11 kahlenbergFew things are more important in the world we currently live in than being able to articulate individual wants and needs. It’s in times like these that the job of someone like Deana Kahlenberg is so important.

Kahlenberg, who is a speech language pathologist at Gallberry Farm Elementary School in Cumberland County, was recently honored by her peers as the Cumberland County Schools speech language pathologist of the year.

Kahlenberg said she was “blown away” to be recognized after being in the profession for only six years.

She was inspired to pursue her career by an elementary school teacher who created a love of working with children in her. Kahlenberg said there is also a history of stuttering in her family that sparked a personal interest in the profession.

While some speech pathologists work at multiple schools, Kahlenberg does all of her work with students at Gallberry Farm. Her focus is on students in preschool through fifth grade who have communication disorders. These can range from having difficulty making certain sounds to problems understanding or using language.

A graduate of Radford, Kahlenberg was an elementary classroom teacher for seven years before she and her husband Mark, who is also a speech pathologist in Cumberland County, went back to get their masters degrees in communication disorders.

Although this year changed things because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kahlenberg normally works with 50 to 60 students per year in both individual and group sessions, depending on the needs of each child.

Kahlenberg is part of a team approach that includes teachers, teacher assistants, parents and entire families in working with students who need communication help.
“The goal of what we do is to give everybody a voice,’’ she said of the students she works with. “I think it’s more critical than ever,’’ she said. “Making sure everyone has that voice and fair opportunity to get an education is our goal.’’

Because a lot of Kahlenberg’s work involves one-on-one interaction with students, the pandemic complicated things, especially when school was closed.

“We moved to teletherapy,’’ she said. “We rely heavily on caregivers and family members to help go through the therapy process. There is a lot of caregiver training and counseling involved.’’

Dawn Collins, the principal at Gallberry Farm, said Kahlenberg did everything in her power to make sure no students fell through the cracks because of the lack of face-to-face teaching this year once school closed.

“She used all the resources possible,’’ Collins said. “She would meet with students in small groups virtually and one-on-one. She considered it a personal goal to contact the students with the best resources she had.’’

Kahlenberg said her primary hope for any recognition she receives from being honored is to increase interest in the speech pathology profession and hopefully draw others to pursue it as a career.

“We are always needing more speech therapists,’’ she said. “I hope it will bring light to the profession and draw younger people to enter it.’’

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