Bridget and Brooke have transformed an inclusive philosophy to speech therapy that incorporates parents to an online resource for families
Growing up, sisters Bridget Hillsberg and Brooke Dwyer did everything together. Thus, it’s only fitting that their careers as speech-language pathologists are so intertwined.
Today, along with a joint practice, the “Speech Sisters” enjoy the shared status of “Instagram influencers.” They are the founders of an online course that reflects their innovative approach to equipping parents to best help their children outside of the therapy sessions with their speech-language pathologists, and sharing a lot of their tips on social media. Reaching these achievements has been greatly facilitated by having their CCCs, the sisters say. Having their certification has provided them with a strong professional foundation and the latest resources to effectively engage with and teach to their growing online community, whether it’s face-to-face or online.
The sisters were first attracted to speech-language pathology in different ways. Older sister Brooke studied elementary and special education in college, and grew interested in the field by working closely with the speech-language pathologist at her first job. Bridget shadowed a speech therapy session for a family friend with autism when she was in high school, and went on to study communications disorders as an undergraduate before working in school systems as well. Both went on to pursue their master’s degrees in speech-language pathology.
“We kind of encouraged each other along the way,” says Bridget, who had moved to the west coast while Brooke stayed closer to home in New England. When Brooke later moved to the same California town as Bridget, they joined forces and started their own practice called Beach Cities Speech Therapy in Manhattan Beach in 2012. They primarily worked with children with early intervention needs.
During their sessions, coupled with simultaneously raising their own children, Brooke and Bridget saw countless opportunities to integrate parents more fully into their children’s speech treatment plans. Whether it was incorporating vocabulary lessons while petting the dog or using a puppet to mimic certain communications behavior, such techniques expedited the child’s treatment. They realized that teaching parents these simple, easy-to-do exercises that they could use at home could even minimize the duration and frequency of therapy. In some cases, parents’ involvement reduced a year’s worth of therapy work to just a few months.
Incorporating certain strategies to maximize communication opportunities in the daily routine of parents became the sisters’ main focus. It evolved into a digital world in 2019. Bridget was on maternity leave and watched an online sleep course for babies. When she told her sister about the course, Brooke thought: “Why couldn’t we do this, but for speech so that we can reach more parents?”
Soon after, the siblings began writing and developing the “Speech Sisters” online curriculum that provides parents with speech tips to use with their children. They launched a website as well as an Instagram account (@speechsisters), which currently has nearly 60,000 followers, sharing their program on digital platforms.
“This is another way to reach parents who are on their phones looking for answers at their fingertips,” says Bridget. “We always stress that this doesn’t mean children don’t need speech therapy. Our Instagram and online courses are great resource to have if they just need a little boost or to complement speech therapy.”
The sisters say their cutting-edge approach stems from their ASHA certification. Earning the credential helps them feel prepared and knowledgeable to communicate with parents in any forum. “Over the years, ASHA and our CCCs have just been such an amazing resource and foundation for who we are and what we do professionally,” says Brooke.
“Without my CCCs, it would be very difficult to be up to date on the latest trends and therapy, or the best techniques,” says Bridget. “Certification holds you accountable and makes sure you adhere to the highest ethical standards, which our clients deserve.
Whether it’s in-person sessions or online courses, the Speech Sisters know they’re providing the best treatment and therapy they can thanks to their CCCs and, as a result, so do the thousands of parents they’re helping.
“Having our CCCs is important for our private practice, but also for having an online course,” says Brooke. “Our online clients don’t get to meet us, so by us having our CCCs, they know that we’re reliable, ethical and credible.”