Monday, May 22, 2017

From Rita to Rooted

For some of you, Rooted in Language is a new resource you've recently discovered. For others, you have known me, Rita Cevasco, Speech-Language Therapist, for over 12 years, since I began teaching online classes for Brave Writer. Still others have known me longer, as the therapist who worked each week with your now adult children who struggled with speech, reading, writing, listening, or speaking, or some combination of language skills.


Here is the story of my path from Rita Cevasco, Speech-Language Pathologist, to Rooted in Language. Ironically, it is more a story about all of you, than of me.


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I have been a Speech-Language Therapist since I finished my master’s program in 1984, but I began to specialize in reading and writing around 1990. This was a time of growing research into dyslexia--both its causes and its interventions--due to the advent of the fMRI and improved cognitive science research.


I started small: as Rita M. Cevasco, M.A., SLP, beginning my own private practice in 1994 in Maryland, and then again in 1996 when we moved to Mason, Ohio. At the time, my husband and I had two young daughters and were planning our third child (my son). Moving was a relief since my practice in Maryland was growing beyond my means. Starting over allowed me to see a few clients, work from home, and let people discover me, once again, through word-of-mouth referrals.


Yet, need brings change. Last month, I received this email from a home school parent:
“In the Pittsburg area, I contacted two dyslexia centers for my son. Believe it or not, they each have two-year waiting lists.”


I believe it. I have a waiting list, too. One psychologist recently estimated that 30% of all school-aged children have what he calls a “rough road” in their learning. Likely, 20% of those individuals struggle with dyslexia, dysgraphia, or both. There are strategies to pave that “rough road,” but this is not a one-size-fits-all matter. Learning is a path that varies from child to child. I was “laying a path” for each of my students, while thinking about the path set before me.


People, like my husband and Julie Bogart of Brave Writer, began to suggest that I stop focusing on only helping one child at a time. Through Julie, I transitioned from mentoring children to mentoring their parents--teaching in classes rather than in individual therapy. I taught Kidswrite Empowered, Foundations in Writing, and Partnership Writing. I created the Wand. I was learning how to take all this information I have in my head, my strategies and techniques, and teach it to parents.


Meanwhile, my practice was overwhelming me. I had to give my time to either my practice or to Brave Writer’s classes. I stopped teaching for Brave Writer, but Julie kept me aware of the growing requests for online help. I realized I need to focus on one clear mission: to help as many kids as I can on their path to becoming better readers and writers. As many as I can.


My mission is authentic, so I love my work. But my mission has also grown as I work with the parents of my students. I can see their skills and their growing desire to help their kids. I made a shift from only teaching children to also teaching the parents who teach those children! I became more generous with my time as my own children became adults and demanded less of me.


One thing I know from my own family, my students, and parents: learning happens best in relationships. I always allow for conversation and game time with my students. Knowing and caring for kids is crucial to their growth. Enjoying kids is a gift. Showing kids I value them is life-changing. As one parent told me: “Aside from you teaching my son that he could write, you sat beside him and built up his confidence week by week. The way you talk to him and care about him has made all the difference.”


Relationships led to Rooted in Language.


My husband encouraged me to begin to give more away--more of my time, more of my resources, and more of my knowledge.


Julie Bogart of Brave Writer invited me to return to her online community, helping me understand how I can be more available to home school parents.


My friend Tracy Molitors, who has been my cohort in all of life (parenting, gardening, reading, and writing) generously agreed to join the mission. Tracy is an artist and designer, and she is also passionate about taking all my ideas, which can be overwhelming, and creating visible, workable products to help parents help kids on their reading and writing journey. She added her own creative ideas, as well. Without Tracy, I am a pile of words; with Tracy, those words take shape. Tracy joined me financially with her hours of unpaid labor, and is now working week after week to help me share strategies that work with all of you!


My daughter, Moira Chrzanowski, finished her master’s in Speech-Language Pathology. In spite of knowing there are shortages for SLPs everywhere, she was passionate to teach reading and writing and join my practice (both private and online). In less than a year, her caseload is full and we, once again, have a waiting list.


Together, we three created Rooted in Language--an umbrella group that includes my private practice (Rita Cevasco & Associates) and our online resources. Tracy, Moira and I are intent on sharing our strategies and ideas through Instagram, video classes, our website and Blog posts, and Facebook resources. We want learning to happen in relationship: our relationships with you (the parent/teacher), and your relationship with your child.


My head is full of 34 years-worth of ideas. Rooted in Language is full of talented people who make great ideas even more fun and accessible to you. Our mission is to be of value and a good value. We want to Lay a Path for you to find what you need, whether it’s a great strategy that has been tested with other children, or more personal help in teaching your individual child throughout the school year.


We are ROOTING for your kids!

~Rita

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