(MA, Speech Pathology, '99)
Q & A:
- What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My fondest memory of Hofstra is being able to work collaboratively in the Hofstra Clinic. I was inspired by the many speech pathology graduate students all pursuing their master’s. I enjoyed working on group projects regularly and learning and growing as a speech pathology graduate student.
- What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing learned in that position?
My first job after graduating from Hofstra was at Maryhaven Center for Hope, which is a school that has residential options. I worked with many nonverbal individuals with other diagnoses of autism or cognitive delays or attention deficit disorder, as well as individuals with Down Syndrome. Working in that setting allowed me to build my skill set as it related to alternate means of communication. I then spent time training all the teachers and all the employees in the residential portion of the school, so that there could be carryover outside of their academic setting.
- What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
My field of specialty is speech-language pathology. Originally, I was looking to pursue a career in physical therapy. However, after discovering that about 85% of students at my desired undergraduate college were interested in the same major, I was conflicted. I knew that I wanted to specialize in the rehabilitative field and wanted to make a difference in people's lives. So I decided to go on the speech-language pathology track. I knew I wanted to work with children, but after being at Hofstra, I also realized how much I loved working with the adult community.
- What advice would you give Hofstra students?
I would advise Hofstra students to absorb as much information as they can while they’re at school. Hofstra prepared me to understand different conditions, the diversity within a specific diagnosis, and how every individual is different, and provided the plethora of background knowledge I needed, which gave me the foundation for my success. The background knowledge continues to support me day to day as a language pathologist.
For speech-language pathology graduate students, if you’re looking to go into the research end of the field, Hofstra is the best place for you!
- In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
Tough. It was two of the hardest years of my life in terms of education. However, I learned an incredible amount of information during that time and I became a better therapist because of it. I wouldn’t be the therapist I am today without the education that I received at Hofstra.
- What inspired you to start the Suffolk Center for Speech and Myofunctional Therapy?
During my clinical fellowship at Maryhaven Center for Hope, I received the opportunity to work part time in the Cold Spring Harbor School District two days a week, primarily doing articulation therapy, which then turned into a full-time leave replacement position. This eventually led to a tenure-track position in the Hauppauge School District. When I began at Hauppauge, the woman who was retiring took the time to create a seamless transition, especially for her tongue thrust students that she had referred to an outside therapist – a gentleman by the name of George Isserles. At the time, I did not have any idea what myofunctional therapy was, nor did not know what it was used for, except that it is used for patients that have a lisp. So, to understand it better and to understand the reason to make a referral, I reached out to George. We sat down for lunch and he identified characteristics that were associated with a tongue thrust, the types of patients that require myofunctional therapy versus that of traditional articulation oral motor therapy, and how myofunctional therapy is differentiated from traditional speech-language pathology; it requires additional training, but also it is considered more medically based, i.e., not something treated or addressed within an academic setting.
After that meeting, I wound up shadowing George for a few years until he was ready to sell his small practice. This was the steppingstone for the growth of the other seven locations that I built and own.
- What is the single most rewarding/exciting experience in your career thus far?
The most rewarding and exciting experience is seeing patients that come in with such significant needs and how their symptoms affect them socially, emotionally, and even sometimes physically, and then treating those patients and seeing them and their families succeed. We are only as successful as our successfully discharged patients.
It’s also rewarding when what we're doing is further supporting other medical professionals or other providers, so that our therapy program increases patient success in our own setting as well as in other aspects of their lives.
- How do you balance both work and life?
Balancing work and home life has definitely been more challenging, especially following the pandemic. This past year, I have worked harder than I have in a long time because I had to change my mindset and my approach to things. I had to change how our therapists were treating patients, conducting teletherapy, and making sure that we were changing with the times even when it came to social media and online virtual education.
Balancing work and home life is a challenge; however, I was lucky enough for my husband to retire early, which truly was the reason that I was able to continue to expand the practice, offer additional ways to target things, and increase my background knowledge. If my husband was not home with our daughter, it wouldn't have been something I could have done.
