Nikita Lewis does what she believes in and is one of the few who decided to follow that path in the journey of her career.
It all began one day when she happened to be with her father at the garage to fix a flat tire. She saw him gesturing to the mechanic in signs and this led her to wonder and ask her dad questions about the mechanic
“Why can’t he talk? Why didn’t anyone help him talk?”, Nikita had asked
He explained that the man could no talk and then surprised her by asking, “Well what are you going to do about it?”.
“This question changed my life and I realized we must do something about the problems that touch us rather than just question them.”
Eventually this took her off from the path of taking up medicine after her high school and led her to do a degree in speech-language pathology.
Currently working at the Applied Behavior Center (ABC) in Kuwait, Nikita works with children as young as 2 ½ years to 16 years of age.
“This is what I love about my job the most,” says Nikita, “I get to help and spend a lot of time with some of the brightest and most adorable clients who make me smile every day. When I start a session, I find it important to hold a conversation with a client or play a game for a few minutes, as I strongly believe that I need to be their best friend in order to help them. This is the most favourite part of my day as well.”
At the center, Nikita helps children with autism and developmental disorders such as receptive and expressive language delays, learning disabilities and ADHD.
Her work involves the assessment and treatment of children with difficulties in speech, language and social communication, using various strategies while following an applied behavior analysis framework to treatment.
Her usual day at work consists of observing the students, engaging in individual and group sessions with them, writing progress reports, creating material and intervention plans to work on their speech skills.
Every student she sees, goes through a cycle that starts from an assessment period where she observes them and creates a protocol to identify speech or feeding difficulties if any, after which she creates targets for the students to achieve during an academic year. Once therapy goals are planned, she takes weekly sessions based on the assistance a student needs and monitors if they need a change in strategy or is doing well with the prompts provided.
‘’After several sessions and efforts by multiple therapists in improving a child’s speech skills, it is indeed such a euphoric feeling when we succeed together,” says Nikita with a broad smile on her face.
“I feel on the top of the world when all of a sudden he or she goes from not talking at all, to learning a word or even a sound and it’s even more exciting and a wonderful feeling to show their parents what they have learnt through thier sessions with us. Their happiness indeed makes my day.”
It is not all smiles everyday though, the job comes with a lot of responsibilities and quite a few challenges. Working with kids that have behavioural disorders itself can be challenging and when Nikita feels she does not have enough time for each session to give a student all that she wants to give them, then that becomes another challenge.
“Some of my most challenging cases are when I just cannot motivate one my students because I believe that I am a very cheerful and joyful person and I am usually successful at motivating my students,” Nikita says with obvious pain on her face, but then bounces back to her cheerful self and adds, “But I do overcome this eventually by using as many techniques that I can think of to get the child interested, based on what they like to do. It can be as simple as blowing bubbles for them, to singing a song or reading a book to them, which I do really love to do”.
In the end, it is all about the passion to help people that keeps Nikita going on in this field and this is the advice she has for all aspiring speech pathologists. To always move forwards and never give up, if this is what someone feels passionate about and if you have qualities such as patience and multitasking, which you can also pickup up through your career journey then you can definitely be successful in this field.
“Kuwait has especially been a great platform for me. There is indeed a huge lack in availability of speech therapists in Kuwait hence this is the best city to learn and discover and take that step in this career. So for all you aspiring folks out there, I would definitely say go for it because I’m sure you will fall in love with the work just like I have and feel content with your career as each child we see has something to teach us, such as patience, laughter, innocence and even love,” concludes Nikita.