Roshonda Epps seeks to engage, empower, and educate – Speech Therapy Zone

Dawn Cauthen-Thornton | March 15th, 2019
Roshonda Epps (Photos by Todd Youngblood)

Roshonda Epps (Photos by Todd Youngblood)

A lot of faith and determination is what Roshonda Epps says it took to start her own business nearly three years ago. She is the director of Speech Therapy Zone, a private pediatric therapy clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Established in 2016, they serve ages 2-21, where they help clients achieve functional independence across all aspects of communication, cognition and swallowing. Speech Therapy Zone is unique in that it provides face-to-face speech services through tele-therapy.

Tele-therapy is a breakthrough format; most recent to the health care field, where a provider can offer HIPAA compliant services to their patients via online or video apps. The mission of Speech Therapy Zone is to engage, empower and educate the families it serves and the community as a whole. The education piece is often addressed by offering complimentary speech development screenings to Charlotte-area daycares. This is a time for a licensed speech-language pathologist to visit the facility, complete the screening in person and answer any questions parents may have.

In addition, Speech Therapy Zone collaborates with area pediatricians and dentists to provide them with resources to pass on to their patients. As the need for her services have continued to grow, she now delivers therapeutic services face-to-face to children in daycares and at her private office in North Charlotte through referrals from doctors, schools, and parents.

She entered the field of Speech-Language Pathology in 2006 after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders and a Master of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders, with a concentration in Speech Language Pathology from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D., in the Speech Language Pathology Clinical doctoral program at Rocky Mountain University of Health Profession in Utah.

Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Roshonda began the first leg of her career as a speech language pathologist in the Kansas City, Missouri School District. She worked in the classroom setting assisting children with autism and then from there went on to the Special Schools District in St. Louis. She then transitioned to a position with a Georgia public school district and now as a private practitioner in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Although she also has experience working with adults in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, Roshonda decided to have her primary focus be on children.
She notes her initial motivation for going into the field of speech language pathology happened after her grandmother had a stroke. She recounts intently watching a speech therapist work with her grandmother and help her learn to communicate again. She enrolled in college to obtain a nursing degree, but soon switched her major. She states the reason she became interested in the field of speech language pathology is important to her because it started with her family. It started with her seeing her grandmother not be able to communicate.

“A lady came to the house, my grandmother couldn’t talk. But once this lady left, my grandmother could begin to communicate with us. That really sparked my interest,” says Roshonda.

The mother of two says she saw her ‘why’ change after starting a family of her own. The shift came in 2015 when Epps gave birth to her second child and wanted to stay at home, but also work. Tele-therapy gives Roshonda the ability to continue to serve her clients and also be home with her kids. She credits the encouragement from her husband and mother as the catalysts that pushed her to start Speech Therapy Zone.

“I needed flexibility. I began to think of creative ways to do both. I left the company I was working for and began offering my services part time through tele-therapy. To start this practice I had to have faith, determination and the right business mindset. I went forward, I’ve never looked back and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made,” says Roshonda.

Dually licensed in both Georgia and North Carolina, Roshonda holds national certification from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), as well as a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC).

Dedicated to her craft, she is a member of the National Black Association for Speech-Language Hearing Pathology (NBASHLA), an Education Committee member of the North Carolina Speech-Language Hearing Association (NCSHLA) and member of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) special interest group on Cultural and Linguistic Diversity. She has also served as a mentor through the ASHA S.T.E.P program, which was developed for under-represented populations in the area of communication sciences and disorders. She is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

What started as a solo-provider operation with one client in 2016, Roshonda has been able to expand to include another licensed speech professional and serves an entire school caseload in Georgia, an entire school caseload in North Carolina and five private daycares in Charlotte. She says her business structure is not to operate like a conglomerate, but rather to provide personalized assistance, with educational plans tailored specifically for each client.

She notes that early detection of a speech delay is key and urges parents who are concerned about speech development to get their children screened as young as two years old. She shares that by the first grade, roughly five percent of children have noticeable speech disorders. Roshonda also says that part of her overall goal is to increase social acceptance of speech therapy in multi-cultural communities.

“There’s not a lot of diversity within our field. But you have a huge melting pot of individuals who don’t look like their service provider. As minority entrepreneurs and caregivers, we should be able to reach our own communities. That’s important to me as well,” she says.

Her future aspirations for Speech Therapy Zone includes increasing community outreach by partnering with other community organizations outside of the education and healthcare sectors, such as churches and non-profits. In addition, she would like to expand her tele-therapy services to other cities and states across the United States, and eventually globally.

“My vision is to be in households in different cities, and then internationally. I want my impact to be greater than just a number. I want my families to know that they are greater than just a number. I want to be able to not just do the therapy portion, but also empower and educate parents on how to get their children to the next level,” she says.

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