Externships Allow Communicative Disorders Students to Gain Experience, Help Schoolchildren

OXFORD, Miss. — Students who earn practical experience in their desired fields generally graduate better prepared and more marketable than peers who have only classroom experience. That’s the hope of some University of Mississippi communicative disorders graduate students who are externing in north Mississippi school districts this semester.

Fourteen students, including several in their first year of the graduate program, are completing a 12-week externship with an American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association-certified speech-language pathologist. They are working in the Aberdeen, New Albany, Oxford, Pontotoc and Tupelo city schools and the Lafayette County and South Panola school districts. They also have worked in two nearby private schools: Oxford-University School and Regents School.

“This placement consists of one of the speech-language pathologists from the campus Speech-Hearing Clinic taking four students to the school to complete therapy with the students,” said Brad Crowe, instructor and director of the clinic.

“It is more like an extension of our clinic to an off-site. They complete therapy in the same fashion that they do here with one of our own supervisors.”

Students go to their assigned schools three days a week and stay throughout the entire school day, Crowe said. During the day, they help provide therapy, attend meetings, complete IEPs and “pretty much whatever the therapist does,” he said.

The externs say they appreciate the opportunity to gain professional experience and work with real clients.

“I like seeing a child graduate from speech therapy,” said John Smith of Tupelo. “It gives me a sense of accomplishment knowing that a positive impact has been made on the child’s communication abilities, which will likely help him or her succeed socially and academically.”

Likewise, school staff and administrators expressed their enthusiasm for the externs’ assistance.

“Having an Ole Miss extern is very beneficial to my speech therapy program,” said Judy Newton, speech pathologist at Batesville Middle School. “My students enjoy the externs and frequently are motivated to perform at higher levels for them.”

“The students bring current knowledge to our therapy sessions from the communicative disorders classes they are taking,” said Beth Andrews, special education director at Oxford Elementary School. “I do look forward to working with more Ole Miss students, as they bring enthusiasm and a great work ethic to our students.”

The clinic plans to have eight more graduate students complete a school placement during the spring 2010 semester, Crowe said. During this placement, students are to attend their site five days a week for 12 weeks and complete a full workweek with a speech therapist.

“We will still have the Oxford School District but will also add Senatobia, DeSoto County and Pontotoc County,” he said. “We are working on arranging an agreement with a school district in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, also.”

For more information about the UM Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, visit http://csd.olemiss.edu or call 662-915-7652. (edwin smith)