Solace Blog


Helen Vradelis Discovered Her Passion for Pediatric Speech Therapy as a Teenager

Bilingual speech-language pathologist spent six months in Honduras as a member of the therapy team

New York native Helen Vradelis realized her passion for speech therapy at an early age. As a child, she attended a mixed general education/special education preschool and loved to be the “helper” in class.

“I experienced a lot of my own difficulties as a little one and was fortunate to have parents who got me into OT and worked so hard to accommodate my sensory and regulation needs,” adds Vradelis.

In high school, Helen completed her community service project at Special Equestrians, a therapeutic horseback riding stable located in Warrington, PA. The organization provides a variety of equine-assisted services for individuals with physical, cognitive, behavioral, emotional or traumatic stress disabilities. 

A particular case that left an impression on Helen during her work with Special Equestrians was a 40-year-old woman from a group home who required maximum support for her activities of daily living.

“I imagine that she had very little autonomy and control in her daily life, but when she got to the stables, her face lit up. With help, she groomed, tacked, rode, and managed this huge animal. I loved watching the therapists connect with our rides and I looked into OT, PT, and ST. Speech was my favorite! I fell in love at age 16 and never looked back; it’s shaped the person I’m becoming. I believe in service and feel that helping others communicate is my role as a human on this planet,” adds Vradelis.

A Passion for Pediatric Speech Therapy

While pursuing her undergraduate degree at Temple University in Philadelphia, Helen worked in a research lab for Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Children with this rare speech disorder have trouble controlling their lips, jaws and tongues when speaking. She also worked in a writing center with international students learning English, and served as a nanny for a family with two autistic children. 

She earned Bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and Communication Sciences and Disorders from Temple University, and achieved a certification in American Sign Language (ASL). 

Helen attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a focus on pediatric placements for Spanish-speaking children and Deaf children. She ran a storytelling camp for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children (DHH) and was involved with the Deaf community, as well as an ASL learning group led by Deaf students. 

Helen completed her clinical fellowship year at a bilingual school district with a DHH program outside of Chicago in Cicero, IL. After her CF year, she worked at an OT pediatric clinic specializing in attachment, sensory processing, regulation, and gross motor movement.

A bilingual speech-language pathologist at Solace Pediatric Healthcare for nearly five years, Helen now works mainly with Spanish-speaking families. 

“I love working in homes! In home health, the clinicians are the ones who have to be vulnerable and meet the family and child in their own setting. It’s rewarding to work with the family unit and to understand how therapy can fit into daily life.”

“I have always greatly enjoyed childrens’ energy, and I love connecting with them and their families. It is so special to see their joy and watch them grow. When you’re able to relate to them and things finally click, it’s one of the best feelings,” adds Vradelis. 

Volunteer Work in Honduras

Helen recently completed a six-month volunteer stint with a non-governmental organization called Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), Spanish for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters.” 

NPH provides care for children and communities across Latin America and the Caribbean, including Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Peru, and Bolivia. 

She lived at the main facility in Honduras, a place called ‘the ranch,’ which is about an hour outside the capital. The ranch raises children who cannot live with their families and cares for adults with disabilities. 

NPH Honduras houses around 200 children and the ranch includes: a farm with cows, horses, pigs, and chickens; an onsite clinic; a school for both ranch and community children; a kitchen that cooks three meals per day for 400-600 people; volunteer and visitor housing; and seven vocational workshops. A new therapy center is currently in the planning phase. 

Helen worked specifically with the therapy team, which included four Honduran OTs, a Honduran ST, and 2-3 volunteer therapists. Her patients spanned the age range (age 3-40) and included everything from articulation therapy to AAC implementation and education. She also provided direct therapy and worked a lot with materials development. 

“My time in Honduras was incredible and life-changing. I believe people in our line of work dream of places like the NPH Honduras Ranch. We hope that such a community can exist, despite the odds. It does, and it is beautiful,” adds Vradelis.

In her spare time, Helen enjoys camping, hiking and cycling. Helen and her partner are huge fans of board games.

“ We find board games are a great way to stay engaged and thinking outside of work, while still having fun and spending time together. Some of our heavier games take up to 45 minutes to teach!”

She notes her dad as her biggest inspiration. 

“He has struggled with many aspects of life and has done an incredible job of working and growing to overcome them. He has such love for his kids and wants to teach us everything he’s learned. As good as my patients’ hugs are, my dad’s are my favorite.”

Helen’s Three Tips for New Clinicians

  1. Find toys and activities that you have fun with, too! Joy is contagious.
  1. Be vulnerable with your families. Relationships are everything and the best change and growth come from a place of openness and shared space.
  1. Reach out to co-workers. This can be a very isolated position and support is essential in such an emotionally challenging job. We’re here for you!

Contact Us

Solace Pediatric Healthcare is proud to be a part of the Care Options for Kids Community, the leading provider of pediatric nursing, family caregiver, occupational, physical, speech, and feeding therapy services. Since 2005, our clinicians have provided pediatric care to children from birth to 21 years of age. At Care Options for Kids, we’ve instilled a culture built on trust, communication, teamwork, and accountability.

We’re always looking for passionate individuals to join our growing team. To view our complete list of job openings, simply, visit the Careers section on our website. 

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