Amber Skeans is 23 years old, married, has a beautiful 15 month old son, and lives in Prestonsburg, Kentucky. She graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. She is currently receiving a Master’s degree from the University of the Cumberlands in Elementary Education, and also plans to pursue her Master’s degree in Communication Disorders in order to become a Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist. She developed an interest in the Developmental Disabilities graduate certificate program at the University of Kentucky because she intends to serve children with developmental disabilities in her career as an SLP. She wants to learn as much information as possible so she can assist her future clients to the best of her abilities. Amber is excited and thankful to have received a scholarship to further her education and help her reach her goals.
1. Please describe your activities during your fellowship experience. Describe your final capstone project(s).
Throughout my fellowship experience for the Developmental Disabilities program, I was able to have many great opportunities that helped increase my knowledge about the subject. I completed my practicum hours at Benchmark Family Services, which is a foster care company. I was very lucky to have this experience as it truly opened my eyes to many different situations that unfortunately exist in this world. Many children in foster care have developmental disabilities, which is a very interesting correlation, so it was great to complete my practicum in this setting because not only did I learn more about different disabilities, but I also learned more about how to approach these sensitive situations and how. My final project is about the importance of early intervention. Unfortunately, for many of the children I observed in the foster care services, early intervention was not an option because many are placed in foster care at an older age. It was unfortunate to see how the older children struggled as a result of not getting therapy or other services until they are older, compared to younger children who were diagnosed and started receiving services at a younger age; which proved the importance of early intervention. My project consists of a learning module that includes people from different disciplines discussing the importance of early intervention.
2. Who did your project inform, help, influence or impact? (UCEDD, individual, community, state) How?
The goal of my project was to inform the community about the importance and impact of early intervention. Many people don’t understand that early intervention can be helpful because typically the younger children start receiving services, the easier they can adapt and create new habits or learn the skills they need to acquire. In order to reach the community, I created an online learning module which directs viewers to a website where they can learn more about early intervention.
3. Why did you choose to work on that project(s)?
I chose to work on this project because I decided to enter this field and become a Speech Language Pathologist. I worked in a daycare where many parents either did not understand the importance of early intervention or simply did not have access to certain services their child needed. Speech therapy was one of the services that many children were lacking and so I decided then that I wanted to go into this field and help with the deficit in my hometown and surrounding areas.
4. What did you gain from being a Diversity Fellow?
I gained a lot of valuable information as a Diversity Fellow. I learned a tremendous amount of information on various disabilities and how to work with this population. I also learned a lot from the other students in my classes who were from different backgrounds and professions. I think it’s so helpful to learn about things from different points of view because that is when you truly start to learn. As a future speech-language pathologist, it’s easy for me to see through an SLP’s point of view, but it was very interesting throughout the program to learn from social workers, counselors, people who work with children, people who work with adults, etc. When you are educated about different professions and other aspects of life is when you can use a whole new perspective and learn more about your patients, clients, etc.
5. How will this experience impact your education or career decisions?
This experience impacted my education and career decisions because not only do I now feel like I have more knowledge to better assist me when working with others with developmental disabilities as an SLP, but I have also decided that I really want to make an effort to educate my future clients and their families of the rights they have. I want to be sure to help the families I work with so they can take full advantage of what is available to them. There are policies and resources available that many families are not aware of. I also want to be sure that I am always advocating for my clients and their families. If I have learned anything from this fellowship, it’s that advocacy is so important because not only are you helping the one person or family but potentially many others as that person may educate another and create a ripple effect.
6. What are your future goals? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I am currently working on my Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology through Western Kentucky University. I will graduate in May of 2019. From there, I hope to begin my career at the speech clinic at Highlands Regional Medical Center in my hometown. This is a fairly new clinic that has a very large waiting list. This clinic is used for both pediatric and adult services. I have always seen myself working with children, but recently, I have also wanted to work with adults too because as limited as services are for children, they are even more limited for adults in Eastern Kentucky. So, in five years, I hope to see myself with a completed Master’s Degree and working at the speech clinic at my local hospital. I also see myself potentially planning on opening my own Speech Language Therapy Clinic. I have wanted to do this for a while and I really hope I am able to. I just want to help create as many ways for others to receive the speech therapy they desperately need.
7. What recommendations do you have for other fellows?
If I could give any recommendations to other fellows, I would just say don’t give up. I’m fully aware that most people completing this fellowship have full-time jobs and families and doing this program can be overwhelming at times. However, I want everyone to know that it’s worth the extra time and effort you are putting in. Stay engaged in the program and interact with the other people in your classes so that you can get the most out of the program. When you are struggling, or doubting whether you should do this program, find a friend in the program to talk to. Find someone to lean on when you want to quit and just invite this program into your life with open arms so that you can learn as much information possible. You never know how many lives you could impact by doing this fellowship.