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Axing the Accent: Bay Speech Pathologist Finds Unique Niche

Whitefish Bay speech pathologist Dawn Wilson left the traditional school and hospital environment to start her own practice, where she has discovered a demand for modifying foreign accents.

After seven years of treating lisps, stutters and speech delays, Whitefish Bay speech pathologist Dawn Wilson was approached with a new challenge: modifying the foreign accents of business professionals.

Wilson said she was first introduced to the field of accent modification five years ago, when she received a phone call from a human resources manager about a Chinese engineer who was not well-understood by his co-workers. She has since seen a rising demand in for accent modification in recent years, especially among doctors, engineers and college professors.

"Right now, I'm working with a person from New Zealand and a person who is Indian," she said. "I've also worked with some Portuguese and some Spanish speakers too."

Although her college training did not discuss accent modification, she was able to learn more about the mechanics of language through coursework and certification programs.

"It isn't necessarily the accent as much as the difference in how people pronounce sounds in their native language and how we speak," she said.

A practicing speech pathologist since 2000, Wilson opened her own office space for at 5167 N. Elkhart Ave last April. Prior to moving into the office, she spent five years as a private speech pathologist working out of her home and traveling to her client's homes.

Wilson spent the beginning years of her careers working in hospitals, schools and as a clinical instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Typically, speech pathologists stay in schools or hospitals, but Wilson said she decided to make the rare jump into the private sector because she wanted to help children that don't qualify for state services.

The state of Wisconsin funds free speech therapy from birth through age 3 if the child meets certain state standards for speech delays. After working in schools and hospitals, Wilson said she saw children that had speech delays but didn't qualify for the services. Without therapy, their speech impediment worsens until they meet state standards.

That's why Wilson's private practice values early intervention.

"There might be a child who is two to three years old who does have a delay who could benefit from speech therapy, but they just don't get it. Oftentimes they'll wait a year or six months, and then it gets bad enough that they can qualify and then they get services," Wilson said. "I like early intervention so they don't need speech therapy as long and it isn't such a big deal to fix it once they get started."

So far, Wilson said she has enjoyed her transition from the public sector to the private sector, and she enjoys the opportunity to give her clients more individual attention.

"My clients can see progress very quickly and I get an opportunity to really get to know my clients and their families," she said.

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