I loved hearing Jaime's story and was so excited she agreed to meet with me for an interview for my little blog series!
Without further ado....
Me: Could you tell us a little about yourself and Smiley?
Jaime: I'm Jaime Toner, I'm a speech-language pathologist. I have been in this field for 16 years. I primarily work with kids 0-10 but I have worked with kids all the way up to 18. I also work at the hospital as a speech therapist so I do a wide range of speech therapy because I only see adults there.
Most recently I just gave birth to a little baby girl, Miss Evelyn June, who is 6 months old. She has definitely changed everything in life, which we are loving!
Smiley Pediatric was birthed right after Evelyn came along. It is very fresh, we've been seeing patients since the middle of February (2022). The oldest patient I have right now is about 7 years old. I have some very specific training in speech therapy, I'm the only feeding therapist on the Eastern Shore. I work with kids that have behavioral feeding issues, picky eaters, as well as kids who have motoric feeding difficulties i.e. they may have a trach or feeding tube. I also do communication devices which is a specialty area. So kids that can't talk like kids with cerebral palsy. They may use a communication device to actually vocalize those words.
I also do articulation therapy for kids who do the "w" sound for r or similar issues. I work a lot with kids with autism. That's one of the fields I absolutely love. Kids with Down syndrome is another area that I absolutely love.
*I had to interrupt there and tell her about my uncle that has Down syndrome and how he worked a lot with easter seals in PA.*
Jaime: When I did my graduate clinic in Columbia it was all kids with Down syndrome. I had kids from 2-21. I had a 19-year-old on my caseload working on language foundation and sound production and I always had this big spot in my heart for kids with Down syndrome and that totally solidified it.
Me: oh yeah for sure, sorry to interrupt you!
Jaime: So Smiley Pediatrics is here on Riverside Dr in Salisbury. Sommer Asay of Salisbury Speech Therapy will be joining us in the office. So that will be nice to have someone to collaborate with. We both agree that we don't want competition because there's such a need for speech therapy in this area!
Me: Yeah, I totally get that! So what brought you to this type of work, speech therapy and working with kids?
Jaime: I went to Sussex tech for high school and for the senior year you get to do an externship. I really had in my mind that I wanted to go to school to be a pediatrician. So I did my externship and I was offered work under a speech therapist at Howard T Ennis which is a school for kids with special needs. I did that for a year and I absolutely loved it. But I still went to school to be a pediatrician! I got through the first year and a and half and I was like absolutely not! Biology and Chemistry is not for me!
During that time was also when ER was super popular and that show, even though I know its a drama, brought to light how much death and injury doctors have to deal with and that's not me. My heart is way to big and I would take it all too personal. I decided to change over and get my speech pathologist degree which is a Masters degree. I went to Westchester Univerity for undergrad and Layola University in Baltimore for graduate.
Me: That's awesome. So what's your favorite thing about what you do?
Jaime: Everything but the paperwork!
Me: I understand!
Jaime: I love it so much. I eat and play with kids all day long, that's my job! And I get to talk to moms. Where could you find a better job? The insurance paperwork that's... *thumbs down* haha.
* We had to pause and ogle at Miss Evelyn for a moment*
Me: So what does it look like to work with you?
Jaime: To get in to see me, I'm cash-based at this point. I am in the process to get accepted to work with MA but we know how long the government can take with things like that. It can be self- referral. So you can just call in and get in. Once we are established with MA you can still call and we will ask you to get your doctor to send a referral over.
Once you're in, we will do an evaluation. We play a lot of games, we try to keep it as fun as possible. Unfortunately, kids are so used to doctor's offices and no matter what office I have worked out of the kids always think it's just a doctors office. The first appointment is usually the hardest and I try to get them to get used to me because they are so apprehensive. Once they get back here and see all the toys they usually warm up and are ready to come back for the next visit.
With any of my therapies I do a lot of play based with it, even with the feeding. I'm a big believer in kids needing to be paid. If you want them to do something you have to pay them. The payment may look like a piece of a puzzle or Mr Potato head or let's play trains. We just have to find out what that pay token is going to be on that day and that moment. I explain to my parents that I love my job but i still want to be paid. Kids can love to eat but they still want to be paid, especially if there's something hard that's put in front of them. Play is a big thing for me. I'm also a big proponent for structure. I do a lot of talking with the families and kids. We have to have structured time or else their attention won't be the greatest and they will learn that if it gets too hard, I can just escape.
Me: I like that, I feel like people expect their kids to just do things and I'm like we adults don't want to do that, we want to get something out of it so why expect our kids to?!
Jaime: Exactly! And we all pay our kids "if you're really good you'll get a lollypop" some call it bribery, I call it payment! It's also in the way you do the payment. You can't say you weren't good, you can't have a lollypop and then still get them the lollypop. That's not going to teach them anything. If they do their job you HAVE to give them the lollypop. There's no I don't have time! If they try, they still get the lollypop. They don't have to be perfect.
Me: What are some reason why a parent might reach out to you?
Jaime: The primary reasons are to see if what their kids are doing is age appropriate and hitting the milestones they should be. They are concerned they aren't eating the way they should be or saying the sounds they way they should be saying or they don't have the words they should at that age. Also stuttering, it's not my favorite forte and I will refer to someone better versed in that. Another reason is looking for a communication device.
Me: What is one thing you wish all women could know?
Jaime: Anything is possible! That goes for various areas of my life. I've done 3 full triathlon events, to having a baby as a single mother and also starting Smiley while on maternity leave! At each of those points you have those doubts "am I going to be good enough, strong enough" many times I didn't think I was but I've had a great support system that pushed me to my potential and you can do it! You may fall down but whatever you want, you can do it!
Me: Yes! One of the birth affirmations that I love is "you can do anything for one minute" and you just get through each minute knowing you can do it. Get through that small goal and eventually, you will do it!
Jaime: Yes! Oh birth, that would be one of those moments. Her birth was kind of funny. My mother kept telling everyone from the time my water broke or my mucus plug came out it would be 2-3 hours before I would have that baby. And everyone kept saying it wasn't going to happen. My water broke at 3:30 and I was pushing by 4:30. She got stuck on my tail bone and that's the only reason she wasn't born within 3 hours! I had Haley Dye as my doula and I needed those affirmations! She was worth every penny.
Me: Yes! Ok if you were stranded on a deserted island, what 5 things would you have to have with you?
Jaime: Oh goodness! My little girl! Her and food are my biggest things. Give me a mango tree and some fishing stuff and we are good! I just need the bare essentials so I could provide for her. Can it be a deserted island with woods so I can have shelter?
Me: Yes! The essentials. So is there anything else you want to add?
Jaime: My biggest thing is that I'm so very thankful. My family, my tribe of friends and supports, and the families that come to see me. So many of the families that have come to see me over the years have become such close friends and I wouldn't be where I'm at without them! I'm so grateful that I have them.
Me: What's the best way for people to connect with you?
Jaime: I have a Facebook page! My website but my phone number too! just give me a call or text!
Me: Bonus Question! If you had to describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?
Jaime: Fiercely independent, outgoing, and just very caring! I probably give too much to my patients and families. I'm learning though.
Me: Oh yeah I can definitely see that! Thank you so much for meeting with me today!