Meet the Team
Allison Mack is a Speech-Language Pathologist who treats people who had a stroke and have a communication disorder such as aphasia, apraxia, dysarthria, and dysphonia. This August, she celebrated 10 years working in outpatient rehabilitation at MossRehab Jenkintown.
What made you decide to become a speech-language pathologist?
When I started my undergrad studies in special education, I was not connecting to it. I wanted to move more into the medical field. My guidance counselor recommended taking an Introduction to Communication Sciences and Disorders class. I fell in love with it. I didn't even know about the field of speech therapy or audiology at that time. I eventually graduated with a bachelor's degree in communication sciences and disorders from the University of Pittsburgh. When applying for my master's degree, I was torn between speech-language pathology and audiology. Ultimately, I got my master of arts in speech-language pathology from the College of New Jersey. However, I've always maintained an interest in audiology.
What is your training?
I completed my clinical fellowship at Crozer Chester Medical Center in Chester, Pa. I worked alongside other speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who served as amazing mentors and helped me hone my therapy skills in language and speech as well as swallowing. I gained a background in many therapies working with patients in acute care, the burn center, inpatient, and outpatient rehabilitation. After finishing my practicum with Crozer, I was hired and worked there for three years. I left work for a short period to start my family. I returned as a registered nurse for an assisted living facility, where I traveled among different nursing facilities and memory care units caring for patients with chronic conditions. Wanting to work with patients with acute disorders, I applied to MossRehab for a position as a speech-language pathologist and was hired in 2011. I've worked at MossRehab Jenkintown, primarily with people who have had a stroke , for nearly 10 years.
Why do you like working at MossRehab?
When I worked for the assisted living facility, I was by myself. I felt isolated and missed working with fellow SLPs. I enjoy working in a team mentality at MossRehab. Interacting and collaborating with colleagues keeps me up to date on the latest therapy approaches and improves my growth as a clinician. The team also keeps me motivated and helps in problem-solving with patient care. Besides, I enjoy working with the people who have had a stroke and addressing their communication and language disorders. I work with two different teams of clinicians in the Stroke Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Program (SCOR) at MossRehab Jenkintown. We provide interdisciplinary treatment for patients who experienced a stroke or non-traumatic brain injury.
Who are your patients?
I primarily provide speech and language therapy to patients who have had a stroke and have language, speech, swallowing, voice and cognitive-linguistic impairments. I am certified in VitalStim Therapy, which uses neuromuscular electrical stimulation to treat swallowing disorders.
What communication disorders do you treat?
The primary communication disorders include missing impairments: aphasia, apraxia, dysarthria, dysphonia, dysphagia, and cognitive-linguistic. Aphasia impacts a person’s language skills, making it difficult to express and comprehend information. People with aphasia might have problems following a conversation, so they cannot answer simple questions or instructions. They also may have reading and writing deficits. Apraxia is a motor speech disorder where people have difficulty producing the correct sounds that produce intelligible speech. People with apraxia may have long pauses in their speech while trying to get their mouth into the correct position to form a word. Both aphasia and apraxia can occur due to damage to the left side of the brain caused by a stroke.
What is your approach to therapy?
Therapy depends on the diagnosis, severity of deficits, and how a patient responds to a certain type of therapy. I use a variety of evidence-based practices and treatment approaches. If something is not working well, I always have a backup plan. While the specific treatment should consider the patient's deficit, I still want to challenge them. I always tell them, “You’re not here for the easy stuff." I need to keep challenging their brains to make progress.
Do you use any online therapies to supplement traditional practices?
I recommend free online, task-based applications that patients can download on their devices to use at home to reinforce skills addressed during therapy. For example, the Lingraphica company provides several apps that include visual cues via videos to improve verbal output for common words and phrases. These apps help patients with aphasia and apraxia. I also use online apps during treatment sessions. Constant Therapy is one speech therapy application for speech and language, cognition, and executive functioning skills. In addition, I use an app on my iPad to record people with dysarthria and provide audio feedback that can help them modify their speech.
Can you describe a typical day in inpatient rehabilitation?
Every day I see about six to eight patients for an hour. Mostly, it's rehab treatments, but I could perform a few evaluations. There is no set schedule. I work as part of a team within the SCOR program. We meet every week to discuss our caseload, specific patient issues and possible referrals for social worker needs or neuropsychology.
What inspires you on the job?
My patients inspire me with their motivation and how hard they work at a difficult time in their lives. They come to rehab and work hard for three hours, pushing through both physical and emotional pain. When I am troubled in my life, I think about these stroke patients and their struggles while working to regain their independence.
What do you like to do in your leisure time?
I love the beach. Every summer, my family rents a house on Long Beach Island for a week. There are about 14 of us. I also enjoy nature and going on hikes with my three kids. We enjoy hiking the Wissahickon Creek trails.
Who has strongly influenced your life?
My father has always been my inspiration; he has such a great work ethic. He's a hard worker and loves his job. We have very similar personalities, so we handle things emotionally the same way. He's the first person I call when I need advice in my work life. I also need to mention my former co-worker Roberta Brooks who retired in 2018. She taught me so much about my job and working with acute stroke patients. She inspired me in my career and made me a better clinician.
What is the last book that you read?
I am rereading the book Wild by Cheryl Stray. It's about a woman going through a tough time in her life who decides to walk on the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Canada.
What is your favorite food?
I love Asian food. Right now, I'm on an Indian food kick.
What is something your co-workers might not know about you?
I live in a 100-year-old house, and I love old architecture.
What's your life motto?
I have a sign in my office that says “Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful." Going back to your life after a stroke is very hard, but it doesn't mean that your life can't continue to be wonderful.
Learn more about MossRehab Speech-Language Therapy.
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