Noel Hutcheson, two-time graduate from the School of Communication Science and Disorders, is working as a speech language pathologist for Kidsource Therapy in Little Rock, Arkansas.
In 2008, Noel graduated with her Bachelor’s in Communication Science and Disorder and again in 2011 with her Master’s in Communication Science and Disorders. After graduation, her husband was accepted into law school at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Hutcheson’s picked up and headed to Arkansas.
As a speech language pathologist at Kidsource, Noel works with a range of kids of all ages and conditions. In addition to working at the Kidsource clinic, she travels to client’s homes, daycares, schools, juvenile centers and hospitals. Her ever changing caseload of kids challenges her with a range of issues, personalities and circumstances. Of all age ranges, she has a special spot for 4-6 and 9-11, saying “their curiosity and imagination make it so special”.
KidSource gives Noel the opportunity to work with a wide range of kids with different speech challenges. One of Noel’s favorite “lessons” to teach is in social skills. This area of speech therapy helps children with Aspberger’s Syndrome or other social delays navigate social situations, like interacting with a cashier. Noel brings her kids into the situation, whether it’s crossing a street or greeting a friend, and walks through it step-by-step.
The road to speech pathology started early for Noel. She fell in love with American Sign Language in the fourth grade and knew she wanted to work with children with communication disorders. Initially toying with the idea of teaching deaf students, she later settled on speech pathology after shadowing a church member in her job as a speech pathologist.
While Noel has found her passion in life, it hasn’t been without it’s challenges. After her first year of graduate school Noel received a kidney transplant, an operation that lowers the body’s immune system. One year into her work at KidSource, she contracted a kidney infection that was treated with antibiotics. The specific antibiotic prescribed to Noel caused her nerve damage so extensive that she was confined to a wheelchair for six months, and later had to re-learn how to walk.
Her experience as a patient in physical therapy has given her a new outlook on her work. Being on the other side of the situation, feeling the frustration and the success of conquering a challenge, has made her a better therapist, she says.
Noel returned to Kidsource and picked up a new caseload at the local juvenile detention center. She worked in the school-based setting with kids from 11-18, working on speech and language delays. Over time, she found her work at the juvenile detention center to be one of her favorites. She shared “there’s something special about working with kids who everyone else has set aside”.
This past November, Noel contracted fungal meningitis and was out of work for four months, fighting for her life. Through her medical trials, Noel has found her community in her colleagues at KidSource. Part of the company’s success is their mantra of putting the kids first. After that comes employees and KidSource has been helping Noel all the way. In February, she returned part-time and hopes to increase as her health improves.
Noel’s road has been a bumpy ride at times, but her passion for helping kids through speech therapy has kept her going. In five years, she sees herself growing with Kidsource and furthering her understanding of speech disorders.
“I just want to be able to support every kid who comes through the door,” she said. “There’s nothing like a kid lighting up when they say a sound for the first time.”