Katie Vandervalk, MS, CCC/SLP

A few years ago, I “retired” from the public schools, and opened Through the Trees, LLC: Executive Function and Social Communication Skill Coaching for All Ages.

Role: Speech/Language Pathologist, Coach, and Owner

Hometown: Reston, VA

Education: B.S. Communication Disorders, UMass Amherst, 1999
M.S. Speech-Language Pathology, Univ. of Utah, 2003
Certified Anxiety Rehabilitation Service Provider, 2019
Certified ADHD Professional, 2020

Favorite Book: One Child by Torey Hayden

Hobby: Mountain Biking

Experience in the Field

My husband and I always joke that he was my first client. We met in college, and I was immediately fascinated by his ability to live in the moment, without much thought or worry about what would happen later. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but over the years it became obvious to both of us that he has ADHD. I mention this because throughout my years working as an SLP in the public schools, I often had students on my caseload who reminded me of the kind of kid my husband must have been: a super smart, disorganized, kind, impulsive, fun-loving, and sometimes disaster of a kid. While working in the schools, I noticed that kids like this would often have academic supports for reading, writing, or math, but that their executive functioning (EF) issues were not typically addressed. I also noticed that, depending on the severity of their EF weaknesses, sometimes a classroom assistant would be assigned to help them keep track of their assignments or give them reminders to stay on task. I would watch and wonder to myself, “What if, instead of doing it for them, we taught them how to do it for themselves?”

Also, during my years in the public schools, I observed students who, while thriving academically, could not quite navigate the social expectations of the school day. This was especially true as students got older because, certainly, what a second-grade peer is willing to overlook, changes significantly in fourth, sixth, or tenth-grade. I noticed that students with social communication challenges would struggle during the less structured parts of their school day, like recess or lunch, and their peers would become tired of dealing with their big reactions to small problems or their high intensity interests. I felt like those socially challenged kids needed different supports, ones that included direct coaching to learn how to put themselves in another person’s shoes and to learn how to think and wonder about the people around them.

Today, our overall goal at Through the Trees is to provide real, functional, and evidence-based coaching to kids, adolescents, and adults with executive functioning or social communication challenges. We do this in person, either individually or in small groups, as well as via telehealth.