December 18, 2012 People

First Person on the Last Page: Stepping Away, Getting Better

Nine years ago I had a life-changing year. In June 2004, my third child was born and I was on leave from my position as a school-based speech-language pathologist. My husband and I were in the thick of the day-to-day survival mode of all families with a new baby when, in August, he was laid off from work and forced into a job search. A few weeks later, a sudden illness left him hospitalized for a time and I couldn’t have felt more removed from my profession.

Jackie Malcolm, MA, CCC-SLP

Jackie Malcolm, MA, CCC-SLP

By December, I extended my leave until I felt more in control of our home life. I was not ready to think of pragmatic groups, sound production lessons, or all that comes with being back in school. It was during this time off, however, that an idea re-sparked my interest in being an SLP. My husband and I found our 2-year-old pushing cereal across the living room floor with a construction toy so we developed utensils that looked and operated like construction machines to keep him engaged at the table. Then, we thought, if it worked for us, maybe it would work for others. 

Two years later I returned to work, assessing and treating elementary students. Our idea had grown into a company, Constructive Eating, which was now our infant. In the evenings after work, I would field e-mails from customers. Among the general inquiries were messages about children’s first words, less stressful meals, and families having fun again. I received notes about children with autism being more willing to try new food and making new sounds to animate the utensils. It made the SLP part of me happy again. 

Today my “newborn” is 8 years old, my family is happy and healthy, and I am venturing into my 14th year with my district with a sense of hope and determination for the new year. I continue to get e-mails from families from time to time. They always bring a sense of professional pride knowing that in some small way I am having a positive impact on the communication development for children far beyond my therapy room and caseload.  

Jackie Malcolm, MA, CCC-SLP, is a clinician for Ann Arbor (Michigan) Public Schools and president of Constructive Eating. Contact her at

cite as: Malcolm, J. (2012, December 18). First Person on the Last Page: Stepping Away, Getting Better. The ASHA Leader.


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