This month, we spoke with Paul Simeone, MA, CCC-SLP, ATP. He is a skilled speech-language pathologist and actually Kristi’s former Clinical Fellowship mentor! When he isn’t serving as the role of Director of Speech Language Therapy for Proven Behavior Solutions, he is pursuing his PhD in Clinical Research at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Institute of Health Professions, and providing direct and consultative speech and language services for children, families, and organizations. We loved catching up! Please enjoy!
How did you get into the field of speech-language pathology?
I was an addictions counselor and I had a young man who stuttered who would come into our meetings and talk about it. He said when he used drugs and drank it was the only time he didn’t stutter, which was interesting to me. I ended up looking into the field of speech-language pathology, as I wasn’t previously aware of the profession. I read up on it and I loved language and working with people towards meeting goaIs. I would be able to use my skills as a counselor, but also incorporate something that involves science.
Tell us a little bit about your current professional role.
Currently, I am the Director of Speech and Language Therapy at Proven Behavior Solutions. I started their speech program and now we have expanded to having six total speech-language pathologists (SLPs). Our company is an applied behavior analysis (ABA) provider that is center-based in addition to providing home-based services. We have three centers and are a rapidly expanding company. Our center serves children primarily from the ages of 2 to 6 and home services provide services for school-aged children, adolescents, and young adults. We are very proud that we will now be providing assistive technology (AT) services for adults with developmental disabilities.
That sounds exciting! Can you share more about that?
We were awarded an AT contract with the state of Massachusetts that is working to open up AT and supportive tech to adults with developmental disabilities. I was on the task force panel that helped put the policies in place. We are moving to switch to a tech-forward state; a whole new initiative with the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services.
Why do you think augmentative alternative communication (AAC) can be an important tool for individuals with complex communication needs?
It is a human right to be able to communicate and it may offer the best option for people to express their needs, individuality, and advocate for themselves. As tech continues to advance, there are individuals with developmental and communication disabilities that should have access to technology in the same way you and I would. AAC is another tool to provide quality access to those technologies. That being said, AAC doesn’t have to be the only option and it doesn’t necessarily work for all communicators either. I don’t agree that AAC is the answer for every single person; however, it is so broad that there is likely some option to enhance their communication.
Working at an ABA-modeled program, how do you collaborate with board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs)?
I started at Proven because I admired their approach. Their company motto is integrity, dignity, and humility and they use a very collaborative approach. We have a baked-in collaborative model. When it comes to intervention plans, we come to an agreement as a team. That requires people to respect one another and have an understanding of others’ evidenced-based approaches [that goes for SLPs and BCBAs]. We have an excellent professional development team and strong focus on interdisciplinary training as well where SLPs get training on ABA and vice versa (e.g., AAC, developmental language).
It appears that you are working towards your PhD in Clinical Research at Mass General Hospital’s Institute of Health Professions. How do you incorporate your research background and education into your role as a speech-language pathologist?
I completed the academic portion of the program about a year ago and I am currently conducting research. The terms of completion are that we have to publish 3 separate studies. I am submitting my first study, a systematic review this week, and I have applications into internal review boards for the next two. With regard to speech and language, I am the second author on a paper using AAC to deliver a language intervention and also a co-author on a commentary, analyzing a systematic review relating to Matrix Training (i.e., language intervention for kids with autism).
Can you describe the most challenging aspect of your profession?
The overall service delivery system and working within multiple systems to make sure that someone gets exactly what they need [with regard to therapy/care]. It is difficult to ensure that someone gets the best service possible across multiple settings. It is important to provide meaningful intervention and meaningful treatments that are helpful in the client’s real life and be effective across all contexts and settings. That is one of the reasons why I got into my PhD program and got into research - to look at service delivery systems and how we can make them more efficient and meet the needs of the client a little more effectively.
What is your favorite part about being a speech-language pathologist?
It’s getting to see the growth, watching kids say their first words and communicate for the first time or communicate in a more meaningful way and being part of that journey. Additionally, the problem solving aspect of it; you are presented with a kid with all of this amazing potential and you have to find the best way to get at the potential. So how do we use this kid's strengths and preferences and all of the good things that they bring to the table to help them communicate in the most effective way? It’s like a puzzle.
When you aren’t working, what do you find yourself doing (hobbies, interests, etc.)?
I like to ski and windsurf and play with my kids. Recently, we also got goats so we spend a lot of time taking care of and hanging out with the goats.
We are thoroughly grateful that Paul shared his time with us to catch up and answer a few questions. Not only is he a talented SLP, but an outstanding and influential mentor that shaped a large part of Kristi's professional experience. We thank you immensely Paul (or as we call him, PJ)!
To read more about Proven Behavior Solutions and Paul's services (MA based), we encourage you to reference the links below: