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Meet Bernadette Rivera, M.A., CCC-SLP of Hello World Speech Therapy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bernadette Rivera, M.A., CCC-SLP.

Bernadette, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I began my journey as a speech pathologist on the east coast in New York City – an ideal place to experience cultural and neurodiversity as a starting out clinician. The opportunities to broaden my expertise were endless. I jumped head first working at a pediatric rehabilitation center, then learned the ropes at a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) outpatient unit, and went to specialize in early intervention with young children under 3, most on the autism spectrum. My heart immediately grew towards the pediatric population and I often found myself thinking about each child every night. How could I connect with each of them on a social emotional level? Finding their engagement was a challenge but it felt like a gold mine. From then on, I knew I was destined to help bridge the missing link for children to express one’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas to connect with loved ones. Whether it be vocal words, sign language, a picture communication system, assistive tech device, or a simple wave and smile; I knew my role was to foster speech and language growth in mediums unique to one’s learning process.

A couple of years later, I moved back to Southern California where I grew up and sharpened my experience in private practice and the school district system. I expanded my treatment to in-home, non-public and private schools, and working directly with families and educational teams. I’ve been fortunate to meet and collaborate with amazing professionals in the South Bay including occupational therapists, music therapists, psychologists, physicians, and teachers. The South Bay Area soon became the hub of practice as I saw a growing need for speech and language therapy among children and young adults with special needs. My practice grew among young adults since treatment has been so vital for building their self-advocacy, independence, and social emotional relationships in the community.

Has it been a smooth road?
Being a speech language pathologist is a fulfilling career, though I’ve experienced my share of challenges along the way. First, launching a private practice and scripting out a business plan can be a daunting process. With the support of my family and advice of fellow colleagues, I’ve learned to juggle the business management side and providing high-quality care for my clients.

Second, I’m often in “client-first” mode, and sometimes in overdrive when planning treatment or evaluating what works and what doesn’t work in therapy. These past few years, I’ve learned to create a healthy balance between my work life and personal life to improve my mind-body connection and self-care.

Meditation, Pilates, running, and spending time with family have become positive differences in the way I manage stress and effectively re-charge my brain!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Hello World Speech Therapy. story. Tell us more about the business.
In my practice, I design individualized speech and language therapy to meet the needs and critical priorities of children and young adults. I specialize in working with the special needs population – children on the autism spectrum, those with sensory processing disorders, learning disabilities, verbal apraxia or motor speech disorders, and social pragmatic issues. I take pride in creating treatment plans that encompass an individual’s strengths in the way they absorb information and express themselves – through vocal words, written expression, pictures and symbol boards, AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices or apps, and/or facial expressions and gestures. You can often find me reading up on research-driven techniques or attending conferences to adapt with the evolving field of assistive technology. I believe communication is emotionally driven, so I incorporate child interests in multi-sensory approaches to captivate their attention and build motivation.

Musical rhythm, visual imagery, hands-on experiences, iPad technology, and good ol’ fashioned play make learning fun! My priority as a clinician has been to enrich meaningful communication through social interactions, self-advocacy, and positive feelings of self worth.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The speech pathology industry will continue to grow in the next decade. There has always been a huge need in our field, not just in private practices, but in schools, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and rehab centers across the country. Increasing awareness and growing diagnoses of developmental delays along with our aging senior population create an ongoing demand for speech and language professionals in our communities.

The South Bay area is an ideal place for businesses like mine to meet the needs of children and young adults with special needs and their families. The community has a strong advocacy base and family support systems. The area also provides many opportunities for those with special needs to participate in, including peer mentoring programs, activity camps, and social recreational programs run by non-profit organizations, schools, and clubs. This has allowed opportunities for professionals and families to collaborate closely and plan for a child or young adult’s education and care.

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