In life, being able to communicate effectively is key.

However, some children have started out their lives facing communication challenges that prevent them from sharing their message in a way everyone is able to understand.

Into that reality are those whose job is assisting students in developing their communication skills, and one who is serving in that role for the Redwood Area School District is Amelia Palokangas.

Palokangas, who has some experience working in the local district on the paraprofessional level, has now moved in to a new role as a special/language pathology educator, as she assists students who are struggling with everything from the ability to articulate to those who are unable to make certain sounds.

Palokangas, who is originally from Virginia, Minn., earned a speech language pathology assistant (SLPA) degree from Lake Region State College in North Dakota and later earned a degree in communication disorders from Eastern New Mexico University, but she did not begin her life planning to work in the field of speech/language pathology.

“I came to it by chance,” said Palokangas, adding she was serving as a paraprofessional in a school district and was offered the chance to help fill a need for the school while she earned her degree in that area of study.

Palokangas brings experience as an SLPA with her to the new role at RASD, and is putting that experience to use as she serves a number of students at various grade levels in the district.

Although her office is located at Reede Gray, and that is where the majority of her caseload exists, Palokangas said she does also work with older students.

“I like working with students,” said Palokangas, adding the chance she has to help them see success is very rewarding for her.

Some of the students she works with are only with her for a short period of time, while others may be with her throughout the entire school year. It all depends on what they need.

All of those needs addressed through the speech/language program are delineated in an individual education plan.

Students who meet with Palokangas are referred to her, and those referrals can come from a teacher, a physician or even from a parent, she said. 

Palokangas said things are going well in her new role in the Redwood Area school District, adding she is glad to be back.

When she is not serving students, Palokangas likes to spend time with her family, including her husband, Preston, who is a counselor for the Cedar Mountain School District, as well as their children, Eden and Kain. She also enjoys being active playing sports like volleyball and kickball.