For the Kids

For the Kids

Watching Meghan MacKinnon in a preschool classroom, it's hard to tell who's having more fun—the Saint Mary's senior or the little kids she's doing puzzles with.

The same is true of senior Alison Golubski when you see her chasing a pint-sized speech therapy patient around the room.

Alison studies elementary education and Meghan (pictured) is a psychology major. Both are pursing minors in the Saint Mary's Communicative Disorders program, gaining hands-on experience working with children who have speech and language delays and disorders.

“Students who enroll in the Introduction to Communicative Disorders course are required to complete service learning hours,” says Susan Latham, a 1991 alumna who directs the program. That means they volunteer at local schools or a regional autism center, and offer free speech and language services to families in the community who need them.

As they complete the program, Meghan and Alison may provide up to 100 hours of therapy to children in home settings or an on-campus therapy room, with faculty supervision. Their goal is to help youngsters develop their language, social, and literacy skills during everyday activities.

The sessions have a benefit for the Saint Mary's students, too: they can take up to 100 therapy hours to graduate school for credit.

Coursework gives the 45 students in the Communicative Disorders minor a strong theoretical foundation. But both Meghan and Alison say they've learned what activities and techniques work best by observing effective teachers in action and by interacting directly with kids and parents.

That's why Meghan regularly spends time at the Early Childhood Development Center, a preschool on the Saint Mary's campus. “To be able to be so involved here has really, really helped,” she says.

Alison does weekly therapy sessions with Elise, a four-year-old who has Down's syndrome. She calls it “a problem-solving activity where you look at a child and try to figure out what she needs, and apply your knowledge to that. Whatever you've learned, you can use to further that child's development or speech.”

Both Meghan and Alison want to be speech pathologists. Graduate school is in their future, and if the College's placement record is any indication, they can expect admission to top-tier programs. Last year, 100 percent of Saint Mary's students applying to master's programs in speech and language pathology were accepted.