Two weeks in Nicaragua

Two weeks in Nicaragua

Student takes part in program to train bilingual speech therapists

By Marissa Lyons

PHHP student Traci Reynolds visited Nicaragua this summer to take part in a program for bilingual speech-language pathologists to train to be effective interpreters./Photo by Maria Belen Farias

To gain hands-on clinical experience and enhance her skills as a speech-language pathologist, UF student Traci Reynolds ventured to Nicaragua this summer to participate in the EBS United Interpreter Training & Clinical Outreach Program for Speech-Language Pathologists.

Reynolds, a second-year graduate student studying speech-language pathology, was selected to participate in the two-week intensive program based in Managua. The program provided an opportunity for bilingual speech language pathology student-clinicians to train to be effective interpreters in medical, home and school settings. Participants also learned how to provide better service to Latino and Hispanic populations.

During the first week, the students visited an underprivileged school in Masaya. They worked with preschoolers through sixth-graders on literacy skills and language therapy, entirely in Spanish.

“We were really able to create a wonderful environment for learning and growing together because the children were encouraged to be attentive and supportive of one another,” Reynolds said.

She enjoyed witnessing the genuine interest of the children. Reynolds loved seeing the excited faces of the younger students as they sounded out words on their own for the first time and as the older children added creativity into their written responses.

“I loved it,” Reynolds said. “They were so fun.”

The second week was a very different dynamic, she said. They went to an orphanage in Managua and worked with school-age children with developmental difficulties. Since these children were mostly nonverbal, they worked on picture recognition and feeding.

Even though it was more difficult to communicate, Reynolds said she was still able to connect with the kids in the orphanage.

“They were full of life,” Reynolds said.

While Reynolds was there she not only added new words to her vocabulary, but she also learned about the culture. She saw first-hand the expectations people in Nicaragua have for their children and how eager the little ones were to learn. She said it was also a great opportunity for her to work with speech-language pathologists who have similar interests.

Lisa Edmonds, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of speech, language and hearing sciences, thinks programs like this are a great experience for students.

“The programs are important for students to provide them with clinical experiences to enhance their skills in working with diverse populations,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds said currently there are not enough bilingual speech-language pathologists in the United States.

“There is a great need for trained bilingual speech-language pathologists to address the needs of bilingual children and adults with communication disorders,” Edmonds said.

Now, back from the trip, Reynolds said she is looking forward to doing some learning of her own and working on her thesis. But, she will never forget her rich experiences in Nicaragua.

“Anytime you’re immersed in something like that you can’t help but learn a lot” Reynolds said.