Molly Farrell, M.A. '14, Inspired To Help Others After Life-Changing Injury
By Tony Scott

Molly Farrell
Molly Farrell, M.A. '14, survived a spinal cord injury at 13 and was inspired
to help others. (Photo: Tandem Photography of Door County)

After Molly Farrell, M.A. ’14, survived a serious spinal cord injury at only 13 years old, the odds were stacked against her. But with support from healthcare professionals, she thrived and was inspired to help others.

“I was told I had less than a one percent chance of ever walking or using my hands again, but thanks to all my physical and occupational therapists, I am walking with forearm crutches today,” Farrell said. “All of my therapists helped me so much and I wanted to help others like they helped me. I am currently a speech-language pathologist and helping others.”

Farrell credits NIU with helping her reach her professional goals.

“I wouldn't be where I am without NIU,” she said. “The knowledgeable professors and clinicians taught me so much and helped me develop into the therapist I am today.”

Farrell currently works with elementary school students who have a variety of speech and language needs.

“My day consists of seeing nine to 11 groups of students for a half-hour each,” she said. “I typically work with groups of two to three students at a time and we work on different skills depending on the needs of the students. I mostly work on different grammar concepts, listening comprehension tasks, articulation strategies, and social skills.”

Farrell decided to attend NIU for her master’s degree after visiting the campus and meeting the staff.

“I was very impressed by the Speech-Language Pathology program and the clinic,” she said. “I also appreciated how accessible the campus was for those with disabilities.” 

Farrell made numerous strong connections during her time at NIU, including many friendships within her cohort. She recently stood up in one of her classmates’ weddings.

“I loved my time at NIU,” she said. “I was able to learn from so many incredible professors and clinicians. I formed friendships with my classmates that I still have today, but most importantly, I found my passion for speech therapy. If I hadn't attended NIU, I wouldn't have been able to achieve my goal of helping others.” 

Farrell said her personal and professional mantra that kept her going was, “Never give up!”

“When I found out that I had a less than one percent chance of ever walking again, I did not let that stop me. Instead I used that to motivate me to fight even harder,” she said. “I set that goal of walking out of rehabilitation, and I met it because I didn’t give up and I kept fighting. How about when I didn’t get the score I wanted on the GRE? I signed up to retake it and studied even more; I didn’t give up. Or how about when I started working at a skilled nursing facility after graduation and really didn’t like it, even questioned if I was a good speech-language pathologist? I applied for different jobs in other settings and found my place as an elementary school speech-language pathologist and have been there ever since for 10 years! I did not give up!”

Farrell also said we should embrace the tragedies in life.

“Who knows if I hadn’t gotten hurt, would I even be here today working as a speech-language pathologist?” she said. "We all have tragedies in our lives, but it is how we take those tragedies and learn from them that changes our lives.”