Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Screams of joy could be heard for blocks by SC State students and citizens of the community who live near the Old Dawn Center located on the campus of SC State University. For a moment, the institution’s Speech Pathology and Audiology Program seemed to turn into a playground for children ranging from ages three to 10. On this summer day, the children were amused by Smokey the Bear. They watched intently as a video was shown on the prevention of wildfires, and they were happy to receive goodie bags as each student had the chance to meet Smokey the Bear.
This and many other activities are a part of SC State’s Extended School Year (ESY) Program. Fourteen years strong, ESY is a six-week program that utilizes a theme to excite students and to enhance and improve their communication skills. “Every year, ESY is theme based so that every group is doing similar activities tailored for the children’s ages and abilities,” says Dr. Harriette Gregg, clinic director and associate professor. “We come up with the kinds of things that young children are interested in, things that we can get them to be fascinated by and then engage them in experiential learning activities. It’s always about learning through action.”
This year’s action for students has centered on the Curious George series of books, such as “Curious George Goes to the Aquarium,” and on this particular day, “Curious George Goes Camping,” hence the involvement of the forestry service and Smokey the Bear. “For the last three years, Dr. Regina Lemmon has decided to research and search for children’s books and select sets of books and suggest how we can build a theme around them.” Subsequently, student clinicians decorate their classrooms and engage in specific activities that revolve around their designated books.
One creative activity reinforced “Curious George Goes to the Aquarium” and was exciting for Gregg and the students. “Last week, everyone was outside. They had actually built a fishing shack and all of the children got a chance to go over and throw their lines over the fishing shack and ‘catch’ a prize,” says Gregg. “There was also a water race, so everything dealt with water and I thought that was really creative.”
Graduate student clinicians such as Dentresa Taylor from the University’s Speech Pathology and Audiology Program develop the activities for students to enjoy, designed to orient them to things such as following directions, reading and fluency. “There are a lot of things that we incorporate throughout the day to help them with speech, social skills and communication,” says Taylor.
In addition to activities, students are also involved in individual therapy sessions with their student clinicians who are managed by a clinical adjunct supervisor. According to Gregg, these therapy sessions familiarize students with vocabulary and help them to progress in their area of speech deficiency. “Graduate student clinicians deal with children to the type of communication difficulty they exhibit,” notes Gregg. “If we have a child who has difficulty in fluency, then a clinician who has had the coursework in that area will be assigned.”
Students engage in small group sessions to expand their understanding of core vocabulary words in each book. There is also a parent letter sent out each week including a vocabulary list. Parents are given examples of activities that are not time consuming but will reinforce what children are learning in ESY. The parent letter is synonymous with the theme.
Serving 40 students primarily from Orangeburg-Consolidated School districts three, four and five, as well as the Calhoun and Bamberg school districts, ESY is a great opportunity for students to learn and play, an aspect which propelled the program into the spotlight as it received recognition by the South Carolina Speech-Language-Hearing Association as the South Carolina Program of the Year in early 2011. “It is a benefit to the children who are communicatively impaired and provides an important clinical experience for our student clinicians who staff the program under direct supervision of nationally certified speech-language pathologists, and licensed by the S.C. Board of Examiners for Speech Pathology and Audiology,” says Dr. Gwendolyn Wilson, chair of the Department of Health Sciences.
Taylor agrees, noting that with a ratio of about two clinicians to one child, there is a lot of individualized attention. “It’s a good opportunity for the clinicians to interact with the students and for the students to have an outlet outside of school where they can play, exercise and get the nurturing they need.”
SC State’s ESY program is first come, first serve, with priority given to children currently attending the University’s clinic for speech therapy. For more information, call 803-536-8074.