Building communication skills for kids

Portrait of Carly Sweeney and Sarah Todd standing outside smiling.
Speech therapists Carly Sweeney, left, and Sarah Todd  are partners in Uptown Speech Therapy, a practice that focuses  on developing communication skills with children through one-on-one, specialized lessons and instruction.

arah Todd envisioned more for the Mt. Lebanon community when it came to speech therapy offerings. A speech therapist herself, the Mt. Lebanon native—who lived everywhere from Baltimore to Seattle as an adult—knew that if and when she moved back to the area she wanted to open a private practice.

While living in Charlotte, she bumped into fellow Mt. Lebanon High School graduate and speech therapist Carly Sweeney and tossed out the idea of the two someday working together.

In the last year, Todd moved back to Crescent Drive in Mt. Lebanon so that she and her husband, Tommy, could raise daughters Winnie and Etta in the community where they both grew up. Todd ran into Sweeney in the produce section at  Trader Joe’s. After a long conversation there—and numerous meetings at Uptown Coffee—they opened Uptown Speech Therapy, an in-home pediatric speech therapy practice that focuses on the individual needs of its students, along with educating and empowering parents to take the reins.

“It’s really all-encompassing. We’re here for our community and we want to give back,” said Sweeney, who lives on Greenhurst Drive with her husband Eric and their dog, Lola.

Each 45-minute therapy session is focused on a child’s individual needs. They tap into what the child likes to make it fun, which makes them excited to participate.

“We want to be your child’s best friend. They think we are super fun. We target all of their goals, focused on what they love. If your child loves Legos, you can bet that I’m bringing Legos and we’re building Legos, but we’re going to work on all of your goals, language and articulation, and then we always make sure we take 10-15 minutes involving parents,” Todd said.

They see themselves as a child’s “ultimate cheerleader,” Sweeney added.

“We’re going to make them feel so great about themselves that, in turn, it will also result in our therapeutic outcomes and we’re going to see more success that way,” she said.

By offering in-home therapy, they’re immersing themselves in the children’s lives. They get to know the families and can hone in on and target a child’s immediate needs.

Long term, their goal is to be more than a speech therapy practice. They want to become what Todd calls a “parent empowerment program.”

“We believe in what we do so much and we want to share that with others,” Sweeney said. “At the end of the day, when the community is succeeding, we’re succeeding. We want to give back to the community that has given so much to us.”

For more on Uptown Speech Therapy, visit

Photography by John Schisler