Speech Language Pathology Students Adapt and Read Books Catered to Children Who Are Medically Complex
The Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) program at New York Medical College (NYMC) prides itself on its ability to prepare graduates for a career in a health care setting. Providing community activities for students to interact with populations they could potentially treat in the future is an impactful strategy implemented by the SLP department. One of those activities includes the SLP adapted book project in collaboration with St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside, New York.
This “story time” exercise, as it is referred to by Stefanie Blanco, SLP.D., CCC-SLP, TSSLD, assistant professor of speech-language pathology, is a rotating experience in which students from the SLP program travel to St. Mary’s and read books to children with medically complex needs.
Prior to visiting St. Mary’s, SLP students adapt books to include specific communication-based supports before they read one-on-one to a patient. These books feature symbol-based communication tools and “target words,” which are words or phrases that are frequently used. Target words are often referred to as “core vocabulary words” and are repeated throughout the story. The goal is to help these patients develop emergent literacy skills, including locating pictures in stories and improving listening capabilities.
The adapted book exercise is extremely rewarding for all involved parties. The patients are provided a space to improve their literary and social skills amongst their peers. SLP students gain hands-on experience in a field they are passionate about while servicing an under-resourced community. Maddie Cheney, SLP Class of 2023 student, participates in story time once a week and says the experience aligns perfectly with her learning style.
“I learn best from hands-on experience, as opposed to learning in a classroom,” said Cheney. “While there is a plethora of information that is needed in a classroom setting to learn, hands-on opportunities with these children put everything into perspective. This is a great opportunity to work with children who are medically complex, while also having the support from our supervising SLPs.”
The SLPs responsible for supervising story time are all employed by St. Mary’s, including alumna Stephanie Waters, M.S. ’15, CCC-SLP. Waters credits NYMC for paving the road to where she is today and is enthusiastic about the relationship between two institutions that have had such an impact on her life.
“You notice the improvement of the patients and recognize the increased comfort in both the patient and NYMC student,” said Waters. “The patients show a slow but steady increase in social engagement and that’s very important. I see the faces of the patients light up when they see the NYMC students.”
Partnerships like this are designed to serve a need in the community and enhance the NYMC SLP student experience by preparing them for any health care setting as the speech-language pathologists of tomorrow.