AHS News

Distinguished Alumni Award winner John Consalvi

A Few Minutes With John Consalvi

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.

Click here to see the full transcript.

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.

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