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150729NewProvidersWhen we see a need for new providers,  I personally seek out the best-qualified professionals. But it's not enough for providers to be great at what they do—their hearts have to be fully committed to our mission in caring for kids and families. It's a fundamental quality that caregivers must possess to join us at Eugene Pediatric Associates and Thrive Behavioral Health.

I asked our new speech-language pathologist, Erica Meter, to send me a paragraph explaining why her job is important to the well-being of kids. I am writing a grant proposal to support the expansion of Thrive and I was looking for information to include.

This is what Erica wrote:

“I am fortunate to be able to say I love what I do. Being a speech therapist is not just a job, it's an opportunity to change lives in a positive way and have my life changed, too. The little blessings that walk through my door every day are just that—blessings. I am reminded of this constantly. I want to share the story of twin girls who touched my heart in a very special way.

Born at 28 weeks gestation, they fought every day to survive.  While they were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I supported them by teaching their parents successful feeding techniques. When the twins were able to leave the NICU, I thought it was the end of our journey together. Fast forward three years later and I was blessed again to see these two miracles and their parents sitting before me. One of the girls had recently been diagnosed with moderate to severe autism and speech/language delays, the other with speech/language delays, as well as sensory processing disorder. That day marked the beginning of our second journey together.

Their mother shared how desperately she wanted her autistic daughter to acknowledge her, interact and communicate with her. At the start of therapy, the only world that existed for the little girl was her own. Instead of wanting to play, she would rather dance and hum in front of the mirror. Instead of playing with her sisters, she preferred lining up books and placing letters in alphabetical order. She was in her own world, and that worked for her. But her mother wanted to be part of that world, and the day I started seeing her, was the first day we began to discover more about the world her daughter lived in.

With patience and suggested interactions to try at home, the little girl began opening doors to let us in. Now, 18 months later, she is speaking two and three word phrases. She calls her family members by name to get their attention. She performs for what we call "social attention" and waits for you to look at her. She makes requests using words and pictures for support when she needs them. But most of all, she is learning to be part of her family's world and starting to enjoy being there.

Her twin sister, who is also making tremendous progress, is now just slightly below the developmental expectations for her age, and she loves that her sister wants to play with her. The twin’s older sister is a wonderful teacher and loves that she gets to play, too. Their parents worked every day to learn how to fit into their daughter's world instead of forcing her to be part of theirs. This is only one of the many stories that remind me why I do what I do. Because behind every smile, laugh, or tear, there is a child waiting to be embraced, loved and discovered. I'm so lucky to be a part of that!”

By the time I finished reading Erica’s words, the tears had already begun to flow.

Erica is amazing, just like every one of our providers at Eugene Pediatrics and Thrive Behavioral Health. They were handpicked for their positions because of their commitment to families and for recognizing what an amazing opportunity it is to care for children in ways that are, for many families, life-changing.