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Speech Remedy Provides Cutting-Edge Materials to SLP Community | NEWS-Line for Speech-Language Pathologists & Audiologists

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FEATURE STORY 07/15/2009
Author: Teddy Durgin  
Speech Remedy Provides Cutting-Edge Materials to SLP Community
California-based Speech Remedy LLC (www.speechremedy.com) was founded by Terri Tarnoff Snyder and Joanna Boyer, two speech-language pathologists that have dedicated themselves to providing adult focused cutting-edge, multisensory materials to the SLP community.

Snyder has worked in the field for the past 26 years. She recalls, "I met Joanna at a Stanford Hospital event celebrating Better Speech & Hearing Month. We both complained of the lack of quality materials focused on the adult population and decided to start Speech Remedy, to fill an obvious need in the market. Our goal in founding Speech Remedy was to provide adult focused cutting-edge multisensory materials to the speech-language pathology community. We set out to design products to provide hands-on activities for speech pathologists, activities directors of assisted living facilities, board and care facilities and families to stimulate their clients/loved ones in the areas of short-term memory, visual scanning, problem solving, etc., in hopes of returning them to ‘functional' normalcy after a stroke or other neurological insult."

Speech Remedy's initial product, dubbed SR-Cognition, was released in 2006 as a complete therapeutic tool set targeting adult (16 years and older) cognitive rehabilitation. Since its release, Snyder and Boyer have taken the wraps off four supplemental photo card decks covering the areas of: Confrontational Naming, Problem Solving, Safety and Awareness, and Categorization and Scanning. The four decks can be added seamlessly to the SR-Cognition kit or may be used stand alone. The decks can also be enlarged when requested for those who are visually impaired. An example of this is in the photos taken of the residence at Silverado Senior Living in Belmont, California where Maryam Mahbod, the visionary Director of Resident Engagement, made a request for her residence to participate with the SR-Cognition kit in a group activity with the enlarged card sets she requested to be made by Speech Remedy, LLC and the participants were grateful to better see such cards and listen to her present the cognition kit activities in a "mind fitness class" two times per week. Mahbod, referring to the kit and card sets, states that, "It is such a simple yet effective tool to stimulate our residents minds."

Snyder remarks, "I think Joanna and I make a good pair. I have always enjoyed the face-to-face interaction required for sales and marketing. Joanna, being a younger therapist, brings fresh and innovative ideas about how to work with various clients. She does most of the back end work, including product development, design and research. We have different skill sets, but our goal is always the same: to better the lives of the clients we serve."

Both are indeed still active in the profession. Their business has not grown to the point where either has even thought of quitting "the day job." Snyder has such a love for the work she doubts that day will ever come. "After 26 years," she states, "I can honestly say I still love my job, I love the patients and I love the families. I feel like I am making a huge contribution to people in the area of communication, and I think that is a worthwhile venture… It's tough, though, because we are indeed still working full-time jobs. I am doing home care and Joanna is working in various facilities with both pediatrics and adults."

Snyder currently serves as director of a registry-like company called Breakthrough, Inc., providing speech, physical and occupational rehabilitation, social work and dietician services to home care agencies throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. "A patient comes home from the hospital after a stroke or a head injury and needs help from a speech-language pathologist. I evaluate their speech, language, swallowing, cognitive, auditory, comprehension skills and make recommendations for treatment. Although home care speech therapy can be relatively short-lived, working with a team of allied professionals, the MD, nurse, families can be very rewarding. Providing tips to maximize communication can make a huge difference in a person's life. Having a kit like SR-Cognition can help patients to continue practicing their skills when skilled care is no longer available. We have had many family members comment on their success with our products in working with their loved ones at home."

Snyder credits her father, a pharmacist for being one of her biggest inspirations. Her dad was always putting her to work in his pharmacy while growing up, giving her jobs both big and small. "I was always good at sales, and I was always a conversationalist," she recalls, with a slight chuckle. "He would encourage me to share my knowledge. I was selling cosmetics, such as Max Factor and Revlon, when I was 7 years old. From an early age, he made sure I learned how to deal with the public. I love people, and I think that is an essential quality in my field."

