Photos: Louis DeWitt shows his mother Marisela DeWitt what he did in speech camp while his student clinician, Kim Fogle, looks on; Louis DeWitt and Christian Nichols play a word game with HSU speech pathology student clinicians Kevin Aguilar and Kim Fogle.
Sitting on the floor of a colorfully decorated classroom at Abilene ISD’s Locust Early Childhood campus, Hardin-Simmons University students Kevin Aguilar and Kimberly Fogle play a guessing game with two children attending the HSU-AISD summer speech camp.
52 children, ages 3 to 8 are attending the camp, now in its 9th year, to work with Hardin-Simmons University students majoring in speech-language pathology.
Both HSU students and first graders, Louis DeWitt and Christian Nichols, have on headbands, crafted during the camp, that display an item unknown to the wearer. By asking questions of the others in the group, they eventually can guess the item displayed.
The point of the game is for the young students to speak aloud and to learn and practice words they may have difficulty pronouncing. The pictures on each of the headbands, for instance, all contain the letter “L.”
“Am I tall?” asks Christian about the card tucked in his headband, which happens to be a lollipop. Kimberly uses the opportunity to ask, “What is tall?” the point being, just another way to get the children to talk and enunciate words.
“It’s a win-win situation,” says Dr. Carol Hill, head of the HSU Department of Speech-Language Pathology. Student clinicians have the opportunity to apply their academic knowledge, and the children benefit from the extended language-based treatment sessions.”
HSU provides the clinical personnel and treatment materials and AISD provides the facilities and recommends the students who can benefit the most from attending the day camp.
Parents pay a small fee to offset the cost of craft materials and snack items, and additional funds donated from the north side Walmart and Pizza Inn, help to offset the cost of two certified AISD speech-language pathologist to help supervise the children in the speech camp.
AISD speech pathologist Cathy Clay says, “The HSU students help the children focus on the process of communicating by having them talk about the activities they are doing. Sometimes the unexpected happens, like someone might drop an egg or a tray of ice cubes while working on one of the craft projects; the children have the best time talking about what just happened. We don’t care what the craft projects look like in the end, because it’s not about the item, it’s about the process of creating it and talking about it.”
Each of the HSU students and the professional clinicians are wearing purple t-shirts that say HSU on the front, on the back, it reads, “We have ways to make you talk.” Austin Conger, one of the HSU students, says, “The other t-shirt we wear during camp jokingly states, “Watch Your Language.”
Christian’s mom, Miracle Nichols, says this is the second year her twins have attended the camp. “I recognized that Christian’s and Glorianna’s speech was delayed when they were around three years old,” says Miracle, who has lived in Abilene all of her life. “That’s when we started speech enrichment, with counselors coming to our house.
“At this camp, you can observe all of the kids having fun, the HSU students turn what seems like playtime into learning time, and the children don’t even know they are learning. They play singing games with phonetics. I can tell they are learning, because now, when my children sing at home, you can hear them emphasizing those certain sounds.”
Miracle says her children also feel very comfortable learning in a group setting, with other children to whom they can relate. “They don’t feel so isolated here when they see and get to meet so many other children,” she says.
The HSU-AISD camp takes up six classrooms on the Locust campus, with 3- to 5-year-olds coming for one and a half hours early each morning, and 6- to 8-year-olds coming late morning.
Clay says one of the newest aspects of this year’s camp is that the HSU students are bringing their own 21st century techniques into the camp, using apps on their iPhones to conduct speech drills.
The experience the HSU students get at the camp, working with the children, translates to college hours in a class called Clinical Internship in Speech and Language Pathology. Hill says the students also earn hours in another class which helps them to develop meaningful materials and therapy techniques. Hill says HSU students will write progress reports on each of the children for their parents to have at the end of the two-week camp.
Among the more traditional learning materials developed by the students is a daily one-page handout combining cartoon pictures with words. At the top, it is labeled What We Did Today at Speech Camp. It reads: “Today in (picture of a group of students around a teacher) we read (picture of the book, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed). We made a (monkey) using a (roll of paper towels)….”
Hill says the student counselors and the children read the handout together. “This lets the children know what they will be doing during camp, and then later the sheet goes home with the children so parents can talk to them about what they did in camp.”
Clay interjects, “It’s a way parents can help their children in a natural way, just being cheerleaders for their kids. Plus the handout helps the parents to understand what their children are saying.”
“This camp fits in very well with HSU’s mission of teaching Christian service, something our students practice at HSU,” says Hill. “This camp not only allows our students the opportunity to use their talents and skills, but also to give Christian service to others.”
Miracle calls it planting seeds. “These seeds will grow and blossom in our children for the rest of their lives.”