Advocate, Leader, Therapist and Friend

Cheryl Buettemeier

Don’t tell Cheryl Buettemeier, Program Director at the Boyer Children’s Clinic, that her only job is to help the child.

“I love sharing with parents that my role not only involves working with the child, but also to be a resource for the entire family,” Cheryl stresses. “The most invaluable tool I can provide parents is to teach them how to be the best advocates for their child after they leave Boyer.”

And being an advocate and leader in the field of speech-language pathology is what Cheryl has been doing for the past 30 years for Boyer. But it was her own family challenges that led her to this special vocation.

“My father was a pharmacist, and when I was a teenager I worked in his drugstore. That’s the field I thought I would end up entering.”

But in 1978, Chery’s grandmother suffered a severe stroke. “Watching her recover had a significant impact on my life,” Cheryl remembers. “After my freshman year at University of Minnesota as a freshman, I decided to change my major from pharmacy to the sciences of speech and hearing.”

Cheryl’s passion for working with developmental delays in speech only grew deeper during her undergraduate studies. Upon graduation, she applied and was accepted into the prestigious Speech- Language Pathology Masters program at University of Wisconsin, Madison.

“My thesis included research in the area of Augmentative Communication for those with severe physical handicaps,” Cheryl says. “And when I started looking for my first job in the field, I was at a crossroads between choosing to work with adults or children. Ultimately, working with infants and preschool children with neuromuscular difficulties was where my heart was.”

In 1983, Cheryl and her husband, Mark, moved to Bellevue, WA where Cheryl started her role as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) at the Hope Clinic. But a year later, she learned about a position at Boyer and jumped at the opportunity.

“When I started at Boyer in 1984 there were only two speech-language pathologists and we hand-wrote all of our reports,” Cheryl remembers. “Things were very different back then. Parent participation wasn’t mandatory, so we had two and three year old children arrive at Boyer on a bus by themselves!”

Over the past 30 years, Cheryl has also seen quite a few changes in the Disability and Education Laws for for families with children with special needs. “There is much more paperwork that now comes with the job, but with that comes more attention and advocacy for government funding,” Cheryl says.

But the greatest change Cheryl has seen over the years hasn’t been in the government, but technology and the access to information families now have.

“In 1984, when I first started at Boyer, the first Macintosh computer came out,” Cheryl laughs. “And in the past, parents really trusted that I was the expert in their child’s early child education. Now, parents are highly-motivated and come to our appointments with articles printed from the internet. Parents come asking questions, which really helps them be the best possible advocates for their kids.”

In 1991, Cheryl was appointed to the position of Program Director at Boyer. Despite her added leadership and administrative responsibilities, Cheryl wanted to continue her hands-on role working with children as a SLP and helping families gain access to early intervention services.

“What makes Boyer special is that the services we provide are not only based on a medical model, but are very family-focused and relationship-based. Rather than utilize a “Primary Coach” model as many of the other early intervention agencies in the area do, Boyer provides a multi-disciplinary team approach which brings all of our available resources to the table for each child and family. It’s one of the reasons why am I so proud to be part of this organization,” Cheryl says.

“It’s hard to imagine Boyer Children’s Clinic without Cheryl”, says Gay Burton, Therapy Department Coordinator and Physical Therapist at Boyer for 25 years. “Her vision and commitment to providing comprehensive programs that are highly-individualized allows each child we serve to achieve their fullest potential. Cheryl’s hard work and dedication inspires our staff to constantly strive for excellence.”

“Cheryl’s dedication, commitment and sacrifices to the clinic are evident to all of us working with her,” continues Jennifer Thies, Family Support Services Department Coordinator at Boyer, who has worked with Cheryl for the past eight years. “She truly encourages a collaborative environment among her team and colleagues.”

Even after all these years, Cheryl continues to be inspired and challenged, both personally and professionally. In 2010, for example, Cheryl partnered with a mom who had given birth prematurely and needed support to help her baby who had a Nasogastric (NG) tube (feeding tubes to help premature babies and toddlers take in milk and medication, when they are unable to eat orally). Two years later, Cheryl and the mom partnered together to teach a workshop at the Infant & Early Childhood Conference in 2010 and 2011. Three years later, that same mother created an App for hospitals and parents to download, providing information on feeding challenges for infants and toddlers who need tube feedings.

“Cheryl’s history of leadership to this organization is the reason why she is this year’s recipient of Boyer’s North Star Award ,” shares Mike Stewart, Boyer’s Executive Director. “She has been an invaluable leader of our team, not only championing for the countless families over the years, but also through her role as a therapist, advocate and mentor, to the program staff and the special needs community.”

Cheryl’s work has influenced one very special person, in particular, close to home: her 23 year old daughter, Emily, has started her own career as a Special Education Teacher in Tacoma, WA. And when she’s not advocating for her families, leading a team of Family Resources Coordinators, or working with infants and toddlers with feeding and speech delays, Cheryl also spends her time singing in her church choir and accompanying her family to “star parties,” where amateur astronomers gaze at the sky with their telescopes.

“It’s a privilege to work with these families,” Cheryl says. “It’s so special to watch parents, who are at first dealing with a difficult diagnosis, become such strong and vocal advocates for their children. It’s a gift to watch these children become independent, strong individuals.”

On behalf of the countless families, colleagues and community members you have touched, thank you for your unending passion and commitment to providing the best solutions for every child and family that Boyer proudly serves.

Boyer’s North Star Award recognizes individuals, families and corporations for their outstanding leadership, community advocacy and sustaining support of Boyer Children’s Clinic. The Honoree is selected for their generous commitment to our organization, which not only serves as inspiration to today's Boyer community, but also creates a legacy of nurturing the lives of children with special needs and their families in the decades ahead.

Celebrate Cheryl at the 2014 Inspiring Journeys Auction

Please join us for a very special evening recognizng Cheryl's outstanding leadership, community advocacy and sustaining support of Boyer Children’s Clinic.

Join us at Inspiring Journeys Auction»

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