10 Questions with Lead Speech Language Specialist Margaret Steinruck

In the newest installment of our “10 Questions With…” series, we spoke with Margaret Steinruck, Lead Speech Language Specialist. Margaret has worked at Eden for 11 and a half years.

Margaret Steinruck at an Eden Service Awards Dinner.

What was your first impression of Eden?

My mom worked at Eden when I was young. She worked in the middle classroom back in the old building on Eden Way, and she would often do respite after work. She’d have a lot of students staying overnight at our house, and oftentimes I remember giving up my bed for the student and I’d take to the couch. I just really appreciated everything that my mom did working with the population, and I saw that a lot of the students that she was working with were nonverbal, and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a Speech Language Pathologist and work on giving these children and adults ways to communicate effectively. 

What’s a typical day like as a Speech Language Specialist?

It can be a little bit hectic, but it’s the most rewarding job that you could ask for. One of the great things about being a speech therapist at Eden is that we all have varied case loads. We might have a 4-year-old child utilizing the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) for one half hour, and for the next half hour you might be working with a verbal student or a student on an AAC device such as the iPad with Proloquo2go or TouchChat. You’re always switching gears. You might go from one student who likes low-intensity reinforcement, like a high five, to a kid who might like over the top reinforcement, like cheering “Wooo!!” You’re just adjusting to the students’ needs, so all sessions are very individualized and unique.

Margaret Steinruck with her family

Why did you choose your profession?

Growing up with my mom inviting the students from Eden in the house often, I definitely saw their need to have alternative ways to communicate their wants and needs — something as simple as being able to say that they’re thirsty or they need the bathroom. Being able to give them those tools that they need to communicate the basic wants and needs of life is vital.

What is something you think people don’t know about Eden’s participants that you wish they would?

Just because many of our students/participants don’t communicate verbally doesn’t mean that they don’t have anything to say. People can communicate through a lot of different modalities, not just verbal language. Many students will use gestures, sign language, PECS, as well as a variety of other Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Systems. We want to ensure that all students can communicate effectively — and not just with the students and staff at Eden, but in the community and across all settings with a variety of people and community members, as well. 

What is your favorite thing about working with and caring for Eden’s participants?

I would say just how rewarding it is as a therapist, to see the gains that the children/adults make and to know that you helped them along that journey. Being able to see them expand their expressive, receptive, and pragmatic language skills, and being able to generalize those skills so they’re not just able to demonstrate skills in a speech session, but able to generalize those skills with people in the community and at home brings a smile to my face. 

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I love hiking. I’d love to go to Utah, or to any of the national parks, really. 

On a dreary, rainy day, what’s your go-to comfort food?

I’d say nothing beats some Chinese takeout. That or some fresh Hawaiian pizza. 

What do you enjoy doing most in your time off?

Spending time with my children and my husband. I have a 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son that keep me pretty busy. And spending time outdoors and going on different hikes on local trails and enjoying each other and nature. I also have many animals that I enjoy caring for and spending time with — two miniature donkeys, a pony, chickens, a goat, a dog, a cat. I have a lot of pets.

What’s your favorite animal?

I love dogs, but I have a newfound love for donkeys. It doesn’t trump my love for dogs, but having recently welcomed two donkeys into our family (Leroy and Dottie) and seeing their personalities and how loving they are, I would definitely say donkeys are now a close second. They are very affectionate. They’re very silly. They just have really big personalities. 

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I would definitely say stepping back and admiring the team that we have in the speech department. Every speech therapist at Eden is extremely dedicated to the students on their caseload and their families. It’s easy to see that they genuinely love what they do. They’re a group of problem solvers, collaborators, and they’ve been so flexible and have adapted sessions for each student, both in-person and virtually, to ensure their student’s success. We have a really passionate team, and I’m proud to have them all in the department!