Could you give therapy with a penny?

Dr. Brenda K. Gorman, Contributing Author

Spending time abroad must be about the best educational experience there is. I am fortunate that I have been travelling to different countries since I was sixteen. Even now, many (okay, many, many, many) years later, I value the experience just as much, perhaps even more.

This summer, I had the fabulous experience of spending a month with a host family in a small city in Costa Rica. As you probably already know, the country is stunningly beautiful, rich green, so plush. Of course, we went on many excursions, hiking to waterfalls and volcanoes, enjoying the beach, horseback riding, rappelling, zip-lining (my younger son’s favorite), and walking across hanging bridges (my older son’s favorite). We all had an amazing time.

No matter where I go, however, I cannot help but want to do something related to the profession. There seemed to be very few speech-language pathologists in Costa Rica, from what I could find. So, while my kids took classes in the mornings, I explored places where I could volunteer. I found a retirement home in a beautiful spot on the outskirts of the city. There, I worked with several wonderful individuals who had suffered strokes and with a dear woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They received physical therapy from a lovely and loving therapist, but speech-language therapy was simply not available there. My mornings there were a truly incredible part of the trip.   I did not come prepared to give speech-language therapy, so it was a really neat experience finding creative ways and materials to use. And I made a lot of improvement in playing dominoes – what an excellent memory game!

Here, back home, it is incredible how many speech-language resources are available to clinicians. We are very fortunate. Even so, I’d have to agree with one of my professors from graduate school who used to say, “A good clinician could give good therapy with just a penny.” I loved the challenge to think outside the box.

The life-long learning and diversity in experiences are two of my favorite things about speech-language pathology. I cannot wait to go back to Costa Rica, and hopefully, with students in speech-language pathology!

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About Brenda K. Gorman

Dr. Gorman is an Associate Professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois. She completed her Master’s and Doctorate with a multicultural/bilingual specialization in Communication Sciences and Disorders at The University of Texas at Austin. Brenda worked for many years as a bilingual (Spanish-English) speech-language pathologist serving diverse caseloads for public school districts, early intervention agencies, and a company which she co-founded in 2001. She has an extensive background in working with ELLs and providing professional development to teachers who work with ELLs, and she serves as a clinical advisor to Lingua Health and Grupo Lingua. Brenda has conducted research, published, and presented on topics related to speech and language assessment and intervention in bilingual populations and language and literacy development and disorders. She has taught courses in numerous topic areas ranging from assessment and intervention in bilingual populations, child language and literacy disorders, speech sound disorders, fluency, to adult language disorders and AAC. She co-directed the Reading Acquisition for Spanish Speakers Program (RASPA) and an Early Reading First (ERF) project funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education while at Marquette University, where she earned tenure in 2013. Brenda is now at Elmhurst College, where she is investigating language and literacy assessment and intervention in bilinguals and co-developing a dual-language (Spanish-English) language and literacy curriculum for preschoolers.

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