About Michelle

Michelle L. W. Dawson, MS CCC-SLP, CLC is a speech-language pathologist, fierce advocate, certified lactation consultant, best-selling author, world-traveling speaker, top-ranking podcast host, and your toddler’s best buddy. Michelle has a deep passion for helping those affected by pediatric feeding disorders and the professionals who serve this population.

Michelle earned her Master’s of Science degree in Communicative Sciences and Disorders from James Madison University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude. Upon completion of her degree, she accepted a position as the first full-time SLP in the history of Riverside Walter Reed Hospital. Michelle has since worked as an Early Intervention Speech-Language Pathologist in the homes of hundreds of families as well as her private practice, focusing on the treatment of medically fragile and complex etiology cases. In order to treat her younger patients more holistically, Michelle became a Certified Lactation Consultant along with her continuing education in speech pathology that earned her seventh ACE Awards.

During the height of the pandemic, Michelle joined Francis Marion University, joyfully serving as the Coordinator Clinical Education and Clinical Assistant Professor for the Master in Speech-Language Pathology Program. She founded the first Pediatric Feeding and Swallowing Clinic at the university level in South Carolina history. Through this endeavor, she helped shape the next generation of SLPs to embrace an interdisciplinary approach to evidence-based practice to best serve those affected by pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders. For this endeavor, she was awarded the 2021 Louis M. DiCarlo Award for Clinical Achievement from the South Carolina Speech, Language, and Hearing Association and the 2021 State Clinical Achievement Award from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Most recently, Michelle has joined Therapeutic Designs and Services, Inc, in Hartsville, SC, part-time, so that she could fully embrace a healthy work-life balance! She can be found treating pediatric patients Monday through Wednesday, with a focus on addressing the needs of individuals with complex medical backgrounds requiring pediatric feeding, swallowing, and AAC intervention, all via interprofessional practice with the dynamic OTs and PTs found there. Thursdays and Fridays are dedicated to bridging the gap between research to practice by recording new episodes of “First Bite”, often with her co-host Erin Forward, MSP CCC-SLP, CLC, and world-renowned speakers from different disciplines. Michelle’s mission is to bring current evidence-based practice directly to the treating clinician in an easily digestible format…pun intended!

Michelle is an accomplished lecturer who has written and given numerous lectures (far too many to list) on topics across the continuum of care of pediatric feeding disorders everywhere from South Carolina to Alaska to the Caribbean. She hosts the acclaimed weekly PodCourse “First Bite: Fed, Fun, Functional”, which addresses best practices for the Pediatric Clinician in Early Intervention and Home Health along with a few limited-episode series.

In 2021, Michelle released her first book, Chasing the Swallow: Truth, Science, and Hope for Pediatric Feeding and Swallowing Disorders which debuted at #1 on Amazon in the audiology & speech pathology category and has sold in 6 countries. This instant hit “dispels the myth that behavioral feeding aversions are the most common source of a child’s refusal to eat. Michelle guides the reader on how to uncover the true medical etiology driving their patient’s pediatric feeding disorder by engaging in interprofessional education and practice with the care team. Chasing the Swallow serves as a compass rose on how to make your professional voice heard in the process of creating a holistic village, embracing a variety of members from allied health to nonprofit community support, for each individual child’s journey. In true Michelle fashion, readers are inspired to lean in and take the next step to advocate for each infant, toddler, and child on their caseload, all while laughing through her relatable and heartfelt personal experiences.”

She holds the belief that if one wishes to see a change in the world, then they should be the source of that change. As such, Michelle has made a positive change in South Carolina through her volunteer efforts with the South Carolina Speech-Language and Hearing Association where she has served 6 years in multiple leadership positions including President and Convention Chair. In addition, she has been a champion of nonprofits and the under-served through her work with Feeding Matters.

When Michelle is not revolutionizing the pediatric SLP world, she’s a wife and a mom to Pack Dawson. Her husband of 10 years, Christian, and her two boys, “Goose” and “Bear” are the real center of her world. (I also have Chewbacca and Miss Dogwood). She is an avid gardener, knitter, collector of thimbles, and baker of all things delectable…with Christmas Cookies being a personal Pack Dawson favorite.

Leadership, Recognition, & Publications

Testimonials

We truly can’t say enough good things about Michelle Dawson and the work she’s done with our 2 ½-year-old son. She began feeding therapy with him when he was only 2 months old, teaching us how to safely feed our fragile boy without making his health issues worse. Oliver was born with a congenital heart defect as well as Down Syndrome. He was never able to latch for breastfeeding and bottle feeding didn’t come easy to him either, especially for the first 6 months of life before his open-heart surgery. We’ve had to face many, many hospitalizations and additional diagnoses, but Michelle has always been a constant support to us- a wealth of knowledge when it comes to anything feeding-related, always thoroughly and patiently answering any questions we have. And most importantly, she has been a friend, consistently in our corner, and always one of Oliver’s biggest cheerleaders!

