Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Member Highlight: Dr. Leigh Ann Spell

I am a speech-language pathologist and former professor who decided to venture outside my comfort zone in 2012 to start my own speech-language therapy private practice specializing in helping individuals with their professional speaking skills (including accent modification) as well as in providing traditional speech-language therapy services.  I am originally from Ohio and moved to South Carolina in 1987 to attend the University of South Carolina for graduate school.  I met my husband while in graduate school and we have two children who are currently in middle school and high school.  I returned to USC and completed my doctorate in Speech-Language Pathology in 1996.  After teaching as a professor at Columbia College for 16 years, I decided to make my part time private practice full time.  I enjoy traveling around the world and meeting/working with people from different cultures.  As the President of the Columbia Council for Internationals (CCFI) board, I meet many international students and visitors who come to the Columbia area.  I love working from my home office in Ballentine and have enjoyed taking on this new role of entrepreneur.

Accent Connections is a private practice in speech-language therapy with two areas of focus.  First I provide an accent modification program that helps students and professionals around the world improve their American English communication skills.  Accent modification, also referred to as accent reduction, dialect coaching and foreign accent management, involves identifying and changing patterns in speech and language production that may be causing individuals to not be understood or even misunderstood when they communicate in English.  This program is taught either face-to-face or online through video-conferencing technology.  The main goal of this area of Accent Connections is to help professionals build intercultural connections through effective communication.  In addition to accent modification programs, Accent Connections also provides speech-language therapy services for both children and adults who demonstrate communication, cognitive and swallowing disorders.  I have extensive experience in working with individuals who demonstrate disorders of:  speech (articulation, phonological, fluency and voice problems), receptive/expressive language (semantics, syntax/morphology and pragmatic problems), cognition (attention, orientation, memory, problem solving, organization, abstract thinking and executive functioning difficulties) and swallowing.

My biggest career accomplishment was completing my Ph.D. which allowed me to enter academia and get a wide range of experiences in all areas of the field of speech-language pathology, including starting my own private practice.  Through my position at Columbia College, I not only got to learn/teach about the many different settings and areas of specialization in our field but I was also fortunate enough to be chosen to teach in a summer program at Sookmyung University in Seoul, Korea in 2009.  This helped me expand my knowledge of accent modification and teaching English as a second/foreign language and set me on my path to developing my specialized private practice for international students and professionals. 

I recently joined SCWIB and have already seen the great support that the organization provides its members.  As an individual coming from an education and health care background, I am grateful for the business connections and knowledge that members can help me develop.  I am also looking forward to the day when I can help give back to and mentor other women who are stepping out of their comfort zones and developing their own businesses.