Nathalia A. Fonseca, is a bilingual speech-language pathologist. Speech–language pathologists evaluate bilingual and culturally diverse children who are having linguistic and/or academic difficulties. As a result, speech–language pathologists are making the crucial diagnosis between a disorder and something else.
Fonseca opened her private practice in the Chelsea area in NYC this past year. She is predominately a pediatric therapist, who services multi-cultural and bilingual families. Fonseca also provides Transgender Voice Modification therapy. As a member of the LGBTQ community, a Latina (First Generation Colombian), and a speech pathologist Nathalia A. Fonseca has dedicated more of her time to build awareness and support for the community (both multicultural and LGBTQ).
”A person’s voice is such an integral part of who we are; yet it is taken for granted by most. The most minuscule change can transform a whole person’s world, lifestyle, and overall outlook on life.” Nathalia A. Fonseca
Nathalia obtained her M.S. from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and is currently a doctoral student in speech-language pathology at NSU with a research focus on culturally and linguistically diverse populations.
Bilingual Speech-Language & Swallowing Therapy services a range of patients. Nathalia, a PROMPT Level II-trained therapist, has experience in the assessment and treatment of multicultural populations, voice disorders, transgender voice modification, swallowing disorders, autism spectrum disorder, motor speech disorders, as well as, cognitive deficits. Additionally, Nathalia has extensive experience in treating pediatric and adult patients.
As a frequent traveler, Nathalia has been fortunate enough to combine her passion for SLP and traveling by being a part of Operation Smile and Therapy Abroad for their medical missions in Latin, South, and Central American countries as an SLP and Supervisor.
What does it look like to be a bilingual SLP? Let’s read an interview with a speech-language pathologist Nathalia A. Fonseca.
What do you like most about being a bilingual speech-language pathologist?
I have the flexibility to work in a variety of settings, and with a variety of patients/populations. The freedom to focus on a different area in the field helps with minimizing feeling burned out. But, the thing I appreciate/love most is that the most minuscule change can transform a whole person’s world, lifestyle, and overall outlook on life. And, honestly, that is why I went into the world of Speech-Language Pathology. It’s establishing a rapport with the individual and working closely with other professionals to make sure the needs of that individual person are met in a holistic approach. Whole Body. Whole Person.
In your own words, what do you do?
I do a little bit of everything. First and foremost, I am a bilingual speech-language pathologist by trade. I am also a doctoral student and a clinical supervisor and adjunct professor at my alma mater (Go Griffins!). In 2019 I took the leap and decided to open my own private practice in New York City – Bilingual Speech-Language & Swallowing Therapy. Since I am still building my practice I am also the receptionist, the biller, the everything. I play many hats, but my most favorite hat is being the speech-language pathologist. I assess and treat patients from the womb to tomb with varying disorders, including but not limited to autism spectrum disorder, motor speech disorders, articulation, and phonological disorders, as well as, receptive-expressive and pragmatic language disorders. I also have specialized training and extensive experience in feeding and swallowing therapy to address individuals with feeding aversions, are considered “picky eaters,” or who predominately are gavage-fed (i.e. nutrition via a gastric tube).
What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced so far as a business owner?
Time. Time has been my biggest obstacle because I need time to treat, to the bill, write reports, in addition, to having time for myself, my doctorate, and everything I have on my plate. Time management was always a strength for me, but it does not compare to how much more I have to pay attention to where I distribute my time and energy. As a still new (1 year) business owner, learning the business portion of speech-language pathology takes time and energy. Time is my key factor in growth, and being okay that it will take time to grow.
You’re a busy woman, Do you practice self-care at all?
