About six months ago, I made a career transition into the early intervention world here in DC, as a provider within the DC Strong Start Early Intervention Program (DCEIP). DC Strong Start is a statewide multidisciplinary program that provides early intervention services for infants and toddlers (age 0-3 years) identified with disabilities and developmental delays. The program is designed to be flexible, culturally responsive, and encompasses a “coaching model”, empowering caregivers to take ownership in implementing therapeutic strategies into their daily routines and natural environment. Leading our expansive, multidisciplinary team of therapists throughout the city is an inspiring, confident woman, Ms. Chelsia Latney, M.S., CCC-SLP.
I first met Chelsia at a Strong Start provider training. She led the discussion with an organized, professional presence, speaking in a demeanor that made her approachable, but equally highlighted her clear knowledge of the research and best practices within EI. I felt proud and inspired to recognize that the leader of our state program is one of our own, a speech-language pathologist. I later learned that prior to beginning her position as Clinical Manager for DC Strong Start, Chelsia was a therapist and then clinical manager for my current employer. My office chirped with stories of Chelsia’s leadership and knowledge, and my admiration for her journey grew.
As Clinical Manager for DC Strong Start, Chelsia provides general supervision and management in the development of work standards, clinician training, and the evaluation of work performance. Additionally, she works with subcontractors (like my company) to effectively provide evidence-based services, coach families, and train child care providers on issues involving early intervention services. She also plays a role in the research and development of policy decisions as the program grows and evolves. Having been a provider herself for Strong Start, she has a clear understanding of what it’s like to be a clinician, which makes her a relatable, understanding leader and policy maker.
Chelsia is an inspiration. Her speech path, to me, highlights the journey that is possible when you take initiative, establish yourself as a leader, and collaborate with professionals across disciplines. Thank you, Chelsia, for taking the (speech) path less traveled!
Foster good relationships: I make it a point to build and foster good relationships in my professional community. I have had to have difficult conversations with people that I have care and respect for but because we have a good relationship foundation we are able to move through those difficult moments.
- What advice would you give to a new graduate about to begin their clinical fellowship?
- Find out as much information as you can about the placement. Do they offer salaried positions? What are their expectations of a clinical fellow caseload wise? Is the CF Supervisor onsite? How much support will available? What are the additional learning opportunities that are available?
- Don’t necessarily chase the money but always remember what you are worth. Look for a good mix of quality experience and financial compensation
- Make the expectations that you have for your CF experience clear
- Get a journal, document your experience its nice to reflect on how much personal and professional progress you have had
- Have fun!
2. What is one belief, habit or routine that has significantly impacted your life?
Foster good relationships: I make it a point to build and foster good relationships in my professional community. I have had to have difficult conversations with people that I have care and respect for but because we have a good relationship foundation, we are able to move through those difficult moments.
3. Where did you complete your CF? How does the career path you’ve traveled differ from the path you imagined as a new grad?
I did my CF at a skilled nursing facility in Washington DC. I started off working with adults and my ultimate goal was to work in the acute medical setting. It is very hard as a new graduate to get into that field. Since then I have been a bit of a “Jill of all trades” in the speech language pathology community. I went to the schools, early intervention, back to the schools in a non-public day program for children with Autism, and back to early intervention. What a ride! While working in those various settings I continued to work as regular on call staff at Providence Hospital in NE DC. So to answer the question, the new graduate Chelsia imagined a life of working in the acute hospital with stroke patients. A bit of a detour.
4. What book do you most frequently recommend? Is there a book that has greatly impacted how you think?
For friends that are new parents, I typically gift them the book “The New Language of Toys: Teaching Communication Skills to Children with Special Needs: A Guide for Parents and Teachers”. Although it is a book for children with special needs the guidance is most certainly applicable for parents raising typically functioning children. I think some parents just don’t know how they should be communicating with their little ones. This book may be helpful.
5. What is your favorite failure?
What a great question. I would only consider something a failure if I did not learn from it, and I have learned from just about everything that has happened to me that did not go the way I wanted it to go. I would say my “favorite failure” was being very politely asked not to return to the University of Maryland graduate school program where I had been admitted on a provisional basis, after not obtaining at least a 3.5 GPA. Reading that letter over the Christmas holiday was humbling. For the first time in my life, someone was telling me that based on my performance in the semester, they did not “predict” that I would do well enough to satisfy the 3.5 GPA overall requirement for the first year of the program. Mind you, this was a 3 year track where the first year is prerequisites for those that did not major in Speech-Language Pathology. This was my first run in with the microaggressions faced by so many other women like me. My great friend, who went to undergrad with me and on to University of Maryland as well, received the same letter. My GPA that semester was a 3.3.
Why was this seemingly devastating moment a good failure? It led to me Howard University where I started over and flourished. I was cultivated into the woman and clinician that I am now because of my experiences at Howard University. I am still very embedded in the “HU” community and have mentored other graduates from that program in their clinical placement and Clinical Fellowship Year.
This “failure” taught me that everything in life does not just truck along perfectly ; there are bumps and hiccups and drop offs along the way but you have to get right back up. You will have what is meant for you. You will be who are you destined to be. I went on to finish, clearly, and few know that I even went to University of Maryland. I guess that will change now!
6. What areas in the field of speech-language pathology do you see the most opportunity for growth?
I think the most opportunity for growth lies in the pediatric feeding area.. There should be coursework around it and advanced level training and certification for SLPs who are interested in working with children with feeding disorders. However, a therapist who takes initiative and finds the right training can really make themselves stand out with this skillset.
7. What are bad recommendations you hear in the field or in your area of expertise?
I am not sure about bad recommendations, because every recommendation I’ve heard has had some sort of merit, but I will say that there are so many vastly different points of view in the SLP community. I find this happens most often in the Facebook groups, and the differences between school and clinic/medical based therapists. School therapists often end up treating children that have some very specific medical needs and the approach is a lot different than someone like me, who came from a medical background who take. I try to advise as much as possible without inserting my personal judgement and biases into the conversation. The most common advice I give? “If you are not sure, refer out.”
8. What was a notable turning point or shift in your career? How did this impact your professional journey?
I must say that accepting the current position that I am in is the most pivotal moment of my career. I made a complete shift from the practicing clinician to a policy maker. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt leaving the community I was so used to being a part of. I still have the opportunity to make changes in the lives of infants and toddlers but in a policy, procedure and programming way versus direct therapy. It was not an easy transition. The clinician in me craved direct services, problem solving and family interaction. But at 18 months into this position I see how my new role as Clinical Manager for DC Early Intervention is allowing me to make changes and create new programming opportunities that can benefit a larger number of children across the District; no longer limiting me to children I come across as a part of my caseload. I can also do much more to prepare other clinicians to use best practices to support families and children, effecting change on a higher level. Do I miss going into the homes? Absolutely. When families come into our headquarters I’m so excited to see the babies and I don’t think that part I will ever go away.