The adage, “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met,” aptly sums up the attitude of Sheila Hostetler, speech-language pathologist in rehabilitative services. As an avid traveler who has visited dozens of cities and countries in 6 continents, Sheila’s philosophy is to walk around and meet local people. It’s taught her a lot about herself and started many friendships. She brings this same sense of adventure and confidence to her job, too, coaxing her young patients along as they work to overcome a speech or language disorder. Then, when the child shows a parent or caregiver their progress, Sheila celebrates as enthusiastically as their families.
After 16 years at Children’s, Sheila has a new journey on the horizon: retirement on Dec. 31. She looks forward to trading her work commute for new voyages that include trips to the Italian Riviera and the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada. In the not-too-distant future, she also wants to return to Australia, a country where she lived for 6 years, to see her mates Down Under.
What brought you to Akron Children’s?
I was happily living on my own in St. Louis, Missouri, where I worked as a speech-language pathologist in St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s neurological rehab unit. When my mother died, I tried to convince my dad, who was 81, to move to St. Louis. But he considered Ohio the best place in the world to live and wouldn’t leave. Instead, I decided to move. I found the Children’s speech pathologist job posted online, applied for it and was hired.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
I started out as a staff speech-language pathologist. When the day rehab program started, I joined that team. Six years ago, I moved to inpatient rehab when that program began. That area is a big love of mine because of how quickly the kids progress.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
I started the hospital’s augmentative communication program along with Angela Trager, an occupational therapist who previously worked here. The program, which is still flourishing today, helps children who can’t speak or whose speech is severely impaired learn to use their augmentative communication devices.
How has Akron Children’s changed since you started here?
We’ve increased the number of outpatient locations where speech and language, occupational and physical therapies are offered, making it more accessible to more patients and their families.
What gave you the most satisfaction at work?
I enjoy working with kids in inpatient rehab. These children have had a neurological or musculoskeletal illness or injury, such as cerebral palsy, a stroke, traumatic brain injury or brain tumor. It’s rewarding to see how quickly kids can improve.
What’s your most memorable moment at Akron Children’s?
Anytime I get to work with a child who hasn’t been able to talk and they start voicing and saying words again, that’s exciting. A lot of times, their parents will observe their children showing off their newfound skills. It’s entertaining and something we celebrate.
With so many little children here, did someone especially touch your heart?
I remember working with a child who had a traumatic brain injury. I worked with her for years, first in the day program and then as an outpatient until she entered high school. She was quite a character, mostly because she wasn’t always socially appropriate, which made our sessions interesting.
What do you look forward to the most in retirement?
I look forward to decluttering my house. My aunt lives with me and between her stuff, my stuff and my deceased dad’s stuff, that is going to be a lot of work! In addition to traveling, I also love to read and knit. I’ll also continue as an organist at my church.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I like to workout on Saturday mornings, then eat lunch at Beyesly’s Restaurant in North Canton. Later, I enjoy watching sports, especially the Iowa Hawkeyes and Cleveland Indians, or maybe going out with friends to concerts or a Playhouse Square show.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Enjoy the ride!
What couldn’t you live without?
My cats, Skye and Kip, who I got from a rescue organization in North Canton.
What’s the last book you read?
“Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover