When Speech pathologist Melissa Koppel, the chief speech pathologist at the University of Pennsylvania, first saw a photo of her on CNN, she thought she was looking at a caricature.
Koppel says she’s been working with children for years, and she sees an increase in speech impairments in younger children.
She believes that’s because they are exposed to the world at an earlier age, and it’s not as easy to understand when children hear a different language.
She has a new role as a speech pathology intern at the Cleveland Clinic, which she describes as “a wonderful place to be” and a chance to help children.
“We are trying to help our kids, because the world is going to change,” Koppels mother, Kristin Koppelman, tells PEOPLE.
“I think it is time for our society to take the leap and recognize that this is not a new problem for kids.”
Koppels father, Steven, agrees.
“The language they speak is a big part of it, but it is a much bigger part of what they do,” he says.
“It is about their relationship with their mother and their language.”
In addition to speaking, Koppelson has been teaching kindergarten through 12th grade at her clinic.
She is now also working with young people in their teens and 20s.
In fact, Koffel says, her first day of work is often a struggle to figure out what to teach their children.
“There’s not enough room for me to just give them one lesson,” she says.
The first thing she sees kids do is say, “Hello, my name is Melissa.”
That’s a big red flag for her.
“Then they’ll look at me like I’m crazy,” she explains.
“That’s a sign that their speech is severely impaired.”
So what can she do to help?
Koppela says she can teach the kids to speak, and then to explain to them the differences between English and their native language.
“They need to know that they’re in the middle of something different and something that they shouldn’t be doing,” she adds.
“But they also need to be able to communicate it.”
To learn more about speech pathologists, check out our comprehensive list of the top 5 occupations for speech pathologists, which includes:1.
Speech Pathologists and speech pathophysicists3.
Speech pathology technicians4.
Speech speech pathological technologists5.
Speech language pathologistsThe Huffington Post spoke to Koppler and Koppers parents about the job and what she sees in front of her.