Service Learning for Speech Pathology Students

by Hailey Bell

I have been volunteering in the Aphasia Initiative for almost two years. Throughout my experience here, I have learned so much that I would not have learned any other way. I know how to assist people better and I have also learned so much about the members and their lives that I feel I can connect with them on a more personal level. Throughout the semesters, new members have not only been welcomed into the group but also our family. One of my favorite aspects of this group is how welcoming all the members are- this applies to accepting new students and also new members. Aphasia Initiative members want to help the students to learn, and the members also want new members to feel accepted because they understand how hard life can be. Every time I go to the Aphasia Initiative, I am inspired to work harder and to be more understanding, because you never know what people are going through.

I work at a local Whole Foods Market, and here I have been able to use the skills that the aphasia initiative has given me to help others. While at work, one of my coworkers was given a card from a customer that read “I have Aphasia” and listed some tips in order to help her talk to the customer. My coworker had never heard of Aphasia, and still struggled to make conversation with this customer. However, I was able to use the skills the members of the Aphasia Initiative have taught me in order to talk to the customer and show my coworker how to effectively communicate with somebody with aphasia. Until this moment, it did not dawn on me that my coworkers did not know what aphasia is. I was able to use this as a teaching moment, and now almost all of my coworkers know what aphasia is and know how to effectively use aphasia-friendly communication strategies. Without the Aphasia Initiative, I would have not learned any of these things and would not have been able to inform my coworkers about them either.

Looking forward, I am excited to see what my last semester in the Aphasia Initiative will bring me. I love meeting new members and also learning more about our current members. I am upset I am graduating and leaving this group behind, but I am so thankful for my time and experience her and know that it will forever make me a better speech-language pathologist. Thank you to Arin and Jen for organizing the group, and to all the members for coming each week!


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