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Community Highlights: Meet Stefanie Trenholme of Trenholme Speech Therapy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stefanie Trenholme.

Stefanie Trenholme

Hi Stefanie, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I always knew I wanted to help children growing up, but I did not know in what context. I had a love for the arts so at one point, I had thought about going into art therapy after completing my psychology degree. The field was very new however and I realized I loved the idea of helping people communicate after I taught art in a reverse mainstream school and I created language stimulation programs for adults who had aphasia- both in Montreal where I am from originally. As such, I switched gears and went into the field of speech therapy and this was the reason for me moving to California. There was a point that my family was convinced I was going to be a professional student, but 4 degrees later, I have been able to integrate all my backgrounds into my current field which I think only makes me a stronger clinician. I often use art in my practice to elicit speech and language goals, plus it comes in handy when I need to make therapy materials. Most recently, I’ve been able to take my art background along with my psychology, art education, and speech therapy background to create children’s books. I started a new business called “Little Lola Frenchie” which grew out of the positive impact my therapy dog Lola has had in my office. I have always been a big supporter of animal-assisted therapy and seeing the positive impact she has had, I wanted more people to enjoy her. My goal with this endeavor is to help reach more children and their families by providing online resources and creating books and materials that help facilitate language development in all children.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I wish I could say that the road has been smooth, but anything that is worthwhile obviously presents with struggles. Besides enduring many years of education, I am someone who does have a learning disability. Not only do I have ADHD, but I have both an auditory and language processing disorder, so learning was not very easy for me. It took me a lot longer than my peers to grasp concepts, comprehend what I was reading, etc. I can’t tell you how many tests I failed growing up. I would study for weeks and barely pass and was always envious of peers who could study the night before a test and get 100%. However in the end, I have been able to accomplish many goals, and that is beyond gratifying. While learning was hard, it did not inhibit me from getting 4 degrees, opening up my own private practice, being a speaker at various schools to help support educators in the classroom, and now I can add published author to the list. I also hope that I can be a role model for the kids that I work with- so they know that while there may be a few bumps along the way, anything is possible.

We’ve been impressed with Trenholme Speech Therapy, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
In my practice, I work with children 0 to 22 years of age who have challenges with learning, expressive and receptive language, pragmatic language [social skills], executive functioning, oral motor functioning, articulation, stuttering, and voice as well as those who have oral facial myofunctional disorders. I have also been a guest speaker at private schools in both Los Angeles and New York City discussing how speech pathologists can support educators in the classroom to help develop a child’s speech and language. I also go into schools to teach children how to treat animals with my therapy dog Lola. Besides being a good clinician, I think educating the public is extremely important- as there are still a lot of misconceptions about my field- like what we actually do, and there continue to be some inaccuracies about speech and language development.

In the past few years, I have been working with a lot of special education lawyers throughout Los Angeles and surrounding areas conducting Independent Educational Evaluations to help ensure that students are getting the appropriate speech and language services in their schools. The great thing about my field is there are so many different areas you can work in, which makes it exciting and rewarding. While there are many aspects of my career that I am proud of, I really am most proud of publishing my first children’s book “Little Lola Frenchie Loves Bathtime”. I had always wanted to write a children’s book, but you really never know what goes into it. Besides writing the story and developing illustrations, you are dealing with trademarks and copyrights, finding people to get your book out there- it is really a daunting task. Rewarding but daunting. I really want others who cannot come to my office to enjoy Lola as well as understand the benefits of animal-assisted therapy. I also want to make learning fun and enjoyable for kids as well as help parents and caregivers with developing a child’s speech and language skills through everyday routines and why I have put free resources on Lola’s website.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
As a speech-language pathologist and dealing with the pediatric population, you have to be flexible. You could have a therapy session all planned out, but a kiddo can come into your office and have totally different plans. They certainly keep you on your toes and you are constantly having to think on your feet. The pandemic taught me to be even more flexible than I was before- if that was even possible! Learning how to deal with computer glitches, engaging children through a screen, keeping them interested after they had a whole day of school on the computer, making learning fun and meaningful, along with still trying to have a social/ interactive component. It was exhausting. While teletherapy sessions were not appropriate for all children, learning to navigate online in a whole different capacity was certainly interesting. Being alone in the pandemic as my family is in Canada, trying to work, taking care of sick dogs – showed me just how capable I was. As if navigating through that unknown wasn’t enough, I remember driving to my office constantly worried that I was going to be pulled over as we were told to stay home unless you were an essential workers. While I may not be a nurse or MD, I considered myself essential as I was the only therapist some of my kids were seeing, and they needed me. Working for myself, I made every effort to make sure kids got speech therapy one way or another.

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