Tamisha Tague, SLPA
Tamisha Tague has followed a winding path to her job as a speech-language pathology assistant in a Los Angeles elementary school. But that path has led her to a place where she wants to be – in a job she loves and where she feels she’s making a difference.
“Giving kids a way to communicate is very exciting to me.”
She’s spent two decades with the Los Angeles Unified School District and now works with severely autistic preschool children at Castle Heights Elementary School.
“In 20 years, I’ve worked with kids from 3 to 22,” she said. “There’s something about preschool kids and early intervention and giving them that initial ability to communicate that I just really like.
“Even me at almost 50 – some of my friends say ‘I’m too old to be on the floor with preschoolers,’” she said. “Not me. I love it. I get down and dirty; I’ll play in water. There are just so many opportunities to initiate language when students are that young.”
On the floor with preschoolers isn’t where Tague thought she’d end up. When she started with LAUSD as a special education assistant, she thought she’d eventually become a teacher. She changed her mind after seeing teacher-friends burning out quickly amid feelings they weren’t making a difference in their students’ lives.
Encouraged by her principal, she got a job as a classroom assistant at Marlton School, LAUSD’s school for the deaf. It gave her a chance to put her degree in sign language and deaf studies to work.
“When the principal found out there was an opening at the deaf school, she was like ‘I love you but I’m transferring you. You need to be there. You need to use your skills there.’ And she was right.”
Tague spent 14 years at Marlton. She became an integral part of the school and ran its after-school program. But after encouragement from an audiologist colleague, Tague decided to pursue training to become a speech-language pathology assistant. It’s what she’s been doing for the last six years.
“I love the fact that I have one-on-one contact with the children,” she said. “After working with the deaf I truly am a firm believer that communication is key.”
Tague recently received her bachelor’s degree and now plans to go to graduate school to become a speech-language pathologist.
She credits her grandmother with encouraging her to go back to school in her 40s to get her bachelor’s degree. She honored her grandmother at the 2019 conference of the California Speech Language Hearing Association by wearing a T-shirt that said “I am my ancestors’ wildest dream.”
“I just wore that shirt as a tribute to her, to make her proud,” she said.
That T-shirt was also a way for Tague, an African-American, to advocate for people of color in the profession. It is a field that’s overwhelmingly white and female. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 94% of speech-language pathologists are white and 96% are women.
“I think people of color think this profession isn’t for them because they don’t see people like them in it,” she said.
Tague, a former CSHA board member, is a member of the association’s new diversity and inclusion committee. The committee will be working with the CSHA board on establishing its goals.
“I think it’s a matter of putting a different face on speech therapy,” she said.
When she’s not working, Tague still shares something with her young students: She’s a big fan of all things Disney. For years, she would visit Disneyland in Anaheim at least once a week. Now, she says, she goes about every other week.
“Being a speech-language assistant can be very stressful,” she said. “I found that going to Disneyland was way easier than going to see a therapist.
“I always say when I go to Disneyland, I leave my troubles at the door.”
Besides being fun, it’s another area where she advocates for people of color. She sometimes dresses up for her visits as Princess Tiana, Disney’s princess of color. She also recently went to a meet-up of Disneyland fans of color.
“It’s a place, again, where you wouldn’t expect a lot of diversity,” she said. “But I found by going to this meet-up and expanding my social media, like on Instagram, that there are a lot of Disney fans of color. They just don’t get as much exposure as others.”