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This is the first post of an ongoing series of interviews we will be doing with therapists and other professionals who use Milton in their practice. Our goal is to learn more about the wonderful people who use Milton in their line of work and hopefully have some fun along the way. Our first interview is with Meredith Avren, a speech-language pathologist who also runs the website peachiespeechie.com. If you haven’t checked out the awesome and hilarious shirts on her site, you are excused to do so right this instant.
Would you mind introducing yourself?
Hi! My name is Meredith Avren and I live in Alpharetta, Georgia. I have lived here my whole life and despite the terrible traffic, I don’t think I’ll ever leave. Alpharetta is actually right next to another city that happens to be called Milton! And I went to Milton High School. What are the odds?! I got both of my degrees at Georgia State University and hold the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence in addition to a GA teaching certificate.
Where do you currently work and what is your position?
I work in an elementary school as a speech-language pathologist. I love it!
Why did you decide to become an SLP?
My mom is was physical therapy assistant in a skilled nursing facility. I visited her at work once when I was a senior in high school and saw the SLP at the facility doing therapy – I was fascinated! I had a million questions for her. After looking into it a little more, I knew that I wanted to be a speech-language pathologist.
Could you describe in a bit of detail what type(s) of therapy you provide?
As a school-based SLP, my caseload is mostly students with articulation and language disorders. I also have several students with fluency disorders. I incorporate a lot of books and crafts into therapy sessions to address listening comprehension and vocabulary. With the younger children, I do a lot of play-based therapy. Articulation therapy is a lot of drill work, but it is definitely my favorite. My students love to get out the therapy mirror and mouth puppets to talk about anatomy and tongue placement. I often challenge my students to practice their target sound 100 times during a 30 minute session!
Do you have a general philosophy/approach to your therapy?
I try to make all of my therapy sessions engaging and FUN – but also very challenging for my students. It is important to me that they know why they are in my room. I discuss goals and progress with all of my students – even my kindergarteners.
Big surprise, but we’d like to ask a few questions about your experience with Milton the Mealtime Companion…..How did you first come across Milton and what were your initial thoughts?
I stumbled across Milton on Instagram and he immediately caught my eye. He was so cute and bright! Right away I saw huge potential for him to be used in therapy. As a parent of a picky little 4-year old, I also saw how helpful he could be at the dinner table!
What are some of the ways you use Milton in therapy?
Since I don’t do feeding therapy at my school, Milton is mainly incorporated into articulation therapy sessions. Milton’s mouth is wide open, so I can reference general anatomy structures (teeth, roof of mouth, etc.) using him as a visual. I often teach tongue placement by having students mold play-doh into the shape of a tongue. They move their tongue model to demonstrate how their tongue should move for production of their target sound. With Milton, we stick the play-doh tongues in his mouth! For example, if we are working on the /k/ sound, we will make sure the back of the play-doh tongue is touching the back roof of his mouth (his “velum”) to demonstrate. Since he is easy to wash, I don’t worry about him getting covered in play-doh. If I have to put a tongue depressor or oral swab into a child’s mouth, I can do it to Milton first as I explain what I am going to do. And after I examine my student’s mouth, I let them examine Milton’s! We also use him as a reinforcer a lot. Kids love feeding him! We will often agree on a target (for example, 5 accurate productions of a sound) and after the child meets that target, he will get to feed Milton an eraser. Milton also makes a nice little holder for small articulation cards. Kids pull cards out of his mouth as they practice.
What is tips would you give parents who are first encountering some form of picky eating with their little ones?
Don’t give up! Keep introducing your child to new foods. Don’t pressure them to try new things quickly – make it fun and let the child try things at a pace they are comfortable with.
How do children respond to Milton when you introduce/use him and why do you think that is?
Children LOVE Milton! He is so soft and squishy. The first thing my students do is squeeze him. He has a very pleasing color and texture so I am not surprised they want to touch him. When I introduced him to my own picky eater at home, it was during meal time and he started to feed Milton without any instructions or prompts. I have found him extremely helpful in getting my 4-year old to try new foods. If Deacon is skeptical of a new food, Milton is happy to test it out first.
In your store at peachiespeechie.com, you sell some pretty awesome and hilarious shirts. How did you decide to start producing these?
Thank you! I have always loved funny graphic tees. Ever since I was a kid I would collect t-shirts from places I visited and the silly ones were always my favorite. My husband happens to be a graphic designer (lucky me!) so one day I sketched out a design and asked him to create me a shirt that I could wear to work. It turned out great and I thought it was a fun way to increase awareness of the field of speech-language pathology. We have been making them ever since! We have hundreds of different designs and are always working on new ones.
Where do the ideas for your products come from?
All over the place! My experiences with my own students at work, my favorite songs/shows, grad school memories, and of course puns – I use a lot of puns!
Here’s a tricky one, what is one interesting thing about yourself that even your friends or coworkers may not know?
I can’t stand peaches. The fuzzy skin just gives me goosebumps! Eww! I like nectarines but “Nectarine Speechie” didn’t have a great ring to it and I am in Georgia after all…so I named my company Peachie Speechie even though I would never eat a real peach. Unless it was carefully peeled with no traces of skin. Apparently I’m a picky eater myself! Perhaps Milton will help me overcome my aversion to peach skin haha!