This roundtable is part of an ongoing podcast series about the Speech-Language Pathology program at Salus University.

Thanks for joining us for our podcast series, talking about speech-language pathology graduate school. Join Robert Serianni, MS, CCC-SLP, FNAP, the chair and program director of the department of Speech-Language Pathology at Salus University as he speaks with a clinical educator and three current students about their field experiences in the preschool setting.

To start us off, everyone introduced themselves:

Kim Edmonds:
Hi, I'm Kim Edmonds and I'm a clinical educator. I primarily oversee the Speech-Language Institute's preschool practicum programs.

Julia Sanelli:
Hi, my name is Julia Sanelli. I am a second-year SLP student here at Salus.

Tori Wigand:
Hi, I'm Tori Wigand and I'm a first-year SLP student at Salus.

Cole Pajovich:
And I am Cole Pajovich and I am a first-year student as well in the speech program.

slp q&a
Bob Serianni:
So I think I'll start with the students this afternoon. Maybe you can share with us one reason why you chose to come to Salus.

Tori Wigand:
My main reason why I chose to come to Salus was because of the clinical experience that we’re offered in our first semester as soon as we get there within the first week. We're given a variety of clients within the clinics, as well as other placements that we can work within.

Julia Sanelli:
Yeah, I would say for me during the interview process, I paid close attention to the dynamics of the faculty and the current students. I really felt like the interactions with the faculty and the current students were very positive and supportive. And for me, that was something that I knew I needed in order to be successful within the graduate environment.

Bob Serianni:
Kim, why don't you give us a little background, a little history about the preschool program and the services we offer there?

Kim Edmonds:
Our preschool program is a collaboration between the Speech-Language Institute and a local preschool program in Jenkintown called Immaculate Conception Preschool. We run an inclusive three-year-old classroom. So all of the children are between three and four years old. And since it's inclusive, that actually means the majority of the children in our classroom are typically developing kids. But we do also sometimes have children that are placed in our classroom either because they've already been identified as having speech and language needs, or sometimes because they've been identified as at risk. So, we really provide a comprehensive preschool curriculum, but we have a very special focus on speech, language, early literacy and social communication development. We also monitor the speech and language scales of the children in our class very closely through screenings, and we provide referrals when necessary.

Bob Serianni:
So it sounds like the students get a pretty comprehensive hands-on experience when they're at the preschool. I'm wondering if the students could talk to us a little bit about some of the projects they get to work on.

Tori Wigand:
My favorite activity that I did with the kids was a theme of the week about being a friend. During the creativity and the language arts activity, I had each of the kids create a little friendship cloud, and the cloud had their name on it. And the different pieces of colored paper each had a quality about friendship that they felt that they valued. Some of the ideas that they came up with for a typical good friend were pretty funny. They were just talking about playing with LEGOs or not taking my juice box. The kids also got to draw themselves and their friends or family and how they would incorporate those activities into different qualities of friendship. We pretty much learned in our courses regarding social skills and how important it is to model good social interactions for these kids, and how they develop strong language and communication skills through learning how to interact with peers, and then practice your new language skills in different academic situations as their academic career goes on.

Cole Pajovich:
I think one of my favorite activities was a table time activity we planned, which was around Christmas time. So I brought in brown paper bags and they made brown paper bag reindeer, and I traced their hands to make their antlers. It was just funny watching them try to glue it all together and whatnot because some of them could not do it. And then I had them name the reindeer and talk about it. One named theirs Marshmallow simply because she just had marshmallows at lunch. Another named hers after another student in the class, which was funny, but I think it related to what we were learning in our coursework. So I remember when I started, Kim was saying the purpose of us there is to expose the kids to as much language as possible. And looking at it from an early intervention perspective, it's critical in their language development process that the earlier we can acknowledge that a child may have language disorder, and the earlier those services are delivered, the more likely that children now develop the effective communication and language skills to achieve successful learning outcomes.

slp preschool podcast
Bob Serianni:
I do think the fun though has a lot of purpose. Kim, maybe you can talk to the overarching experiences, how they prepare students for externships and their professional lives.

Kim Edmonds:
Absolutely. I do want to say we do have a lot of fun in our preschool programs. Everything we do is play-based. And I think the great advantage of this program is that it does give our graduate students exposure to the full range of what speech and language development looks like in young children. We get to see the whole range of typical development, as well as some children that also have speech and language disorders. So the students get a lot of exposure to that. They get a lot of practice with embedding speech and language skills in just routine activities and fun play-based activities in the classroom. I also think another advantage of this program, and especially having this experience as a first-year student, is that you get experience working with children in groups, which as a former school-based SLP, is definitely the norm for many of us. So, I think getting that experience, learning how to manage children, both in a small group and in a large group, is really valuable for preparing students.

Bob Serianni:
Julia, you're doing your externships. Has this been your experience?

Julia Sanelli:
I completely agree with that. Little Marks is great for learning how to manage a group session. Like what Kim was saying, seeing a wide variety of kiddos, whether it's typical developing or having speech and language delays, really helped my diagnostic skills as a clinical extern because we learn in class how it's a lot more than just the standardized tests. It's important to be able to evaluate a child within his or her daily environment, and Little Marks really, with the range of students, gave me the ability to do that and to see that.

Bob Serianni:
I want our students to reflect if you had advice to somebody who's looking to come to a graduate school, whether it be Salus or another school, what suggestion would you give them in thinking about applying to a program?

Cole Pajovich:
I would say I think it's important to come in with an open mind. You may be dead certain that you want to work with a certain population, but you're really not going to know until you get to start interacting with those clients and the clinical, and then ultimately your externship. And I'd say it's important to volunteer any opportunities that Salus or your school offers, to go out in the community and get engaged. I think is important. That was three things, but be receptive to constructive criticism and what your clinical educators have to offer, because you are a student and you're going to mess up. But if you take what they say and be positive about it, then I think that's good.

Julia Sanelli:
I would just say, get in contact with the faculty so they can see how you'd fit. Because for me, I know personally, a lot of it was about being comfortable in my environment. Like Cole said, you can experience a lot of things like constructive criticism, and you need to make sure that you're in an environment where you really trust who you're working with and you really feel comfortable to mess up and learn.