I do try to shut my brain off and stop reading emails and texts at a certain time each night, but my work is never done as a business owner. For me, specifically, my brain never stops. So even when I’m “not working,” I'm still thinking and researching ways to improve what we do on all fronts and ways to maximize the success of not just our patients but our therapists and offices as well.
- How has your specific work in myofunctional therapy advanced the practice on Long Island?
My mentor, George Isserles, was personally trained in myofunctional therapy by a gentleman by the name of Daniel Garliner, one of the pioneers in the field. George had definitely tweaked exercises, added a few exercises, etc. However, it was based on Daniel Garliner’s approach. At the time, my attorney thought I was insane to even consider purchasing a practice, never mind purchasing a practice that had nothing tangible that came with it. But at that time, myofunctional therapy was an approach that still was under a lot of scrutiny. Even the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) at the time was not a proponent of myofunctional therapy. However, during the years, I continued to expand my education, learning not only Daniel Garliner’s approach but the approach of the International Association of Orofacial Myology, as well as the Academy of Orofacial Myology (AOMT) and other supporting education programs such as PROMPT Therapy or the SOS program. Taking all that knowledge and years of research and studies, as well as my background knowledge acquired from Hofstra, allowed me to develop my own program for myofunctional therapy called S.P.O.T. (Speech Pathologist Oromyofunctional Therapy). This program is now trademarked and we are in the midst of patenting the process as well. All of our therapists are required to be trained using S.P.O.T. It is one-of-a-kind and unique only to my practice and the clinicians who work with me.
Additionally, I have provided a lot of lectures at Stony Brook dental schools and dental society meetings and have conducted lunch-and-learns to a large number of dental and orthodontic providers, so that they know what our program stands for and how it can benefit their patients.
- What does the future hold for the Suffolk Center for Speech and Myofunctional Therapy?
With the way the times are changing, we hope to continue to increase our social media presence through our current podcasts, interviews with different doctors, etc. We are working on some products that I've conceptualized for speech and myofunctional therapy, and taking the time to put it into production. I am also working on creating a virtual myofunctional therapy program so that we can reach patients beyond our eight locations. Hopefully, in this next stage we can have that much more of a presence in New York and continue to build that awareness through all of these new modalities, which allows us to reach the masses.
Janine Stiene (MA, CCC-SLP, TSHH) is a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP), teacher of the speech and hearing handicapped (TSHH), and trained myofunctional therapist with over 22 years of experience in New York. Janine's coursework beyond the MA is comparable to a doctorate without a dissertation.
Janine earned an undergraduate degree from Loyola University and graduated with an MA in Speech Pathology from Hofstra University. She began her career working as a clinical fellow at Maryhaven Center of Hope, while also working part time at Cold Spring Harbor Central School District. Soon after, Janine obtained a full-time position as an SLP in the Hauppauge School District.
In 2003, Janine purchased a privately owned, home-based speech practice. Since then, Janine has grown her company with eight locations. The Suffolk Center for Speech and Myofunctional Therapy, also known as Long Island Speech, is the largest privately owned, insurance-based speech pathology practice on the East Coast and the largest insurance-based myofunctional practice nationwide. Janine's exceptionally trained staff treat 1,700+ patients per week via teletherapy and in person.
Janine has enhanced the treatment for patients who need myofunctional therapy with her S.P.O.T. (Speech Pathologist Oromyofunctional Therapy) program. S.P.O.T. takes a holistic approach to remediate tongue thrust. S.P.O.T. is a unique treatment, and her therapists are required to be trained using this method. After years of experience and research, Janine's advanced program is in the process of being patented.
Janine credits her success to the foundation she received at Loyola and Hofstra University. She knew early in her education that she wanted to specialize in the rehabilitative field and help make a difference in people’s lives. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in speech pathology and a minor in special education, she knew that earning a master's degree was the next step. Janine applied to 29 graduate schools, and decided on Hofstra University.
"At Hofstra, the talent was unmatched. It was not an option to fail. It was a requirement to succeed," Janine said. When speaking to prospective students, Janine always advises them to find an institution that provides a diverse experience, to take challenging courses, and to keep an open mind.