I thought that writing an invited submission for this column would be an easy task, but it was tougher than I expected. As I reflected on 50 years in this profession, the thought that stood out most is that we are extremely fortunate to have so many opportunities to touch lives.
After finishing my PhD at the University of Illinois in 1975, I had the opportunity to develop an experimental phonology clinic there that admitted only children with highly unintelligible speech. Our work in this clinic changed dramatically from year to year as we formulated, tested, and revised hypotheses. We learned so much from each client (e.g., the importance of targeting /s/-clusters before /s/ singleton for children who substituted /t/ for /s/). We soon found that children’s intelligibility increased tremendously as they began incorporating /s/ clusters into their conversational speech.
After I moved to San Diego State University in 1981, bilingual graduate students helped me expand my research to Spanish phonology. One major finding was that it was more useful to evaluate consonant "sequences" that cross syllable boundaries (e.g., estampa, basket) rather than to restrict scoring to consonant "clusters" within syllables. Spanish-speaking children with intelligibility issues omitted /s/ in consonant sequences in a manner similar to their English-speaking counterparts.
In 1989, a move to Wichita State University expanded my research into metaphonological awareness through working with doctoral students. This extension was logical. Many former clients in California had been lagging behind their peers in decoding even after they had become intelligible. We began including some metaphonological awareness tasks during each clinical session. According to parental reports, most of our former clients are now excellent readers.
I have had wonderful interactions with practicing speech-language practitioners nationally and internationally. It has been extremely rewarding to receive comments from practitioners over the years about their successes in applying phonological pattern principles.
What a joy it has been to touch lives—but this has been a two-way street. Many individuals have touched my life—from former professors and colleagues to students at all levels. Perhaps most importantly, however, I need to express gratitude to several hundred former clients who have so enriched my life. How fortunate I am to be in this profession.