Interview with Lori Gross, CCC, SLP of TheraKids Associates
Kate sat down with Lori Gross, owner of TheraKids Associates in Bellaire, Texas – one of the Harrison Center for Music Therapy’s community partners – to ask her about TheraKids’ unique collaborative approach to therapy. A transcript of their interview is provided below.
Kate: The Harrison Center would like to welcome you, Lori Gross, creator and owner of Therakids. Thank you for being here today.
Lori: You are so welcome!
K: First, tell us a little bit about yourself; how you got into the profession and got started in speech therapy.
L: Kind of a long-ish story, I’ll break it into three parts. When I was a young girl, we had family friends that came over, and one of our families had a little boy named Andrew and we would play in the back yard. Andrew always had a difficult time playing and it typically resulted in the family having to leave the house early because Andrew was just not able to function. I remember that making a big impact on me, and then when I got a little older, my mom shared with me that Andrew had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. But at the time, it took a lot longer – we’re going back now, I’m not going to age myself, but it’s going back quite some time – but I think that made a very big impression on me. When I went to college, I was getting a degree in psychology and I learned a lot more about children on the spectrum and also about other cognitive, behavioral, and emotional and psychological challenges that made me feel like I wanted to be able to help children, of course with Andrew’s story resonating.
K: Yes! We know that play and social learning are really large aspects of your work in speech therapy with your patients, so tell us a little bit more about why you feel those aspects are so important.
L: Well, I think when we look at the type of children that I specialize in working with and the type of children I feel I get the most out of my work, are children that have struggles with social-emotional learning, the ability to self-regulate, the ability to identify emotions, so we’re talking about many children who are on the autism spectrum. And that has really informed my clinical practice insofar as the areas that I’ve really become very educated in, in terms of different methodologies to learn to use with children who have social-emotional learning challenges, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
K: And also it’s really important for neurotypical children in development and adolescents and adults as well.
L: Absolutely! And you know, with Autism, basically, it’s a disorder of social learning and communication. And when you think about what makes us human, and how we learn, it’s all in that connection.
K: Absolutely. What might a typical speech therapy session look like with you?
L: (laughing) Well, there really isn’t a typical speech and language session. It depends on the child that’s coming in and the issues and goals that we have for the particular child. Of course, a child who’s coming in with some articulation problems is not going to have the same kind of session that I would have with a two-year-old who has recently been diagnoses with Autism spectrum disorder. But all of the sessions are productive, and I’ve also learned over the years that the best-planned session can go sideways but end up being incredibly therapeutic.
K: TheraKids partners with other companies, therapists, community members that provide other disciplines and specialties that enhance and support your work as a speech and language pathologist. What’s your philosophy on the advantage of multiple resources in one clinic space and for families and how they foster child development.
L: That’s a great question, and honestly, I think a lot of it comes from the training that I’ve had and the choices I’ve made in terms of where I wanted to work and the fellowships that I choose. I was always part of a multidisciplinary team whether it was in a children’s psychiatric hospital or in a specialized school for children with cognitive differences, various different clinics at other hospitals. I sort of came up, so to speak, working on a multidisciplinary team and I came to really value the opinions of the other professionals and the energy it creates and the collaborative spirit. But most importantly, it’s just really effective at treating the whole child.
K: You also partner with other community members and other therapists, so tell us a little bit about that.
L: Well first, I am going to have to brag a little bit because I have to say that having Ingrid Moeller here working with me has been tremendous. I have learned so much more working so closely with a music therapist and how the collaborative process, particularly with music therapy, because when you think about music therapy and I am no expert although I’m becoming one, there is so much that music therapy does to enhance not only speech and language objectives, but also occupational goals objectives. You know, the work that Ingrid has done with several of my children on the spectrum has been really, really wonderful.
I am also very excited about the fact that we are providing therapeutic yoga with Beth Reese. Beth Reese has developed a program for young children and for children with differences and that has been terrific for our families. We have parent-child groups which has been really wonderful. And then we also provide cooking classes with chef Monica Pope which has been a wonderful motivational pathway for our kiddos. We’re working on executive functioning, picky eating, all of those areas that you can address, but when you’re addressing it in collaboration with another person in these fun avenues, it just makes all the difference in the world.
K: How can families get in contact with you?
L: It’s TheraKids Associates, we’re here in Bellaire, Texas. The telephone number is (713) 668-7633, I’m extension 3. You can also find us online at www.thera-kids.com. Find me on Facebook and Instagram as well.
K: Great! Well we really appreciate your collaborative approach for the community and the patients and the families too, because we all have our own specialties and we’re all here together for the same reasons: for our patients not to need us anymore, for us to provide resources and patient care, so we really thank you for that.
Thank you for sharing your resources with us today Lori! Stay tuned everyone for our future collaborations between TheraKids and the Harrison Center.
L: Thank you so much Kate!