Students in the College of Education & Human Development’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders learn techniques for treating clients who suffer from speech and language disorders.
But College of Education & Human Development master’s student Raveena Kumar also understands what it’s like to be in her clients’ shoes, having been a patient herself more than a decade ago.
She will graduate with her master’s degree later this summer and will apply what she’s learned – as both a clinician and a patient – to her budding career as a speech-language pathologist. We asked her a few questions about the experiences that put her on this academic path and what she enjoys most about the communication sciences and disorders program.
Q: What first made you interested in studying communication sciences and disorders?
A: “In April 2011, I had a spinal stroke that initially left me paralyzed from the neck down, supported by a tracheostomy tube and ventilator to breathe. In the early days at the hospital, the pediatric speech-language pathologist led the swallow study that allowed me to gain some independence back, along with the Passy Muir valve [a medical device that enables voice and improved communication] she gave me, which allowed me to project my voice again.
Although I only saw her a few times, her work left a lasting impact. Even when it felt like everything else had been ripped away from me, this speech pathologist made sure I never lost my ability to connect and communicate effectively with the people around me. It is because of clinicians like her that I am pursuing the field of speech-language pathology, to cultivate a connection through communication for children who are in the position I once was in.”
Q: Why did you choose to attend the College of Education & Human Development?
A: “I chose the College of Education & Human Development for all the amazing experiences that come with attending school in the heart of Atlanta. I was excited by the opportunity to work with culturally and linguistically diverse populations across various hospitals, clinics and schools in our area.”
Q: Are there specific areas of interest you’ve focused on during your degree program?
A: “I know my interests will continue to grow and change as I get more experience in the field, but I am most interested in working in pediatrics and literacy-related goals. I have always loved working with children; this was reaffirmed during my school internship. My first client in the college’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic ignited my love for literacy. Even though we were fully online at the time, I loved learning that we could still effectively address my client’s reading and writing goals through a multisensory approach that was engaging for both of us.”
Q: What has been your biggest challenge?
A: “The biggest challenge of my life is also what set me on the path to pursuing speech-language pathology. I was introduced to the field from the perspective of a patient. Grad school comes with its own challenges, as we dedicate two years of our lives to learning and growing as clinicians. On days where the stress may feel more overwhelming, I make sure that I remind myself of the ‘why’ that keeps me pushing forward.”
Q: What has been the most memorable experience in your program?
A: “My favorite clinical experience during grad school was at Global Village Project, a nonprofit middle school for adolescent refugee girls. During this experience, I had the opportunity to help in a reading class, where I got to work with a student on improving her decoding skills. I am grateful for the experience of working at such a unique school where I got to meet so many girls with life stories so different from my own.”
Q: Who has been the biggest influence on you regarding your education and career choices?
A: “The people who have had the biggest influence on me are my parents. They continue to be my biggest supporters along my journey to becoming a speech-language pathologist.”
Q: What brings you joy in your academic studies? What makes you grateful?
A: “I believe the most exciting feature of becoming a speech-language pathologist is the ability to foster a connection. By working on communication skills, we strive toward restoring this ability for our clients.
As a speech-language pathologist, I will be working with my clients to connect with friends and family, whether that be through targeting speech, language, feeding, etc. Although grad school is often challenging and requires many personal sacrifices, I am so grateful that I have this opportunity to further my education and enter a field where I get to participate in the power of connection.”