Methma is a Volunteer Representative for Swearer Tutoring and Enrichment in Math and Sciences (STEMS). As a VR, Methma helps plan weekly meetings for the tutors, which are intended to provide Brown tutors with tools to work more effectively, through tutoring skills, knowledge of current education policy, discussions on the role of a tutor in a classroom, or information about the Providence Public School system. She is currently tutoring in a physics class.
The Connection Between Language and Literacy
When I first sat down with Xavier* to go over his phonics flashcards, I smiled at him blankly as he chattered away, completely unable to make out anything he was saying. Although this was my seventh semester as a literacy tutor with the Swearer Classroom Program at D’abate Elementary School, I was still a bit taken aback as I sat there, trying to decipher his words.
As I am not a licensed speech-language pathologist, I would not be able to officially diagnose any communication disorders he had, but I still started to analyze Xavier’s speech to try to figure out what the problem was. He seemed to me to have both articulation and language disorders—he had trouble with certain sounds (he would say “w” for “r” and “sh” for “s”) as well as grammatical errors (substituting “her” for “she”). These pronoun errors are surprising to see in a first grader – they are much more common in toddlers and preschoolers.
So it was not surprising that Xavier’s teacher chose him to receive one-on-one tutoring in reading skills. Language and literacy are so intertwined, and students who have speech and language disorders often have reading disorders as well. Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are especially at risk for language delays and reading difficulties.
When I tell people at Brown that I plan to go to graduate school to be a speech-language pathologist, I often receive a blank stare or confused questions: “Do you go through med school for that?” “Oh, so you want to work in a school, you must want to be a teacher?” “Is that a Ph.D. program?” Graduate study in speech-language pathology is a two-year clinical program that certifies you to treat a variety of clients with communication disorders---adults with aphasia from traumatic brain injuries, elderly people with dementia, and toddlers with autism, to name a few. Speech-language pathologists practice in a variety of settings, from hospitals to at-home early intervention, private practice to skilled nursing facilities.
My heart, however, is firmly planted in the schools. Every public elementary school in the country has (or shares) a speech-language pathologist. They work with children with articulation disorders, language disorders, reading disorders, fluency disorders (stuttering) and autism.
One of my main sources of motivation for being a school speech-language pathologist has been the literacy work I have done through the Swearer Classroom Program with kids like Xavier. I have loved working with the kids one-on-one and in small groups in a positive, uplifting school environment. Even though I am only responsible for a very small part of it, it is rewarding to see the progress they make over the school year. While learning not to get the “y” and “w” flashcards mixed up may seem like an insignificant gain, it is small steps like these that allow for future reading success.
My work at D’abate has allowed me to understand the importance of early reading skills and the variety of factors that have an impact on them. I believe that one of the most rewarding aspects of being a speech-language pathologist will be seeing how treating a child’s communication disorders can translate into academic progress.
*not real name
June 20, 2016
June 13, 2016"I think about opening my mouth to call out goodbye, or to salute her in a traditional sign language farewell. Instead, I stand silently and smile."
Sally Hosokawa is a Community Fellow for Writers’ Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that facilitates creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities. She studies literary translation in the Comparative Literature Department.
May 14, 2016“Club teachers understand us,” she says. “Even though they’re older, they’re not that much older, and so they’re like us and we can identify with them and talk to them about our problems.”
Addy is a volunteer with the Brown Elementary Afterschool Mentoring Program (BEAM), a Swearer Center community partnership that facilitates after-school programing activities and mentorship between Brown volunteers and students at William D’Abate Elementary School in the Olneyville neighborhood.
February 22, 2016
Pia is a junior double-concentrating in Education Studies and Comparative Literature. This is her third year with Writers' Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that offers creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities, and her first year as a Swearer Center Community Fellow.
February 19, 2016I was intrigued by the program, but very intimidated by some of the topics. I’ve never been in the position to talk about gender or sexuality or rape culture.
Tiara came into Brown dead set on studying Neuroscience. After a summer or working with the local Planned Parenthood branch and taking health based classes she realized public health was her real calling. She has been volunteering for the SHAPE (Sexual Health Advocacy through Peer Education) program since sophomore year.
February 16, 2016