Michele Ricamato, MA, CCC-SLP; Speech Language Pathologist
Michele Ricamato is a speech language pathologist specializing in developmental language approaches, with special interest in early language intervention in her work with children, families, and in schools. She is a Senior Faculty member, Coordinator of our Fellows Training Program, Co-Founder of Soaring Eagle Academy, a mentor, in private practice and has many talents you will discover below. She lives with her husband and their three children in the Chicagoland area.
Questions and Answers with Michele Ricamato, MA, CCC-SLP
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: University – University of the Pacific (Bachelor’s degree 1993) | Northwestern University (Master’s Degree – 1995)
Q: How long have you been DIR Faculty?
A: First attended the DIR Institute in 2002. DIR Faculty since – 2006.
Q: How did you come to the DIR model and how did it change your work as an SLP?
A: I was very fortunate to have been exposed to the DIR model while in graduate school for speech and language pathology as I was specializing in birth to three intervention. One of the visiting professors was a clinical psychologist and the text she was using to teach was from an early Greenspan and Wieder book. The model resonated with me in so many ways and began to immediately inform my work. 22 years later, the model still supports my ability to think developmentally, embrace parents/caregivers as critical to intervention, and hold in mind “the whole child”, not only the language capacities of the child.
Q: Which mentors most influenced your work?
A: I have been truly blessed to work with amazing mentors. Two people within the DIR ® faculty have taught me so much along this journey. Ruby Salazar, a clinical social worker and Sima Gerber, a speech and language pathologist and professor at Queens College have supported my own growth and development. Their guidance has been invaluable. In addition, learning from the Senior Faculty and Serena Wieder, in particular, has broadened my thinking in countless ways.
Q: DIR is an interdisciplinary program. What are some of the most important things you integrated into your work from other disciplines?
A: Parent coaching and understanding of family systems from my MH colleagues and a far better understanding of the individual profile of children from my OT colleagues.
Q: You have had a special interest in language comprehension of children with special needs. What three suggestions would you give parents?
- Meaningful experiences with engaged partners are a critical foundation for developing comprehension.
- When communicating with your child, start with the ‘contents of their mind’ before you try and use language around the contents of your mind.
- Comprehension is far broader than being able to follow directions or understand question forms. Comprehension is the child’s ability to “make meaning” in their world. The communicative partner’s role is to join in the “meaning making.”
Q: As someone who coordinates Profectum’s Fellows Certificate Program, how would you describe the importance of training our candidates in reflective practice? Or is reflective practice only intended for mental health practitioners?
A: It has been my own personal experience that reflective practice is a critical component when working with children who have developmental challenges and their families. Reflective practice allows the clinician the opportunity to take the needed time to examine and reflect on their actions and experiences in order to further their learning. Each and every one of us can be more effective as a clinician/educator when we have the opportunity to become more reflective about our clinical work.
Q: You, Linda Cervenka and Deanna Tyrpak founded a DIR school, Soaring Eagle Academy, in the Chicago area. How is it different than other special education programs?
A: As three speech and language pathologists, our school is founded first and foremost on the principles of developmental language thinking with the DIR ® model infused throughout the day. All of our curriculum is developmental in progression and adapted for each and every student individually to support their ability to make meaning and comprehend what they are learning. It has been a journey of the heart for all three of us!
Q: What’s your biggest frustration with how people misunderstand autism?
A: My biggest frustration is the perception that children with autism need to learn in rote and memorized ways in order to gain skills. When we apply true developmental thinking to learning, curriculum that follows a developmental trajectory can be adapted to each student’s profile to allow them to learn in real and meaningful ways that are integrated and not memorized.
Q: If you wouldn’t have become a speech and language pathologist, what would you have become?
A: writer. I have always loved to write and am very interested in children’s literature.
Q: You have recently published a new book for children called “My Worries Are Like a Tornado.” How did you come to select this topic?
A: I’ve worked for 10 years with an amazing boy. He is now 12 and over the years as he has grown and developed, he has demonstrated an ability to reflect and think about his own worries. Living in the Midwest, he began to relate these very powerful worries to tornadoes. This was the inspiration for the book. My client drew a few of the pictures for the publication and my sister illustrated the rest of the pictures. It is available on Amazon.
Q: What two books do you most recommend to parents?
- Engaging Autism – By Dr. Greenspan and Dr. Wieder
- The Whole Brain Child – By Dan Siegel
Q: Your favorite book?
A: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Q: What recent book have you read that you would recommend to others?
A: Age of Opportunity by Laurence Steinberg
Q: What is something surprising that most people don’t know about you?
A: I love to cook and bake!
Q: How much screen time do you let your own family have, and tell parents to allow?
A: For my own children (aged – 10, 13, 15) Approximately 30 minutes per day on the weekdays and 60 minutes on weekend days. My recommendations to parents vary depending on the developmental level of their child.
Q: Can you share a moment in your work you will never forget?
A: I was working at Soaring Eagle Academy in our old building, which was not as conducive to student support as our beautiful and carefully designed current location. A student had climbed up on top of some cabinets behind me and staff were supporting. Another student was worried which led to a toileting accident. Another student was racing through the front hallway on a scooter. Throughout all of the action, I stayed focus on a conversation with a parent about phonemic awareness! Much later, the humor of the situation struck me as I realized how I have developed a very high threshold for stimulation.
Soaring Eagle Academy, a special education school integrating Developmental Language Models and DIR®/Floortime principles, for students ages 3 through 21
Read the Profectum Bio for Michele Ricamato, MA, CCC-SLP
Webcasts with Michele Ricamato, MA, CCC-SLP
Michele Has a New Book!
“My Worries Are Like A Tornado”
Available on Amazon!