'A piece of the puzzle': Speech-language pathology student credits ISTAR with setting her up for success

Tanya Firkus developed an interest in fluency through her master's program, which led her to the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR)

Jonathan Pullin - 08 August 2019

When Tanya Firkus finished her undergraduate degree, there were a few careers she had in mind.

The Alberta native took some time to travel and work as an educational assistant in Calgary and it was there that she met a speech-language pathologist.

"She was very passionate about her job and took me under her wing. I got to see what an impact she made on the children I worked with. Until then, I was thinking of becoming a teacher, a nurse or a counsellor. I realized speech-language pathology was a nice amalgamation of all those professions, and she encouraged me to apply to the MSc Speech-Language Pathology program."

At the University of Toronto, Firkus developed an interest in fluency through taking courses in her master's program. When she found out about the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR) placement, she applied and was accepted.

"I was able to see first-hand how transformative the therapy was for clients and their families and the difference that it can make. To be a piece of the puzzle that helps clients find their voice was truly inspirational."

During her time at ISTAR, Tanya worked in an intensive three-week clinic for children who stutter. She also participated in a week-long social communication program for teenagers.

"ISTAR was a very intense clinical placement, though it was an extremely supportive environment. I was lucky enough to have the chance to work with some incredible clinicians. I learned fluency skills specifically, but I also learned a full range of skills that I will undoubtedly carry with me into my clinical practice."

Firkus would like to continue to develop a specialty in fluency when she graduates and hopes to eventually provide service to rural populations, much like the community she was lucky to grow up in. As she moves into her final 10-week placement, she believes her time at ISTAR helped set her up for success.

"To other speech-language pathology students, if you're considering a placement at ISTAR, it's an incredible experience. This population is a specialized area within the speech-language pathology field-it is a very rewarding area of practice. ISTAR provides you with the tools you need to succeed. They push you outside of your comfort zone and make you a stronger and more well-rounded clinician overall."