Hi! My name is Sarah Vann (previously Herr-Davies) MS, CCC-SLP. I hold a Master's Degree from Portland State University, am licensed to practice in the state of Oregon, am ASHA (American Speech Language Hearing Association) certified, and am currently working on obtaining my Board Certified Specialist Certificate for Fluency Disorders. I have a special interest in fluency disorders, but my skill set and passion does not stop there as you will notice when browsing through my website.
I sometimes wish that I could say, "my entire life always knew I wanted to be an SLP (Speech Language Pathologist)," but what kid ever says that?! First of all, the word 'pathologist' is a doozy to say and second, unless you've needed one, worked with one, or your parent is one, you've likely never even heard of one. Instead, I wanted to be a lawyer or a veterinarian until I reached high school and started learning French, German, and American Sign Language. That is when my love of language truly sparked. By the time I was a senior, I was all set on going to Oregon State University (OSU) to major in International Studies, so that I could continue developing my love of language and make a career out of it. I had my courses mapped out, my roommate assigned, and was ready to begin my journey to OSU. Although I had just received the "French Student of the Year" award at the end of my senior year, I was also awarded the "Family and Consumer Studies" award. What is that, you ask? Well...it meant I was really good at cooking, taking care of kids, and sewing, and for some reason, that excited me. My sewing teacher said she saw "real talent" in the way I could look at a picture of a dress in a magazine, create a pattern for it, and then sew up a final product very close to the original. I remember sitting at a sewing machine on the last day of class, and her saying to me, "you should really consider becoming a fashion designer." In that instant, my entire path shifted. My underdeveloped 18 year old brain thought it would be a great idea to not go to OSU and pursue my love of language, and instead, move to Los Angeles to go to fashion design school. So that's what I did. After six months I knew I had made a mistake, but I refused to let my parents know they were right. Furthermore, I was having the time of my life meeting celebrities, working at fashion shows, and paying a small fortune to live in a dumpy apartment with two amazing roommates. After I graduated with a degree in Fashion Design, I moved back home to Oregon, totally abandoning my degree in fashion design, got married, and had three beautiful little boys (whom are not so little anymore).
It wasn't until my middle son, at age 5, was referred to an SLP, did I learn about the profession. After what I recall was a less-than spectacular therapy session that consisted of giving us worksheets to go home and fix an /r/ on our own, I went home and googled, "how to fix an r" because I was certain a piece of paper wasn't going to do the job. Suddenly, ads for speech language pathology programs started popping up on my computer whenever I got online. Eventually, I clicked on one from Portland State University (PSU). The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and I got chills allover my body. "This is your calling," went through my mind, and that was that. Being a single mother at this point, I enrolled part-time in the undergraduate Speech and Hearing Sciences program at PSU while working full-time. I became involved with the department and the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA), becoming their Vice President and the next year, President, and I actively started volunteering and working in the Autism community. Finally, I was admitted into graduate school after five years of hard work and perseverance.
A Passion for Stuttering
While I was still an undergraduate, I met Glenn Weybright, a local SLP (and local legend) who specializes in stuttering and stutters himself. At this point, I had no idea stuttering would be an area of interest for me, but I thought he was one of the greatest SLPs and humans I have ever met just from my limited interactions and observations. Little did I know that within 10 years, he would become not only my mentor, but my colleague, dear friend, and predecessor.
Early in graduate school, my first adult client was a gentleman in his mid-fifties who stutters. He was taking classes at PSU and was enrolled in a public speaking course. He was there because he wanted to re-learn some speech tools, but we spent a lot of our time together talking about how he felt stuttering negatively shaped his life. According to him, he always felt because of stuttering, he was not good enough. He let it control his life, and he lacked confidence in himself that he needed to be who he wanted to be-who he truly was inside. We did some fluency enhancing speech-work, but really we worked together on him taking the control back and increasing his self-confidence. We also started going to the Portland Chapter's National Stuttering Association (NSA) support group meetings together. That is when I made the decision that I needed to do something to help prevent as many youth as possible from growing up having the same negative experiences where stuttering controlled their lives. I wanted to give youth who stutter the tools to combat negative emotions and to become strong, confident individuals and communicators. My client went on to successfully complete his public speaking course as well as finishing his degree, and we are dear friends today. This client shaped me as a clinician and inspired me to take my mission of helping youth who stutter and start an overnight summer camp for kids and teens called Camp More in collaboration with another talented SLP, Kristin Mangan. Additionally, I run a monthly social/support group for kids who stutter called KOPS: Kids Out Promoting Stuttering. After being involved with the NSA for a couple of years, I was asked if I would be interested in co-leading the Portland NSA chapter. I humbly said yes and was chapter leader for three wonderful years. Find out more about these programs here
Why Be Communication Clinic?
When thinking of a name for my practice, I was taken back to my first experience working with my adult client who stutters in grad school, whom deserved to be the person he truly was inside. I also thought of my first young client who stutters. This 8 year old was too afraid to speak, in fear of their stuttering being heard by others. My whole mantra while working with her, was for her to be herself and to be her real voice, because only then, can we begin to make positive changes to Be our best selves. The word Be, has been at the forefront of my therapeutic approach to stuttering and beyond, ever since.
Experience Beyond Stuttering
For the first three years of my career, I worked in the public schools and home health which brought me a variety of communication needs . I quickly had to (and did) become knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled in a variety of speech and language needs for all ages from preschool to late adulthood. From Augmentative and Alternative Communication to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, from Literacy to Executive Functioning, from Selective Mutism to Tongue Thrust, from Voice Disorders to Social Skills, and from Memory Care to Swallowing, my experience has prepared me to holistically serve my clients, including those with complex needs, across the lifespan. Besides stuttering, my areas of special interest lie in Social Communication, Selective Mutism, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Literacy, and Executive Functioning. However, if you have a need not listed, let's chat! If I'm not confident in my own skills to provide service, I will offer recommendations to other amazing SLPs who are.
More than SLPing
When I'm not working or busy with Camp More or KOPS, I'm usually enjoying time with my three wonderful teenage sons and amazing husband, whom I just married in April. Frequent basketball games, guitar jam sessions, hiking, trips to the beach, cooking, writing stories together, DIYing, reading, Netflix watching, and constant mountains of laundry tend to keep me busy.