Lessons From A Speech Therapy Internship

Julie FrackerI was privileged to have Julie Fracker (University of Connecticut) as my intern this summer, observing therapy, and evaluating toys and games for their value in building language skills. Kids really enjoyed Julie joining our sessions and were very interested in impressing her! “Will Julie be joining us?” asked one of my kids who loved having her play our games. When I asked Julie what she had learned from her weeks shadowing me her first comment was, “I didn’t know how important toys were in speech therapy!” Julie agreed to be my guest blogger, sharing how her internship has shaped her thinking:

I have been so fortunate to have interned for Sherry this summer. The many observation hours, toy reviews, and therapy sessions that I have been exposed to within the last few months have made me grow as a student and have made me even more excited and passionate about speech pathology. From toys to therapy, what I have learned this summer has prepared me for my future.

One of the many positive outcomes of my internship has been the opportunity to determine what types of therapy I am most interested in. I observed articulation cases, language therapy, word finding difficulties, and more.  I most enjoyed working with children to build language and conversation skills. I was pleasantly surprised that we were able to have so much fun while shaping language skills. Sherry uses different strategies to bring conversation into therapy and molds them to fit each particular child’s passions and interests. For the book-loving children, we read to learn how to make connections to the world and to work on description skills. Along with stories, a conversation building technique of Sherry’s that I found interesting used only an assortment of small foam shapes. Each time that someone had something to say they would take a shape from the pile and add it to the snaking chain of pieces. This kept the children involved in the conversation and inspired them to participate so that they could be the next to add a shape to the chain.  Two young boys talked about baseball for a large portion of the session so that they could use up all of the foam shapes. This was just one of the many techniques that I learned from Sherry and I look forward to using it in my future career.

In addition to language therapy, I observed Sherry while working with children on articulation. An interesting aspect of articulation that I learned this summer is how to use physical prompts during therapy. When doing this, Sherry would help teach a child how to produce a particular sound by helping him move his lips, tongue, and jaw the right way. It was amazing to see the impact that physical prompts made on the child’s pronunciation. This type of therapy seems challenging; keeping a child engaged while having them repeat the sounds that they struggle with over and over can be difficult.  Nevertheless, Sherry had a way to make the task fun for everyone. Toys and games proved to be great tools in generating interest and attention during articulation therapy. Sherry uses apps on her iPad to provide silly sentences using words that contain the subjected sounds for the child to repeat. We would play the child’s favorite game and in between every turn we would pause to repeat the next sentence that the app has to offer. I was fascinated to learn which sounds were difficult for certain children and different ways that they can be improved.

My summer internship was an amazing opportunity for me. I saw information that I have learned in some of my classes in action while observing Sherry and I will be able to apply my new learning when I return to school. Not only will I take away a plethora of fun toys and games to use in therapy, but also knowledge of how to use them in a functional way to improve speech and language skills. I also learned that all types of therapy take time and hard work toward meeting objectives, but it is a rewarding process when you see how far a child has come from where they have started. My summer as Sherry’s intern has reconfirmed my decision to pursue speech language pathology and I eagerly look forward to applying this experience in my future endeavors.

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