SHERIDAN — Jo Lynn Andrews gathered with friends and family Sunday at the Powder Horn Golf Community Clubhouse to celebrate 41 years as a speech language therapist in Sheridan.
“Like we all say, we have the best job in the world because we get to play,” Andrews said, explaining that playing helps kids acquire language and other skills during early childhood.
Andrews and her husband, Bruce, moved to Sheridan in 1974 when Andrews finished graduate school at Ohio State University. She said she never thought their first stop post-school would be their last, but the two put down roots in the area and haven’t left. Their daughter teaches special education in Sheridan County School District 2, and their son, a singer and musician, lives in Austria. Andrews and her husband hope to visit him soon, now that they have the time.
Andrews, who retired from the Child Development Center in August, actually majored in political science as an undergrad at Ohio Wesleyan University. The one class she truly loved during those years, however, was not political theory or American politics but one about child development.
So she went back to school to get her master’s in a field that meant more to her.
“I really wanted to be in a career where I was working directly with people and making a difference that way,” Andrews said.
Since then, Andrews has been working with roughly 30 families at a time, visiting their homes and teaching their children — and them — how to build vocabulary into bath time and meals and how to adjust to their children’s developmental delays. She said most families expect their children will have language and learning capacities on par with other children their age.
“And so when these differences begin to become apparent, they’re just having to do a mental switch to how life is going to look for them,” Andrews said. “And like I said, for some people that’s not terribly significant, for others it’s life-changing.”
But working with the families has been one of the most rewarding parts of Andrews’ career, she said.
“Working with families, I think you have that opportunity to see real growth and hope and acceptance from the families,” she said. “They get to know other families in similar circumstances and they just enjoy their child as a child, often.”
Challenges in Andrews’ work included cumbersome paperwork and regulations that sometimes limited the services a family was eligible for.
Andrews sat wearing a blue polka-dot dress and bright red cardigan on Sunday at the Powder Horn.
“I have rarely worn a dress in this line of work, I’ll tell you,” she said, laughing. Andrews said it is important to wear comfortable clothes and be able to sit on the floor. “That’s where the kids are.”
What Andrews will miss the most about her work is the people — her students, their families and her coworkers. She said students’ families often taught her more than she taught them.
Andrews plans to stay active with children, visiting homes to do Medicaid case management. She also wants to read, garden, travel and spend time with friends and family.
“I’m just so fortunate that happened — that I picked something that I could love throughout my working career,” Andrews said, “because I have loved this work.”