Grad Students Aid Adults With Learning Difficulties
Partnership With Local Nonprofit Provides Speech-Language Therapy
to People with Autism, Down Syndrome, Asperger's or Brain Injury
Oct. 21, 2009
Young adults with special needs often feel displaced after graduating from the public school system. A local nonprofit agency and a group of graduate students in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences are helping these young adults acquire the skills and confidence they need to live independent and productive lives.
Each week, eight graduate students enrolled in the master’s program in communication disorders visit My Possibilities, an all-day learning center designed for young adults with learning difficulties associated with autism, Down syndrome, Asperger syndrome and traumatic brain injuries.
The graduate students provide speech-language therapy sessions for the participants and facilitate group activities targeting social communication, intelligibility, augmentative and alternative communication, and vocational communication. Individual speech-language therapy is also provided.
“Most of the clients have a part-time job, so we present them with a variety of scenarios to improve their communication skills in the workplace,” said Larisa Petersen, UT Dallas graduate student.
In addition to the therapy sessions, the participants – also known as HIPsters or Hugely Important People – engage in a variety of activities and classes that help build their independence. The HIPsters practice their socialization skills, learn about health and wellness, and strengthen their pre-vocational skills.
“The collaboration between the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and My Possibilities has been extremely successful and mutually beneficial,” said Diane Garst, M.S., speech-language pathologist and clinical lecturer. “The graduate students gain valuable experience assessing and treating adult clients while the participants receive valuable speech and language therapy.”
“While working at My Possibilities, I was able to learn more about adult developmental disorders, refine previously learned skills and acquire new clinical skills that will be used throughout my career,” said Traci Rhode, UT Dallas graduate student.UT Dallas has partnered with My Possibilities since January 2009. The graduate students will continue to work with the HIPsters during the spring semester.