A Win-Win Situation: Multnomah Early Childhood Program
Multnomah County's Hollywood branch library is a busy place at noon on a Tuesday in late October. Tables and desks are full with people reading, tapping on computers, browsing through magazines or checking out books. Along a wall on the south side behind the stacks are several "quiet" rooms where patrons can reserve a space to study or converse.
On this day, one of these rooms is housing a speech clinic. Though the room is small, it's plenty big enough for MESD Speech Pathologist Ted Hilton-Walker to sit on the floor with three eager children whose moms have brought them here for therapy.
As soon as the quiet room door opens, and without hesitation, the children surround Ted as he pages through a Dr. Suess book. Holding pretend mustaches on a stick, Ted has their full attention as he reads and has the children practice their sounds and speech.
In what MECP Supervisor Kristy Byfield describes as a "win-win" situation, speech pathologists are now holding speech clinics in seven Multnomah County library branches. The branches are Belmont, Kenton, Woodstock, Troutdale, Holgate, Sellwood and Hollywood. The arrangement began last year when MECP Coordinator Pat Moffitt talked to Mathew Yake of the Belmont branch library. Within a short period of time, the speech clinics were off and running.
MECP has had a longstanding partnership with the library through its Raising a Reader program. Holding speech clinics at the branches is a logical extension of this collaboration. "This is a pretty big deal," explained Kristy. " It is another tier of partnering with libraries."
There are several advantages of having the clinics occur in the library, according to Kristy. The convenient neighborhood location is a plus, and parents can stay in the library with their children after therapy ends thereby encouraging the love of reading and learning in their young ones. The room is also given free of charge to MESD and the space lends itself to confidential sessions.
Ted Hilton-Walker considers his path to becoming a speech pathologist "non-traditional." He attended college at Southern Oregon State University and was a pre-school teacher for eight years in Ashland. He said he has always gravitated toward working with children and taught English in Korea and Mexico.
When he returned to the Portland area, he saw an ad for a speech pathologist and became curious. He took SLP prerequisites from Portland State University and enrolled in the masters SLP program of Nova Southeastern University. Over a nine semester period, he took classes and worked full time in the Vancouver School District with a conditional license. His program is part of an initiative by the Oregon Department of Education to make certification of SLPs more flexible and address the shortage that has been a problem for several years.
This is his first year with MESD but not his first experience with MESD programs. He was active in Outdoor School as a student leader while attending LaSalle High School. During his training he interned in a variety of rehabilitative settings, he has found a home in the early childhood field. He works with children ages 3-5 and has a caseload of about 37 children. He sees them in Head Start centers, homes, childcare centers and now, in public libraries.