Yes! I just started practicing self-care last year. If you ask anyone who knows me they know how busy I tend to be. Last year I realized it started taking a (negative) toll on me, and I decided to change that. I go for walks, listen to music, meditate on a weekly basis, cook, and dance. I also travel as often as I can! I didn’t realize how important self-care was to my physical and mental health. It doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I do something weekly (if not daily). After taking the time to contribute to self-care my overall persona has significantly improved.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Just go for it. Sit with people who have knowledge in business, accounting, building their own private practice, etc. and create your plan. Write your ideas and every day do something to get you a step closer. It took me a year (if not more) to fully go on my own. I made a list of things I wanted to complete and slowly executed each one. I also made sure to save money for a possible rainy day. When you start on your own you never know what’s going to happen, so be sure to save and have that cushion. If you don’t need/use it then that just means more money in your pocket! And just remember everything takes patience and time. Time will be your enemy, but also your best friend.
At what point did you know you it was the right time to work for yourself?
I realized when I was working at a facility and I was completely unhappy. I love my career and always have, but I started to hate going to work. I loved seeing my patients, but working under someone who didn’t have the same morals as I made me question why I was there. That’s when I decided to make every possible move to venture out and build a practice that encompassed my morals as an individual and a bilingual speech-language pathologist. It took a year for me to finally make that jump, but I haven’t been happier! I am more stressed than usual, but it doesn’t compare to being completely unhappy. The stress is also different. It’s happy stress to be able to work for myself.
Where do you get your inspiration from daily?
My patients. As a speech-language pathologist I yearn for continued progress and growth, and every time I see it in my patients I am motivated even more to continue the work I am doing. Even as a professor/supervisor, when I see my students understand the material I am teaching and/or improve their clinical skills I get inspired to continue putting in the work.
What are your current areas of focus?
I predominately work with multicultural children and families, but specialize in swallowing disorders. Since I started practicing I have poured all of my time and energy into feeding therapy among the pediatric population. As someone who is foodie, I enjoy every single bite of food. How could I not let a little one enjoy this simple luxury? But, that isn’t my only love in the field: Transgender Voice Modification. How often do you say to yourself “Ugh, I can’t stand and hate how my voice sounds”? It’s natural. We tend to not like the sound of our own voices, but at least our voices reflect who we are as individuals. It does not make us feel out of place. As a member of the LGBTQ community and as a Latina, I have “felt out” of place in society; I have just never felt out of place from my own body. The simple sound of your voice is such an integral part of who we are, yet it is taken for granted by most.
Who have been your own biggest mentors and what is the best advice they have ever given you?
My biggest mentor has been Denise Cruz. She was my externship supervisor when I was in graduate school, and now she is my co-worker and friend. On the first day of my externship in a very demanding hospital nonetheless, Denise very confidently said: “fake it till you make it.” And honestly, that was the best advice she could have ever given me. As a speech-language pathologist is it the smartest thing for me to admit sometimes I have to fake it till I make it, probably not, but it’s true. I have been placed in situations throughout my career where I was caught off guard and thrown for a loop. And that’s when her advise has been the most useful. I built and am still building my private practice with no prior knowledge. I am literally faking it until I make it, and it’s been working great. I realize the more I just go for it, the more I actually know and grow. As is, Denise has been and continues to be a very influential person in my life.
What is your next big goal? How do you think you can achieve this one?
Besides continuing to grow my private practice and graduate with a doctorate, my biggest goal is to create or build a practice that does missions around the world. I have been apart of other organizations and completed SLP based medical/educational missions in South/Central America. As a bilingual SLP and traveler, I absolutely adore that I can combine both of my loves. However, I would like to expand it where my practice creates and completes missions with various disciplines (i.e. ABA, OT, PT, MFTs, etc). I have a few more years before I can achieve this goal, and to be honest, I’m not sure the first steps to doing this, but it will be done. Firstly, I have to continue growing my private practice and learning about the missions and the behind the scenes for executing them. The best way to learn is to continue being apart of the organizations I am affiliated with. As I mentioned my doctorate is in the works, and I plan to complete a dissertation with a global outlook where I would research, work with and learn about other countries and their areas of need within the SLP field. This is another way that I am going to achieve my big goal.
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