Parent

We have been through a few Speech Therapists and no one can work with Ben as Michelle does. He has come leaps and bounds with his speech. The pediatrician used the words “amazing” and “phenomenal.” Ben hated speech therapy until “my Michelle” came along. He absolutely loves her and it will be bittersweet when he no longer needs speech therapy. I’m so glad we were lucky enough to snag her. She has been a blessing and we will always consider her a forever friend.

Parent

Michelle has been an amazing speech therapist for us! We were referred to Michelle after NICU for speech to help with dysphagia and suck & swallow reflexes.  A year ago our daughter wasn’t able to eat or drink anything by mouth and now has drastically improved and can eat some solid foods by mouth.  Our last speech therapist was pretty good with treatment, but Michelle goes above & beyond. Now we can go to inclusive speech clinics at MUSC, and have gotten tons of advice on feeding & aversions. We have also received tons of medical advice from Michelle’s research and lectures that resonate on a broader scale; cognitively, a sensory approach, and food-age (coined by Michelle) that can communicate to us in a way we understand. The support we have gotten as parents of a special needs child from Michelle has helped us so much transitioning into new stages, available resources, and emotional support even.  We can’t say enough good things about Michelle and always look forward to our weekly therapy session!

Parent
“The way that you care for your clients and their families is so commendable. You spread so much light and positivity to every family you work with and that does not go unnoticed. You go beyond therapy to advocate and fight for your clients in such a large variety of ways.”
Chelsea V., Columbia College

We were referred to Michelle by the NICU, after my son was born at 27 weeks. He had a difficult time grasping how to latch on to the bottle. Michelle came in and made feedings smoother and less stressful. She is dedicated and compassionate about what she does. She explained the how’s and why’s of the methods used and it worked! Now he is drinking bottles with no problem, and eating from a spoon like a champ!!

Parent
“When I was shadowing Mrs. Dawson I learned that therapy can be given to children using regular household items which gives therapy a more natural feel for the child. I also found that it takes a great deal of kindness and patience in order to make the children comfortable and willing to work with you, but once they relaxed they would flourish. With the right care and compassion I could see an improvement in a child’s demeanor and ability improve throughout each session I watched.”
Chandler R., Clemson University

Michelle is a bubbly, delightful, and very knowledgeable SLP. She is very passionate about her field and the “tiny humans “ she works with. It’s always such fun to have her over to work with my infant daughter and we have seen amazing progress in our daughter’s eating abilities since starting with Michelle. She equips and encourages parents and children very well.

Parent

Michelle started working with my son when he was just over 2 following a pediatrician referral for Early Intervention. He could sign a little, but only spoke a limited number of words. She was patient, supportive and got to know him to better engage his curiosity and interests. She used that information to make his verbal growth fun and exciting for him. He loved her visits every week! They both smiled the entire session :) ​​She was a huge advocate for our family, pushing every medical avenue and exploring various techniques to help us. Without her perseverance, we likely would never have found out my son was suffering from severe silent reflux and that was keeping his larynx from proper development. We got started on appropriate medical care and now, we can’t get him to stop talking.

Parent

Have you ever heard of an angel on earth? Well, I have and Michelle Dawson is the real-life thing. This woman is a genius when it comes to helping kiddos with pediatric feeding disorders and swallowing difficulties. Her thought process and expertise are truly given to her by a higher calling! Her book and her desire to save those in need have inspired me in so many ways. Not only is she chasing the swallow but she’s chasing a major change. This change is to help every kid and their family have a voice when others refuse to listen or are misdiagnosed. This is an awesome person who truly advocates for all those who she may encounter. It’s truly an honor to have someone like her in your corner. If you are looking for someone who will not stop until they find a solution Michelle Dawson is that very special someone!

Tinaya M., Francis Marion University

Not even sure how to start on what a blessing this woman has been to our lives. She is technically our 3rd speech therapist to work with my daughter Annalise and has made more progress than any of the others combined in less time. After working with Michelle for less than a year our sweet girl is eating finger foods, has learned to chew, and is willing to take purees! She also is finally starting to be willing to try using a straw which was something she was absolutely terrified about previously. In the short time Michelle has entered our family, Annalise can sign over 10 signs and can verbalize 10 words and several two-word phrases (before, she could verbalize maybe 4 words.) Michelle helped us to find a sign language camp which has helped our family beyond words and she has also helped open doors for Annalise to find doctors to diagnose several health issues that have improved her overall life by leaps and bounds. Michelle has helped us overcome a reflux issue, an aspiration problem nobody else believed was going on to begin with, and is helping us navigate our new world with Celiac disease paired with Hirschsprungs disease.

