Meet Kris Marion, Speech-Language Pathologist and Therapy Supervisor

Kris Marion has been part of Wonderland for the last 14 years, and she has seen it grow in leaps and bounds, transforming into a multi-program agency that serves an ever-increasing number of families. We sat down (virtually) to talk about her work as a speech-language pathologist and what makes Wonderland a special place to work.

You work with babies and toddlers – what is speech therapy like with very young children?

I educate and coach parents on how to maximize their child’s communication skills. Those could be different for every child – some use gestures or sign language, words, augmentative alternative communication means, or a combination of skills. I help parents learn to understand their child’s cues, intentions, and messages, and their readiness for the development of next skills.

Your in-home visits are now done entirely with telehealth. How did this switch to virtual therapy change your day-to-day life?

During telehealth visits, I use a combination of coaching techniques, online resources, reflective questions, and simple games to engage children and their parents in successful interactions. I work four days a week to allow for more time and involvement with my three school-aged children (ranging in age from 6 to 11). Instead of driving to school in the mornings, I set them up for online learning, crafting, cooking, or watching a show so I can get in front of my screen for virtual sessions with families!

How did you choose your career path as a speech-language pathologist?

In middle school, I observed a speech therapist (SLP) in a “career shadowing” event. The SLP was teaching a child with cerebral palsy to use an assistive technology communication device. I was enthralled. Soon after, my grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I was heartbroken to see her speech and cognitive skills decline over time. This further renewed my passion for helping people with their communication skills.

What makes you get up and go to work (or now your screen) every day?

I love seeing the elation on a parent’s face when their child says a new word or communicates in a new way. The connection fostered through human communication is unique and incredible, and it motivates me to find new ways to support that connection between my littlest clients and their families every day.

You have been with Wonderland for 14 years! What makes it so special, and what have you noticed change over those years?

Wonderland is a truly special place. It’s a community of caring individuals who truly put families first and a committed leadership team that advocates for work-life balance for all. Over time, I’ve seen Wonderland grow in its capacity to serve more families, to widen its reach to underserved populations, and to structure the organization for leadership opportunities. In this time of COVID-19 and ongoing racial and social inequities, I see Wonderland commit more than ever to improving and innovating its services.

As a mom of school-aged children, how are coping you with working from home while taking care of your family during this stay-at-home time?

I am “Mama” to three awesome kids who teach me new things every day. They spend half of the week with my co-parent (whom they call “Mom”), which allows me some kid-free time for gardening, seeing friends, and relaxing! Managing virtual telehealth, three kids’ needs, online schooling, and maintaining a home allows me to truly understand parenting challenges. When working with parents in my therapist role, I can empathize about the challenges and celebrations involved in parenting and raising children.

What are your passions outside of work?

I love tending to plants and flowers in my garden, practicing photography, exploring new podcasts, going to Orangetheory, and working on a crafty project. I also love hot yoga, live music, and learning to use my Instantpot. I grew up in north central Florida in the land of humid sunshine and alligators, so the warm weather is a treat for me to fully enjoy in these Northwest summers!