As a speech-language pathologist, Jessie Ginsburg (MS ‘13) supports autistic kids through her speech therapy clinic, Pediatric Therapy Playhouse, and online training she offers for professionals and parents. Ginsburg asks the question, how can we as a society support autistic people by giving them what they need to be successful in this world?
Ginsburg shared she was initially not sure about entering this profession. It wasn’t until she worked with an eight-year-old boy with a rare genetic disorder that caused paralysis of his facial muscles that she felt inspired to continue this work. After undergoing facial reanimation surgery, Ginsburg’s role was to teach him how to speak using the new muscles in his face. “I just remember that was a huge turning point for me… seeing a child who wanted so badly for himself to be able to communicate and connect with his peers.”
Through Chapman’s M.S. in communication sciences and disorders program, Ginsburg was able to learn from many unique learning experiences that allowed her to work directly with kids. “One thing that’s really cool about Chapman is they have some classes that not every grad program in speech therapy has,” explained Ginsburg. “For example, there are lots of grad programs that don’t have an autism class, but in our program at Chapman, they had an entire course all on autism.” Ginsburg specifically remembers a course she took on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). The class hosted an AAC camp and went to schools throughout Orange County, where they were paired with students to teach communication skills using AAC.
One of Ginsburg’s professors encouraged her to start her own private practice. “I called one of my past professors, Angela Mandez, and I told her about how badly I wanted to start this practice,” Ginsburg shared. “Her exact words were, you’ve got the fire, girl. Go for it. It was that one person who validated me and believed in me.”
A decade later, Pediatric Therapy Playhouse has been selected as Best Speech Therapists in Los Angeles by Expertise every year since 2016. Ginsburg continuously hires Chapman graduates saying they are always the most prepared and professional.
Ginsburg specializes in sensory processing and inspires new ways of thinking about the speech-language pathologist’s role in supporting autistic children. “A lot of the work that I do focuses on what’s called neurodiversity affirming practices – instead of thinking of autistic kids as broken people who need to be fixed, it’s a lot more about this person having a different neurotype.” Her practice focuses on understanding how a child processes sensory information and regulates themselves to incorporate into speech therapy sessions.
As we head into Autism Acceptance Month, Ginsburg recommends going on social media and searching the hashtag #actuallyautistic. There you will find thousands of autistic people sharing content educating on autism and ways to best support autistic people. “I think that’s a big part of going into Autism Acceptance Month is really trying to amplify the voices of the autistic community. Amplifying the voices of the people that we’re serving.”
Watch the interview with Ginsburg to hear more of her story and special bonus content where she shares her advice to students and recent graduates.