Imagination and Creativity: The Crucial Aspects to Being a Repairer
A s I look around at the dining hall or as I walk from class to class, I see a bunch of people communicating with one another, whether they are having a deep conversation, or joking around with each other, it is inevitable. Talking and communicating with others is a necessary aspect to our social lives. Anytime something big happens in my life, I want to rush to my sister, or my best friend, and tell them everything because I can’t wait to see their reaction. I never realized how much talking and communicating influences my life, until I was able to participate in Blue Gold, an organization that partners with different down syndrome associations. As I met and played with the kids, I would talk to them and try to understand what they were saying, or what they wanted, but I many times found myself, as well as them, becoming extremely frustrated when I could not understand what they were trying to communicate to me. I could understand bits and pieces of what they were trying to say, but that was many times after having to ask them to repeat themselves. I realized then that I have always taken for granted my ability to just say whatever is on my mind and have other people understand me. Until I met some of these kids, I never realized how frustrating it could be to constantly be struggling to convey your thoughts. Just simply having a conversation with someone is something I never thought I was that fortunate to be able to do. I was able to realize the importance of communication and why we need people to help those who have difficulty with their speech.
In her book Repair, Elizabeth Spelman illustrates the importance of a repairer being able to be imaginative, creative, and open minded. Spelman demonstrates this through Willie, a car mechanic, who cannot have a fixed mindset on how he is going to repair every vehicle. He would not be a very successful mechanic if he only knew one way of repairing cars and was planning on repairing every vehicle in the same way. This can be compared to the way in which a speech pathologist has to be creative when diagnosing and treating a patient with a speech problem. Even those who are very experienced at their jobs may encounter a situation that they have never seen before. This means that they have to be open to new and various ways to go about repairing their project. In this essay, I will explain how Spelman’s idea of how to repair something can be very similar to how a speech pathologist repairs his or her patients. The need to remain imaginative and open minded is crucial in being a repairer because they cannot go about fixing every situation in the same way due to the fact that everything is not broken in the same way.
Communication is an essential aspect in our everyday lives because it is how humans are able to effectively share thoughts, ideas, and interact with each other. When people are unable to effectively communicate with others, they typically see a speech pathologist who teach them how to speak clearly or alternative ways to communicate. Speech pathologists work to assist those who have difficulties in the articulation, stuttering, and the pronunciation of words and sounds. They assess, diagnose, and treat people who have different speech disorders and create appropriate therapy programs that are unique to each person. The range of people who need speech pathologists differ from kids who just have speech impediments, to those who have disabilities, or even those who have been involved in some type of accident or health problem such as a stroke. Therefore, each case brings about a new challenge because no circumstance is exactly the same.
The job of speech pathologists is crucial to the social lives of people with the inability to communicate.“Research has found that fewer than 30% of children with Down Syndrome can be understood by people who are unfamiliar with them” (Kumin 111). This can be extremely dangerous in situations where they need help and can’t convey to others what the problem is. In High school, when I participated in Blue-Gold, and I was first starting out, I found it extremely difficult to understand many of the kids I was working with. The more I asked the kids to repeat what they were saying, the more frustrated they would get. I would feel so bad because I knew it must have been so annoying and frustrating to never have others be able to understand what they are trying to communicate. However, the more I worked with these kids, the easier it became to know what they were trying to tell me, but I still struggled occasionally with understanding some of their words or sentences. People with down syndrome typically have a general motor deficit that affects their motor movements and thus their production of speech. Speech pathologists work to help their patients with syntax, which is the grammar of language, morphology, how people use elements of a language to form words through drills and activities, and phonetics which are speech sounds. One difficulty for these patients is due to the fact that, “delays in speech and expressive language are greater than delays in receptive language, causing children to become frustrated at their inability to communicate their message” (Kumin 113). They understand what other people are saying, but have difficulty relaying what they want to communicate back which can make them feel helpless and inferior to those around them.
Due to the large range of different people who need speech pathologists for a variety of reasons, there are many speech pathologists that specialize in one area. I was able to interview one Speech Pathologist in particular, Kelly Anderson, who specializes in treating those with dysphagia, which is the difficulty or discomfort in swallowing. On a daily basis she needs to make sure that their diets are appropriate to what they are able to eat, which requires her constantly changing it based on how they are improving. She does a lot of work with the kitchen staff to make sure her patients meals are fitting to what they are physically able to eat. There is a rehabilitation area at the place that she works, where after she diagnoses her patients, she is able to send them there for daily rehabilitation activities. One of the most tedious parts of her jobs is constantly having to take notes on the progress of her patients so she knows how to readjust their different routines or rehabilitation exercises in order to make sure that they are improving. This further supports Spelman’s idea that no job is ever the same. Her day to day challenges change depending on who are patients are and how well they are adjusting to her therapy programs. She needs to remain flexible and creative when going about her job in order to see improvement in her patients. She did go on to mention the rewarding feeling after being able to discharge her patients. Knowing what they will be capable of after her diagnosis and treatment is one of the best parts of her job. Sometimes the road to recovery can be long and frustrating for her and her patients. However being able to witness them successfully be ‘repaired’ makes it all worth it. Her patients go from barely or never being understood, to being able to have full on conversation with people because of what she does.
