- Published on August 10
Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you child development is a bumpy road, especially for those with additional needs. Fortunately, there are professionals who are here to help. Armed with over ten years experience as a speech therapist and a brain full of creative educational ideas, Leah is singlehandedly changing the lives of kids everywhere with her range of Spark Innovations products.
Written by: Leah Schwed MS, SLP-CCC
Throughout my career as an SLP, I've always joked that I'm a therapist who can't wait until my clients are out of therapy.
But it's true.
As much as I love spending time with kids to overcome challenges with speech and comprehension, the day I'm no longer needed is a sweet day indeed.
Helping them say their first words to their parents and giving those with communication difficulties a voice to be heard are rewards I'll cherish forever.
And it's seeing my clients flourish that inspires me and motivates me every single day.
My journey began after I took my Masters at Western Kentucky University and became a Speech and Language Pathologist. Fresh out of school, I then worked as a Speech Therapist in New York, working in school-age children and gaining a ton of experience before branching off on my own.
I now run a private practice where I specialize in helping children overcome language delays and difficulties in comprehension. I always knew I wanted to work one-on-one with people, and my job lets me do this while having a positive impact on people's lives.
My daily duties start with a little admin before holding sessions with kids. We talk about things, go through some exercises, and solve problems together using various SLP strategies.
Something I like to emphasize is that when clients walk through my door, we become a team.
That includes Mom, Dad, Caregiver too. Speech therapy takes time and is a collaborative effort. Everyone needs to be on board in order to get the best results. It also means I need to think outside the box on occasion.
And that’s how The Spark Innovations Inc. came about.
Throughout my decade as an SLP, I really wished there was a better way to engage the sequence and storytelling language skills of kiddos. Not for a lack of trying, I couldn’t find any materials or tools to teach the skills in the most effective way possible that met my requirements.
I set out to remedy this with my first product, Spark Cards, in 2018.
Spark Cards are versatile illustrated scenes printed on large cards that let children practice core language skills. Through fun and exciting pictures, kids can practice articulation, sequencing, social awareness, observation skills, language expression, sentence formulation, and a lot
My goal is to make fun and learning come together naturally.
The idea was inspired by a special education approach called Training in Systematic Instruction (TSI) that breaks down learning into manageable chunks. Whether accident or fate (nothing really happens by mistake!), I knew I’d hit upon something to support those struggling with speech and communication and immediately got to work prototyping.
It’s been a wild journey with plenty of ups and downs, but Spark Cards is now an award-winning product used by therapists, educators, and parents throughout the world.
I’ve now developed a wide range of products that can be used anywhere to increase language exposure which I sell from my website. Each sets out to teach kids communication and social skills, such as the Feelings and Emotions Matching game and my sequencing products.
One of the best things about what I do is receiving testimonials where I hear first-hand how my products are helping kids around the world. It’s nice to see fellow SLPs and educators enjoying these resources but also parents who see progress in their little ones' development.
My plans for the future involve continuing to collaborate with other professionals to develop new products to teach kids essential social-emotional skills. I’m forever thinking of new ideas to help kids and SLPs, so I’m excited about the future.
The best advice I can give to any entrepreneurs starting their journey is to ignore the doubts and have faith that it really is all worth it. The blood, sweat, and tears, late nights, and being pulled in a million different directions will eventually result in a business you can be proud of.
Fellow educator/business owners: Keep building! You’re changing the world!