In our ongoing “Careers in Autism” series we spotlight the diverse journeys of REED team members, each bringing a unique story and passion to their role at REED. Here, Leora Lyon, M.S., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist at REED Academy, shares the personal experiences that have helped shape her career and offers important advice for students just entering the workforce.

What inspired you to pursue a career in autism?

What motivated me to embark on a career in autism was a combination of academic exploration and hands-on experience during my undergraduate and graduate studies. As I started my undergraduate journey, I was drawn to fields that centered around aiding others, yet remained undecided about the specific profession I aimed to pursue. Ultimately, I elected to follow the Psychology-ABA track, driven by the desire to engage with and learn from a diverse array of professionals within the on-campus school environment, including speech-language therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and BCBAs. Through my experience as both an undergraduate trainee and supervisor within this setting, my dedication to working with autistic individuals deepened significantly. Witnessing the impactful efforts of the school staff and experiencing the profound connections formed while working with autistic individuals ignited a profound passion within me. Subsequently, upon completion of my Master’s degree, the natural progression was to merge my passion for speech pathology with my experience in ABA to pursue my professional aspirations.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job at REED?

The most rewarding aspects of my role at REED are the impact of supporting effective communication among students and their families. Witnessing students acquire the ability to articulate their needs, preferences, and emotions not only enhances their communication skills but also empowers them to assert their individuality and advocate for themselves within their communities. Enabling individuals to navigate and engage with the world around them through communication is not only invaluable but serves as a cornerstone for fostering inclusivity and facilitating meaningful connections within diverse social contexts.

What skills and qualities do you consider essential for success in a career in autism?

Essential qualities for success in a career in autism encompass patience, persistence, compassion, and creativity. Given the non-linear nature of progress in education and life skills development, it’s imperative to maintain patience and persistence while navigating challenges and achieving goals. Specifically within the field of autism, it may take longer than expected to achieve a goal, gain access to a needed service, or come to the “correct” answer. Patience and persistence are key in these scenarios to ensure every individual reaches their maximum potential. Compassion plays a pivotal role in understanding and addressing the unique needs and challenges individuals face, fostering a personalized approach to their journey. Furthermore, the ability to think creatively and devise innovative solutions tailored to each individual is indispensable, as there may not always be a straightforward or universally applicable solution in this field.

Why does a career in autism make sense for students just entering the workforce?

As newly minted speech-language pathologists (SLPs) venture into the workforce, they encounter a diverse array of opportunities spanning various settings such as schools, early intervention programs, inpatient/outpatient facilities, and skilled nursing environments. Irrespective of the specific setting, it is probable that they will engage with autistic individuals requiring speech services. Opting for a career in autism enables these clinicians to refine their skills in tailoring assessments and treatments, fostering their creativity, and enhancing their aptitude for active listening. By investing time in understanding and learning from individuals on the autism spectrum, these new SLPs position themselves to become more adept clinicians, better equipped to meet the diverse needs of their clientele.

Where do you think the need is greatest in autism services? What potential areas within the field should people consider?

The greatest need within autism services, particularly concerning speech and language support, lies within Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). With technology continually evolving, the landscape of AAC is likely to expand and become increasingly complex. Comprehension of when and how to implement both high-tech and low-tech communication devices as supportive aids or alternative communication methods will be paramount. Focusing on Augmentative and Alternative Communication as a specialization within speech-language pathology presents a significant asset to the autism community, equipping professionals to be able to effectively meet the communication needs of individuals on the autism spectrum.

Considering a career in autism? Learn more about the many opportunities at REED Autism Services.