By: Rylee Fennell
This summer I have the opportunity to volunteer for Weisman Children’s in their medical daycare, rehabilitation hospital, and outpatient center. I applied to volunteer at Weisman’s due to my love for children and speech-language pathology and desire to continue expanding my knowledge of the field. Weisman Children’s not only aims to provide individualized care for all patients utilizing their many resources, but also to enhance the while family’s experience on the road to recovery. This mission is a primary reason why I chose Weisman Children’s; their dedication to each patient is unlike any organization I have ever seen. It is this same commitment that I hope to emulate in my professional career as a speech-language pathologist. It is my hope that these different settings will allow me to understand the different ways in which speech therapy can be utilized to treat a vast array of patient needs as the summer progresses.
Given each facility’s unique services, my day-to-day responsibilities change with each location. The medical daycare is where I have the most “hands on” interaction with patients. So far I have primarily worked with children ages 2-4, but will also be assisting with patients ages 0-2 as well. Work in the “preschool room” often includes assisting with feedings and engaging in play with the children, which has been an exceptionally rewarding experience. Working so closely with the care team and children at the medical daycare is helping me begin to understand not only the time and effort it takes to care for a child with special needs, but also the joy it brings to everyone involved. After only two short weeks, I have already felt the love and compassion exuding from each person, patients and staff alike. I will also be working with the speech-language pathologists as the summer progresses. While I am unsure of what this will entail as of now, I am very excited for it!
In the rehabilitation hospital, one of my primary responsibilities is to assist child life aides in making things more enjoyable and comfortable for patients. Patient ages range anywhere from 0-21, so it is crucial to maintain appropriate atmospheres for each individual. This can range anywhere from playing cards with a teenager, reading a book to a small child, or designing accessible art projects for a patient with limited physical mobility. Tailoring activities and outings for each patient is a cornerstone of the Wesiman Children’s mission to facilitate the progression of developmental needs of all patients. I have found this commitment to closely echo Haverford’s own core values. I am also able to observe speech-language pathologists during treatments, which will give me even more insight into both the field itself and how it can be uniquely integrated to design appropriate treatment plans for each individual. Volunteering in the outpatient center provides me with the most varied opportunities to learn about speech-language pathology applications and its varied forms. The outpatient center is equipped with a feeding center, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. Watching these skilled professionals work together to design a holistic treatment plan for each patient has been both informative and inspiring. I frequently am able to voice questions about treatment plans, patient care programs, etc. to therapists and am always met with an eager reply. My work in this facility has also shown me the extensive planning required to effectively treat each patient. I am able to contribute to this through acquiring treatment materials and preparing sanitation measures for treatments. Such seemingly simple tasks are the essential cornerstones of what it means to be a speech-language pathologist, and I hope to further expand this knowledge as the summer continues.
My coursework and positions at Haverford have fully prepared me for this experience and for many more to come. My major in linguistics and minor in neuroscience at Haverford College have enabled me to understand more complex verbal and cognitive differences often present in speech-language pathology. My second minor in Child and Family Studies at Bryn Mawr College has allowed me to understand the social dynamics and needs that are present in every plan of care and implement them into my own interactions with patients. Additionally, my position as a classroom aide at the Phebe Anna Thorne School on Haverford’s campus has given me the opportunity to cultivate useful techniques and insights into early childhood education and care. I hope to continue learning about these treatments, patients, and the integration of differing fields throughout the summer. When this experience has come to an end, I am confident that I will have gained invaluable insight into the field I hope to pursue.