Vanderbilt University and Tennessee State University have partnered on an interdisciplinary personnel preparation grant funded by the Department of Education. The program prepares scholars in the fields of audiology, deaf education, and speech-language pathology to meet the needs of infants and young children with hearing loss and their families. We interviewed one scholar from each university.
Nicole Brigham is a second-year Audiology student at Vanderbilt University on the pediatric specialty track, which involves additional coursework and practicum experience that prepares students to work with infants and children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Shelby Fromm is a first-year student at Tennessee State University in the Speech-Language Pathology program, while also participating in a collaborative training grant at Vanderbilt University focusing on children with hearing loss.
ED: What pivotal experience made you decide to pursue a degree in the field of audiology or speech-language pathology to work with young children and families?
Nicole Brigham: During undergrad I volunteered at a summer camp and conference for children with cochlear implants and their families. This was my first time interacting with children with hearing loss. It was inspiring to see children from different places around the country come together to form a community, and for their families to be able to connect with one another and with professionals. This experience was eye opening for me, and after volunteering I knew that I wanted to be involved in this field.
Shelby Fromm: My love for the field and dedication to becoming a speech-language pathologist began as a child when I had a speech disorder. My experiences with repeated therapy sessions and evaluations allow me to recognize and sympathize with individuals who struggle to communicate effectively due to speech impairments. I want to give back by sharing my personal journey and demonstrating the skills and knowledge I have gained studying this discipline.
ED: What approaches are used in your program’s course work and practicums to build connections with other scholars and departments that work with young children and families?
Nicole Brigham: In my program, we take multiple courses with students from other disciplines. This is beneficial when we have class discussions, since it allows us to hear perspectives from different disciplines, and consider ideas and viewpoints that we typically might not in a class of just audiology students. In my clinical practicum, my placement allowed me to see how, as a professional, it is important to have connections with other professionals in the child’s life to best serve the child’s needs.
Shelby Fromm: We have been building connections with our peers and the students we serve through virtual platforms. Connecting with students virtually provides a different perspective of how each child learns. My program also encourages me to volunteer in person at a school, which has allowed me to interact with children while building connections with their families and teachers. These experiences have helped me learn how to interact with kids to improve their learning in different settings.
ED: As a scholar, what do you think are the benefits of interdisciplinary practices to providers, children and families?
Nicole Brigham: One benefit I have seen is with children with speech delays that need a hearing evaluation to rule out a hearing loss, but for whom there is also a concern for autism spectrum disorder, are now scheduled for a dual speech-language and autism evaluation, which is more convenient for families and generally has a shorter wait time. Having our audiology clinic in the same building as our preschool for children with hearing loss is also beneficial. Teacher’s observations and knowledge are extremely valuable, and they can share their concerns about children’s hearing and speech directly with the audiologists. In turn, collaborating with teachers can inform the audiologist about needed adjustments to a child’s hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Shelby Fromm: In the field of speech-language pathology, interdisciplinary practices help children, their families and their service providers have a better understanding of how each child learns and comprehends information. Understanding the different disciplines (e.g. physical therapy, occupational therapy, and audiology) with whom we interact while supporting children and families helps me as a therapist to provide services that are individualized for each child and build upon their strengths.
ED: After graduation, how do you plan to continue building connections with other disciplines in your professional practice?
Nicole Brigham: After graduation, I plan to stay involved in professional organizations and to attend conferences that include other disciplines outside of audiology. I would love to be involved in educational audiology. In this subdiscipline of audiology, it is especially important to collaborate and build connections with a child’s teacher and other educational professionals. My clinical experiences and coursework at Vanderbilt have taught me how important interprofessional practice is in pediatric hearing loss, and I plan to apply this knowledge in collaborations with other professionals to best serve children and families.
Shelby Fromm: After graduation I plan on building connections with other disciplines by bringing a fun, caring, loving attitude to my personal workspace. By creating a healthy professional work environment, I will make those around me happier and more productive. Building strong connections will fuel each discipline to work harder to achieve one common goal: communication, confidence, and consistency in the lives of the children and families we serve.
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