He also made sure she got an education. Originally from Philadelphia, Snyder earned a BA in Communication Disorders from Temple University before heading to the West Coast and graduating with an MA in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology from San Diego State University. Boyer, by contrast, is originally from Canada. She went to undergrad at McGill University in Montreal where she earned a BA in Psychology and Linguistics. She then came to America to complete her studies, earning an MS in Cognitive Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and later an MA in Speech-Language Pathology from San Jose State University.

During her quarter-century in the SLP profession, Snyder has seen her share of changes. "[Our role] has evolved," she notes. "Speech teachers were the pioneers in our field. Today, our title of speech-language pathologist better describes we do. As SLPs, we diagnose and treat clients who demonstrate difficulties with speech, language, memory, orientation, problem-solving, word finding, visual scanning, reading, writing, mathematics and activities of daily living."

She is also on the frontline with regards to changes in the nation's economy and how that has affected SLPs, in general, and her company specifically. "While the recent downturn in the economy has forced educators and programs to cut budgets whereby they are no longer able to provide new materials that enhance learning, fortunately, we have not seen a slowdown in the demand for our products. In fact, this year, our sales have increased dramatically. There hasn't been much innovation in the speech-language products focused on the adult market. With the aging baby boomer population, it is possible that our products are needed more than ever right now."

To this end, she and Boyer plan to continue developing additional cutting-edge materials for this targeted population in the future. In fact, in 2010, the two expect to release a second therapeutic kit and an additional photo card deck. "Our greatest challenge is lack of time, given that we still see clients and limited resources compared to other large companies. Nevertheless, we are still managing to find the time to create quality products that we know are lacking in our field."

Still, there has been a learning curve to running one's own business. Snyder says making products that can be used by every kind of therapist in different kinds of settings was probably her and Boyer's biggest challenge. Smaller tests have included navigating through the various legalities and dealing with editors, photographers, graphic designers and printers for the first time. Snyder sighs, "And, of course, balancing a full-time job as a therapist and producing these materials, that's been the real trick."

Snyder and Boyer also attend various conferences, which can be very costly for such a small company. "We have to pick and choose," Snyder concedes. "We wish we could attend all of them, in every state, but there is just not enough time."

For those outreach opportunities Snyder and Boyer have not been able to pursue, it has helped to have a virtual presence via their Web site, www.speechremedy.com. Online orders have been a fairly substantial part of the business so far. The Speech Remedy site has a virtual terminal to PayPal. "So, people can just place their order online," Snyder says. "We get it instantly, and we then send out the order in the next day or two. It's really fabulous. We have distributors, as well."

One great asset has been the guidance and input of Joan and Michael Green, who operate a company called Greenhouse Publishing. Snyder remarks, "As far as self-publishing goes, they have been a tremendous help. They publish various products, mainly geared towards children. They have taught us many things, but the greatest lesson we learned from them was to keep going forward and never look back."

Snyder has no intentions of looking back. She is happy with the direction of her career thus far and more than pleased with the progress Speech Remedy is making. Her personal life is just as fulfilling, having just celebrated her 13th wedding anniversary. She also maintains an active interest in everything from hiking to travel to the arts. "I am someone who just loves life," she says. "I hope that comes across in my work. I believe I am warm and friendly and empathetic, and I treat my clients as people rather than patients."

Snyder concludes, "I would say to anyone reading this: feel free to contact us anytime and use us as a resource whenever you feel the need. We are glad to talk to colleagues, clients or anyone else who may be looking for materials that can help with speech-language-cognitive rehabilitation. We pride ourselves in not only providing great products, but great service as well."

Terri Tarnoff Snyder is a speech-language pathologist who co-owns and operates Speech Remedy LLC. The California-based firm specializes in providing cutting-edge, multisensory materials to the SLP community. She earned a BA in Communication Disorders from Temple University before heading to the West Coast and graduating with an MA in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology from San Diego State University.

Teddy Durgin is a freelance journalist who writes frequently for NEWS-Line for Speech-Language Pathologists & Audiologists. He resides in the Baltimore area.
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