The most important thing to know about speech therapist Jeannette Kahn is that she really, really loves her job. She loves finding the right treatment plan for the children she works with, and she loves watching her patients develop essential communication and life skills. She loves seeing kids reach their potential. When she talks about her work, she breaks unconsciously into a warm smile and sits up a bit straighter.
“I could never imagine myself doing another thing in my life,” says Kahn, as we sit in her office, which is furnished with two child-sized tables, a play kitchen, kids’ books, and a box of Play-Doh.
Kahn’s passion comes to life at North Shore Children’s Therapies, a thriving speech and occupational therapy practice in Peabody that allows her and her staff to offer the compassionate, high-caliber care she believes in over the course of more than 14,000 appointments every year.
Despite Kahn’s current dedication, though, she didn’t always dream of being a speech therapist. In fact, she initially came to her profession through a series of fortunate events.
During her sophomore year at Boston University, Kahn had not yet decided on a major. She always loved kids and found it easy to build rapport with them, but hadn’t settled on a career plan. Then one day, she struck up a conversation with another student in an elevator. The other woman said she planned to become a speech therapist and, as she described the field, it dawned on Kahn that she too would enjoy such work.
She decided to apply for transfer to the College of Health within the university, with the goal of studying speech and language pathology. When she contacted the office, however, she discovered she had missed the deadline by one week. But, in another stroke of luck, the application period had just been extended by a week. Kahn got her transfer.
Opening Her Practice
After completing her bachelor’s degree, Kahn earned a master’s at Northwestern University, and then began working as a speech therapist in public and private school settings. Eventually, though, she realized that her temperament was not ideally suited to working for other people and following their standards. “I am a perfectionist and a control freak,” she says, “and I really, really believe in super-high-quality care.”
So in 2010, she launched her own practice. Initially, it was just her in a small office on Route 1 in Peabody, but as interest grew, she added more therapists. In 2015, the practice added an occupational therapy department. Today, 19 full- and part-time therapists work in the office. And they are kept busy—there is currently a wait list for new patients.
As she expanded, the growing practice bounced from office to office in the same building. The space it occupies today includes a stretch of hallway lined with individual offices, each labeled with a therapist’s name written blackboard. Busy with managing the practice, Kahn herself has taken one of the smaller offices, yielding up the larger, brighter spaces to therapists who spend more time with patients.
At North Shore Children’s Therapies, practitioners are open to a wide range of strategies and create custom treatment plans tailored to the needs of each child. But the importance of play is a central tenet of the practice’s philosophy, Kahn says. Play is far more than just fun, she adds; it lets kids try on different behaviors and scenarios, and it teaches flexibility and the ability to develop your thinking along with a situation. It helps develop peer relationship skills and communication abilities. “Everything that’s fundamental to building a happy and meaningful life has its roots in play,” she says.
Kahn last year took on a partner to help with the business side. This move will help her continue to expand smoothly while still allowing her to focus on what means the most to her: the kids. “I love treating,” she says, “and never want to give it up.”