Audio: Q&A with ASHA-certified SLP Matt Hott

Headshot of Matt Hott

ASHA: As a radio and TV producer, Matt Hott knew he wanted to do something different that would make a difference somewhere. So after hearing his friends talking about their jobs as speech-language pathologists, it really clicked for him. He would quit his career and go back to school to become an SLP.

So we are joined here with Matt now to discuss his career transition from broadcaster to ASHA-certified SLP, and how his CCCs have helped him throughout his career.

Matt, thanks so much for joining us.

Matt: Thank you so much for having me on.

ASHA: Well we’re really excited to talk to you, and it sounds like you have a really cool story. So first we want to hear a little bit about yourself. I know you started your career in broadcast before deciding to move, to become an SLP. What’s the story behind that? What made you make that transition?

Matt: Yeah, so a little background, I was originally a play-by-play guy for the college baseball team and thought that I fell in love with radio and television. And then I started to do all of the hours in radio and television and felt like I was not fulfilling a destiny or doing something that felt like I was making a difference in anyone’s lives. And one of my anchors, I worked behind the scenes on a TV station, one of my anchors she did speech-language pathology on the side every Saturday. And her and I got to talk and I realized that was the career I wanted to do because I could also work with swallowing, and we have a family history of my sister not being able to swallow when she was born.

So what I did was I called my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, and said, “Kimmy, I know you’re 10 hours away in Columbus and I’m up here in upstate New York. I’m going to quit my career, I’m going to go back to school to become a speech-language pathologist, I hope I get into grad school. If you want, this is your opportunity to say ‘thank you, but I’ve had a good time with you’ or you can stay with me.” And she did. I made it through Kent State, went to Ohio University for my graduate program and then got my CCCs and now I’m a speech-language pathologist working in the school district in home health care.

ASHA: That’s incredible. A huge change and it’s obvious you had the support of your family, too, which I’m sure is huge. Did you realize as you were going through broadcasting that speech and language was something that you were interested in? It obviously plays a huge role in your career in broadcasting, but did it really click until you started to have those conversations with your coworker?

Matt: Well, funny enough I took a phonetic class when I was in my undergrad because I felt like that would help me on my radio and TV days. Learning how to pronounce words correctly, if I knew how they were phonetically spelled. So I kind of had that background, I had friends in college go off to be SLPs, but it never really clicked until I sat down and talked with my co-worker Naveen. She was just telling me about how she gets to spend Saturdays working with the students and getting them to communicate for the first time. And I think it was right around Christmas time when I was working a double where I worked at the TV station in the morning, the radio station in the afternoon and then the TV station again at night, that I realized that I could be making so much more of a difference.

So, I don’t know if it really was there all the time or if it just kind of clicked, you know, as I was researching at the TV station on Christmas reading about everything that an SLP could do.

ASHA: Got it, got it. And you’re, I’m sure, working with so many people and really feeling that fulfillment you weren’t feeling before. But what are some of the most enjoyable aspects of being an SLP? What is really, truly fulfilling to you?

Matt: Really the most fulfilling part for me is working with my students with multiple handicaps and getting them into a communication device, and getting them to request either a cookie or the swing or go to the bathroom on their own. It’s such a unique, powerful feeling watching a kid gather words for the first time and then use them with meaning.

Other than that I really love working with my home health care patients, as well. Where I could work also with a patient or an adult who was working in a factory and get them back to where they were before; where they were able to call their grandson on the phone or play chess with their daughter and really get them to be able to communicate again at the house.

ASHA: That’s incredible, but I’m sure there’s, too, as you go through that process, there’s some challenging moments along the way, right? That you have to sort of get through, so can you maybe explain one of those moments that has really stuck with you and sort of taught you how to even improve your own work as you move forward.

Matt: Well, I think it’s hard any time that you have to tell a patient or tell a family member that their loved one at this moment in time is at the peak of what they can do. Either that being a student and saying you know, I’m sorry I’m not sure they’ll ever be able to use their voice, but you know here’s a communication device and we’re going to make this their voice. And seeing that disappointment in the family’s face of coming to terms of their new normal.

Or watching an adult who may be able to do math with a calculator or using an Excel spreadsheet or using a line and paper to do their math, but they want to be able to balance their checkbook without any assistance. And helping patients come to a new normal is very difficult because you want them to be able to succeed in the ways that they want to, and it teaches you every time as a therapist that sometimes our goal doesn’t always match up exactly to what the patient’s goal is. And vice versa that their outcomes don’t always match up with what we think that they can do as well.

ASHA: And would you say the CCCs were sort of an integral part in terms of how you go about dealing with that and handling those circumstances?

Matt: Oh, for sure. Knowing that I got my CCCs and I have access, as well being part of the ASHA membership, but I have access to all the journals that I can be on the cusp of evidence of research that I can turn to and say, ‘you know what this is the most recent research that we have in this field and this is why we’re going to go in this direction or why we can’t go any further in this direction just as well either.’ Also, knowing that I can turn to somebody else that has their CCCs as well who may be a little bit more seasoned than I am. To ask them for guidance or assistance as needed as well when dealing with a tough patient or a tough caseload or a tough situation. Those CCCs allow me to know that that person at least has as much of the same background that I do or even more so.

ASHA: So it sounds like obviously you would really encourage any SLP or audiologist to have their CCCs, as well.

Matt: Oh, for sure. I believe that having those CCCs behind my name not only gives me confidence that I know what I’m talking about, but it also allows the patient and the family to truly know that I’m not just somebody who is coming off the street and saying I’m a speech therapist. I’m the speech-language pathologist, I’ve gone through schooling and I know how to find research to help their family member achieve their pinnacle of rehab.

ASHA: Absolutely, that totally makes sense. And you know, taking that type of experience and weaving it into your background in media, as well, how would you go about talking about the importance of the certification to media outlets? And what points do you think are important to convey?

Matt: I think it’s important to tell anybody that’s working in the media that when we talk about something as benign as new research and fluencies, that it’s important to find somebody who is a working speech-language pathologist, who can lead the conversation of why that new research may be flawed. Or why that new research may be the best thing out there. But it’s important that we turn to the professionals that we can rely on to kind of lead that conversation.

ASHA: And it really sounds like it’s that group sort of mentality, where everybody working together and bouncing ideas off of each other that’s really beneficial as well, right?

Matt: Correct, and, if I may, this is also what spurred us to do our weekly show that we do called Speech Science, where myself and three or four other speech-language pathologists all holding our CCCs, we discuss those new stories weekly. We discuss and have interviews with people from the president of ASHA to the researcher at Ohio University leading AAC studies. So really try to get the importance of how research can impact everything that we’re doing and I think that having our CCCs really impacts the way that we are looked upon as being truthful and trying to find the most useful information versus being just a group of people having a conversation about speech and language therapy.

ASHA: Wonderful. Well, Matt, that’s an incredible story and you’re obviously doing some great work. So we really appreciate your time in sharing that story and really encouraging other SLPs and audiologists to have their CCCs and to move forward with teamwork and research and everything.

Matt: Thank you so much.

ASHA: Thank you.