Guest author: By Kyla Kennedy

“Being a therapist of any kind is usually a personal journey, and it was no different for me,” says Kathryn Wage of what led her to found Aspire Speech & Learning Center nearly 25 years ago.  At a young age, Kathryn’s mother was diagnosed with otosclerosis, a hereditary hearing disorder that prevents vibrations in the ear stimulated by sound. However, her mother was quick to cope with the reality of her degenerative hearing loss and adopted an early prototype of the hearing aid; the kind that you wore around your chest with wires connected up your coat to your ears. Every morning, she’d put on that equipment (which would often whistle feedback so loud you could hear it across the room) and find ways to thrive beyond the obstacles of her condition. Watching her mother earn her AA degree, work in a hospital for a majority of her career and raise five kids without letting her hearing loss stop her would illustrate for Kathryn what can be accomplished when a motivated individual is given the resources needed to succeed. 

Already being a remarkable woman that knows no bounds, Kathryn remembers the epiphany that occurred after her mother’s third attempt at advanced surgery to correct her condition. “It was like a miracle. Like turning on a switch,” she says. “Then there really was no stopping that woman! I mean, she went on to leadership positions, she created the 4-H Clubs in schools, she became a deacon at the church, she was President of the Parent Club..” the list goes on and on! Kathryn credits that turn of events as an excellent example of the importance of communication. 

However, it wasn’t until she was about half-way through college that Kathryn would discover her calling. She was living in a sorority house and studying at Fresno State when a professor came to dinner and asked for volunteers for a new Speech Pathology Department. At that point, she was asking herself whether she wanted to be a Biologist, or a Child Developmental Specialist, or maybe a Psychologist? She had nothing to lose by volunteering and, as Kathryn puts it she was hooked, “…I realised I could work with people, I could have the science that I love and it was driven by communication. It was the perfect package for me.” Right after graduating, Kathryn jumped into the field full-speed-ahead.

Aspire provides Speech-Language Therapy services for all ages and specialized tutoring for those who are in academic programs as a testament to people’s capability beyond the obstacles of communication barriers. Kathryn reflects on her own experience, “Living with a communication barrier gives you a great appreciation for the power and necessity of excellent communication skills.”  Knowing this, it’s no wonder that Kathyrn leads with passion and commitment to her philosophy that there is always a way to help someone improve their quality of life through communication. That dedication to improvement is seen in her impressive 40 years as a key resource to the Central Valley’s field of speech language pathology, during which time she taught many classes at both Fresno State and Fresno Pacific Universities, as well as introduced the most innovative techniques and practices for her clients’ success. 

Aspire Speech & Learning Center provides services that integrate treatments from a variety of disciplines while continually evolving the skills and tools available to the clinic to find the best possible methods for each individual, some of which are as young as 10 months old. “I never blame the kid,” she proclaims. “You have to look at the teaching before you blame the kid. I learned this because of my brother’s undiagnosed learning disability that mislabeled him as ‘lazy’ or ‘unmotivated’. He is quite brilliant and very successful, by the way, but still does not feel he is ‘smart’ (based on his experience in traditional schooling).” Kathryn and her team realize that teaching is not a one-size-fits-all approach; if you are struggling to understand what is missing from your loved one’s curriculum, or to learn more about the program and what Aspire can do for you, visit