Katie Vandervalk, MS., CCC-SLP, ADHD-CCSP
Role at Through the Trees: Owner, Coach, and Speech-Language Pathologist
Education: I received my Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1999 and went on (a year or two later) to get my Master's of Science from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in 2003.
My favorite things to do: Hang out with my pets, read books, ride mountain bikes, laugh with my husband, and spend time outside.
Something not everyone knows about me: I went to 4 colleges in 5-years.
About six years ago, I “retired” from the public schools, and opened Through the Trees. My husband and I always joke that he was my first client. We met in college, and I was immediately fascinated by his ability to live in the moment, without much thought or worry about what would happen later. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but over the years it became obvious to both of us that he has ADHD. I mention this because throughout my years working as an SLP in the public schools, I had many students on my caseload who reminded me of the kind of kid my husband must have been: a super smart, disorganized, kind, impulsive, fun-loving, and sometimes disaster of a kid. While working in the schools, I noticed that kids like this would often have academic supports for reading, writing, or math, but that their executive functioning (EF) issues were not typically addressed. I also noticed that, depending on the severity of their EF weaknesses, sometimes a classroom assistant would be assigned to help a student keep track of their assignments or give them reminders to stay on task, or support whatever social missteps they might be experiencing. These students were getting support, just not in all the areas that might be needed. I kept saying to myself, we should be teaching them how to do this on their own!
So, after many years of watching and complaining, and a lot of encouragement from my husband, I jumped ship from the schools and opened Through the Trees. I knew from seeing my husband's skills improve over the years, that people of all ages would benefit from addressing their executive functioning challenges in an open, honest, and direct way. My approach is never "cookie cutter" because, let's face it, not a single one of our brains is the same. What works for Mary may not work for Julie. Oh, and if you're a parent reading this, what works for you, is definitely not something your teenager is even going to consider!
Erin Pompeo: Teacher + Study Skills/SAT Prep Coach + Admin Assistant (aka Jack of all trades!)
Here's a little background on Erin's journey to become a teacher!
According to her, she was a horrible high school student, but she had plenty of fun! She says that she remembers what it was like to be so confused in class that she thought she would never pass. She recalls that she felt frustrated and often wondered, why bother trying?
When she made it to college, she didn't know what she wanted to do. Then she thought, “I’m good with kids. I bet I could teach. I'll definitely be better than the ancients that taught me! Turns out I was and I am.
Now, she uses those high school memories (and all that knowledge she gained from college) to help students just like her to see a way out. Erin knows exactly how to focus on kids that want to succeed but just haven’t quite figured out how yet.