much my entire life. Having been to UCP as a child and a patient of Dr. Law’s, being at United Ability as an intern this summer was an amazing opportunity for me to be on “the other side” and give back to an organization that has been part of my life for so long.

Though much of my past contributed to my desire to be placed at United Ability, nothing in my story can hold a candle to the stories and lives of the kids I worked with this summer, or the knowledge I gained. I had the opportunity to see children in the Hand-in-Hand Early Learning Program as well as United Ability’s Outpatient Therapy Clinic, and I was able to see a variety of clients and types of treatment that will be invaluable to me in my early years of practice. I had the opportunity to work under an incredible supervisor, Lynn Roebuck, who increased my knowledge and taught me more about what it means to be a speech therapist than I ever could have imagined. Our schedules were probably typical for many therapists, every Tuesday and Thursday the day was filled with client appointments from 9 in the morning until 4 or 5 in the afternoons and often things didn’t go as we planned anyway. What made the day special was not learning a “typical day for speech therapists at United Ability” complete with all the glorious paperwork- but learning how the therapists at United Ability impact children and their families’ lives for years to come. You would think that given my story I knew that would happen, but watching children’s lives be changed through a forty-five minute therapy session is something I guess no one ever gets used to.

For more information about the Ability Clinic and our specialized speech therapy services, please call 205-944-3944.

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