A Few Minutes With John Consalvi
- College of Applied Health Sciences
- University of Illinois
- John Consalvi
- Speech and Hearing Science
- Speech-language pathology
- Distinguished Alumni Award
Vince Lara in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois spoke with John Consalvi, winner of the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award and a graduate of the speech and hearing science department at AHS.
VINCE LARA: This is Vince Lara in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois. Today I spent a few minutes with John Consalvi, winner of the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award and a graduate of the speech and hearing science department at AHS. I asked John what sparked his interest in language pathology.
JOHN CONSALVI: My father was an immigrant, and he acquired English as a second language. So I always saw-- you know, people always assume that he wasn't as great as he was because he couldn't communicate as well in English. And I always thought that was kind of fascinating.
We sometimes judge people on their language skills when it might just be that they're acquiring a new language. I also saw a lot of students that were struggling to communicate when I was in grade school. And I thought, hm, that's kind of interesting. I didn't really want to be a teacher when I thought maybe clinically, there was something that I could do to assist the students.
VINCE LARA: What made you pick Illinois?
JOHN CONSALVI: Well, my mentor, Joan Good Erickson, wrote one of the-- I think it was the first book on serving bilingual and multicultural children with disabilities. So she was here, and I came and saw the program. And I told her and other people that I was interested in becoming a bilingual speech language pathologist.
And the University of Illinois was totally welcoming and supportive of me. They loved the fact that I was doing something different, that I was thinking outside the box, I guess. And they welcomed me into the grad program.
VINCE LARA: And why Spanish?
JOHN CONSALVI: I believe that it seemed practical that the largest population in our country, second to English, was Spanish-speaking. And I did live in a suburb that was close to communities of Spanish-speaking children. And I think I identified with those children and that population. And it was a population that I think was misunderstood and needed more sophisticated and better quality services in the realm of education and speech language pathology.
VINCE LARA: Now, the company you own now, which is Sped--
JOHN CONSALVI: SPEDXchange.
VINCE LARA: SPEDXchange?
JOHN CONSALVI: Yes.
VINCE LARA: OK, so SPEDXchange-- it focuses on services to special needs students, correct?
JOHN CONSALVI: Well, SPEDXchange is a platform to help get answers on any question related to special education, speech language pathology, occupational therapy for school settings. The concept is that we have a community of people that can answer questions that have been posed to the community.
And it might be in any of a number of realms. Could be parents. It could be new clinicians looking for a therapeutic idea. It could be somebody wondering about special education law. Could be an administrator looking to figure out how to best hire clinicians for their department. So it's really a platform that special educators will use to improve services and expand their knowledge and build more of a networking relationship with their peers.
VINCE LARA: Gotcha. Now, this award-- what does it mean to you to come back and receive an award like that?
JOHN CONSALVI: Wow. I mean, it means a lot to me. I love the University of Illinois. It was a huge part of my education. My daughter is a student here. You know, it's like having a home. Like, coming back to the University of Illinois really is like having a home base.
I did a lot of challenging things, dangerous things when I left the University of Illinois. I went to work in an orphanage in Guatemala. There was still a civil war there. I spent some time in Nicaragua and El Salvador at that time working with populations, trying to make their lives better.
And that really kind of-- getting back here safe and sound and starting my career really makes this more meaningful to me because I made the decision to go and work abroad and take these challenges at the University of Illinois. And then when I left, I was kind of alone. So coming back as a professional and supported was just the best thing and means a lot to me.
VINCE LARA: My thanks to John Consalvi. This has been A Few Minutes With.