Michelle continues to fight for better choices for Annalise with her dietary restrictions and helps us come up with new and creative ways to help her learn to eat, speak and sign. She has gone from a speech therapist to a member of our family who I truly feel blessed to have in our lives. Michelle became our game-changer with Annalise’s development in so many ways and continues to amaze me with her skill and compassion. Having a therapist you know truly loves your children, not only her patient but her patients’ siblings is very hard to find. She has become a real friend and I know she will always listen to my gut feelings with Annalise and never just blow me off. She takes what my husband and I say and feel to heart. She thinks outside of the box, and she doesn’t ever give up, when one thing doesn’t work, she simply finds a new thing to try. We couldn’t be more grateful to have her as our daughter’s speech therapist and we can never thank her enough for all she has done and continues to do.

Parent

“Michelle, quite simply, is Superwoman. From providing skilled therapy to advocating for policy changes to lecturing on best practices across the country, she does it all, and she does it with more skill and passion than anyone I have ever met. Michelle uses the latest research, her clinical expertise, and each family’s values to guide her practice, so rest assured that your child is receiving individualized, high-quality treatment. Watching her interact with families and their children is inspiring, and I have become a better clinician (and person) because of my time spent with her. Thank you for everything that you do, Michelle. You are the Eighth Wonder of the World.”

Erin V., University of South Carolina

We have found our needle in the haystack with Michelle. She stays up to date with research. She truly cares about her patients. She works toward the goals that will improve your quality of life, not just look good on a report. She is always on time and her appointment with you is a priority. She is passionate about her work. She will advocate for your child. She will be your biggest cheerleader. I cannot say enough good things about Michelle Dawson, how she has changed our lives, and the joy she brings into our home when we get to work with her.

Parent

Michelle has been working with my daughter for the past couple of years and it is unbelievable the progress she has made. Now she won’t stop talking! She has also gone from 100% tube feeding to 100% feeding by mouth. We are so thankful for her progress! Michelle works super hard to advocate for her complex little patients. She has been a blessing to our family and we would recommend her to anyone!

Parent

Michelle has been a gift to our family and we are so thankful to have her as our feeding therapist. Her expertise and passion are unparalleled. My son has a congenital heart defect and a complex medical history. He used to take bottles and after an extensive hospitalization with many complications, he had a g tube placed to ensure adequate nutrition. Eventually, he stopped taking bottles altogether and we weren’t getting anywhere with a solution or a cause despite my persistence with other medical professionals involved in his care. We got connected with Michelle and through her immense expertise, in turn, sought out answers from a wonderful ENT doctor. We finally discovered there was vocal cord paresis that was impacting both feeding and his speech. I feel certain we would not have been able to discover this issue, manage it appropriately, and in turn make steady progress with both feeding and speech as we have been without Michelle. She is simply the best!

Parent

Michelle is so amazing with kids! She is so intuitive with things going on, and can put all of the pieces of the puzzle together to help me see the bigger picture! She has helped us with speech breakthroughs and seek a diagnosis I wasn’t even aware of. I wholeheartedly recommend Michelle without reservation! She is making a huge positive impact on the lives of children! Our family is so thankful!

Parent

“My graduate practicum placement at HeartWood Speech Therapy was nothing short of incredible. Michelle thoroughly explains everything she does with her patients and backs it up with evidence from the literature. I learned more in my eight weeks riding shotgun with Michelle than I ever imagined possible. The way Michelle interacts with her patients, families, and colleagues is something every aspiring SLP should witness. Any student who gets to learn from Michelle will be set up for success in the future.”

Maggie S., University of South Carolina

One of the greatest reasons I so admire Michelle is her constant desire and passion to learn more and teach others. Because of her expertise in swallowing disorders she was able to recognize some abnormal signs in Oliver that no other medical professional had previously commented on. Ollie has had very evident swallowing difficulties and constant stridor (wheezing sound caused by disrupted airflow due to an issue with the larynx or trachea) basically since birth. Michelle began to suspect that he may have something called laryngomalacia or a laryngeal cleft (defects of the larynx). Neither of these is an especially common diagnosis and we of course had never heard of either of them. But she was right!

Oliver was ultimately diagnosed with both of these defects as well as a third, tracheomalacia (defect of the trachea). He had surgery for the laryngomalacia and having that repaired has helped substantially with his weight gain and overall growth and development! I feel sure that without Michelle’s expertise and diligence, Oliver would still not be diagnosed with any of these defects today, thus failing to grow or meet milestones and would be more fragile than he already is today. Our family will be forever grateful to her for that. And lastly, she makes therapy so fun for him! Lots of songs, signing and silly sounds to encourage his speech! Again, our family can not say enough good things about this wonderful speech therapist!

Parent