In her book, Repair, Elizabeth Spelman explains different techniques for different types of repair projects. She uses the example of a mechanic named Willie, whose job is repairing cars. Willie’s main purpose in what he does is to fix vehicles back into working condition. He uses anything he has, such as old scraps, to repair the car that has been brought into his shop. He does not have a set routine from day to day because every new repair job that he undertakes, presents a new and unique challenge. His job is not one where he can go in everyday and replace the same parts on every vehicle and have it up and running again. He needs to use his knowledge about vehicles to try to figure out what is causing the problem. He cannot begin each new assessment with the idea that it will be anything like his last project. In her book, Spelman explains,
“Willie’s deep understanding of what he is working with, his knowing how to communicate with rather than fight his materials, and his willingness and ability not to be bound by preexisting design and the original uses of old parts allow him to do the work that has become indispensable to his small community” (Spelman 12).
Willie does not try to fix every vehicle in the same way because they are not each broken in the same way. However, his past projects will definitely provide him with more knowledge which will thus help him with his future repair jobs.
Just like Willie, speech pathologists first have to assess the situation and see what type of work needs to be done as well. When they first see a patient, they cannot expect them to be exactly like their last. Some situations are more severe and will require more time and effort, while others may not be as challenging. Speech pathologists cannot begin their assessments with a restricted mind set on how they are going to repair the speech problem. They cannot allow their past repair jobs to suppress the possibilities of a new and different circumstance. Therefore, it is important for speech pathologists to recognize what is causing the problem before they are able to go about fixing it. They cannot be familiar with only one way to repair the situation. This is similar to how Willie cannot fix the car until he knows exactly what the problem is. However, each situation provides them with a new experience which will help them gain more knowledge and thus a deeper understanding of their jobs. They can use old repair jobs, and the steps and knowledge they used to fix it as guide to solving future projects of repair.
In one such case study, a little boy named Jamie had difficulty with pronouncing multiple words in sequence. All of his previous physical therapy consisted of traditional articulation therapy aimed at strengthening his muscles because the therapist knew his mouth wasn’t producing the sounds correctly. He was going through all this therapy with no significant change in his ability to articulate sequenced sentences. If you told him to say “apple” he could, and if you told him to say “pie”, he could, but then the therapist would ask him to say “apple pie” and he would say something like” paboo bie”. This previous therapist who worked with him was at a loss of what to do because the therapy program that Jamie was doing was supposed to help him based on what his diagnosis was, but he wasn’t improving at all. Another therapist ended up diagnosing him with something else called ‘dyspraxia’, which never came up in his previous assessments. This therapist created a new therapy program for Jamie that worked with drills at the syllable level then incorporated them into phrases, which seemed to help him significantly more. It seemed at first that Jamie just had a basic articulation disorder, but due to the fact that he wasn’t improving, the therapists knew it could not be that. This supports the idea of new cases leading to new challenges and therefor never being able to assume that every situation or case is exactly the same even if they share similar characteristics. The speech pathologist had to be creative in his diagnosis and therapy program in order to help Jamie.
The purpose of repair of a speech pathologist is to help a person be able to effectively communicate. Whether someone was once able to communicate and lost it because of a stroke, or car accident, or was born with this deficiency due to a disability such as down syndrome, it can be extremely frustrating for these people who want to communicate but are unable to. Therefore, speech pathologists have studied how we pronounce sounds and form words and reasons this can be difficult for people. Some reasons include parts of the brain that have to deal with speech or talking have been damaged, swallowing disorders, or other types of cognitive disabilities. For example, people with down syndrome usually have low muscle tone which would affect speech production. Additionally, speech pathologists also may have to teach alternative ways of communication, such as sign language, if it is impossible for some people to effectively communicate with their words. I think that speech pathologists have a crucial job especially when working with young people because without proper communication skills, these people would be unable to actively participate in social settings.
The repair process of a speech pathologist can be compared to that of Willie the mechanic from Elizabeth Spelman’s book Repair. Even though their jobs are a lot different from each other, one is repairing a car, the other is fixing a speech problem in a person, they both have similar characteristics that many other repairers share as well. Both have to approach their jobs with an open mindset about what the problem is and know how to fix it even if they have never seen the exact situation. In the text Spelman states, “As Willie sees it, part of the challenge of the work is that no jobs the same” (Spellman 10). This presents a new challenge to Willie every time he has a new vehicle to fix. He cannot go about repairing every single vehicle in the same way. This is similar to the way in which speech pathologists never see a patient with the same exact speech problem. Every patient they see will differ in severity, length of recovery time, reason for speech problem, etc. Therefore, these two different types of repair differ significantly in the actual repair job, yet they share similar characteristics when it comes to the basics of approaching what is needed to be repaired. Thus, they both have to be flexible, open minded, and creative with each new project they see.
I would first like to thank all the members in my writing group, Rachel, Eyal, and Ashil for all their help in the process of writing my essay. They did a great job of editing my piece and giving me advice and ideas to further my topic. I would also like to thank my TA, Frank, for his help in reading over my essay and helping me organize it. Additionally, I would like to give a special thanks to my friend Aj Pecora for his help in the formatting of my essay. I also appreciate my English teacher, Professor Harris, for taking the time to read my essay and guide me in the right direction to further my piece. Lastly, I would like to give a special thanks to all the members of Frank’s group who helped me come up with ideas for my essay and providing me with useful feedback. This essay wouldn’t be possible without the help of all these people!
Hamaguchi, Patti. “A Case Study of Childhood Apraxia of Speech.” Apraxia Kids. N.p., 2005.
Kumin, Libby. “Speech and Language Skills in Children with Down Syndrome.” Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews. 2.2 (1996): 109–115. Print.
Spelman, Elizabeth V. Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World. Boston: Beacon, 2002. Print.