Amanda Castellano will receive a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders from the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education in May 2014.

by Cecil Harris

 “It’s different from doing observations when you have to go in and actually give therapy to children.”–Amanda Castellano

Adelphi University offered exactly the kind of experiential learning opportunity that Amanda Castellano sought in preparation for a career as a speech-language practitioner. Adelphi students get plenty of individual attention on a close-knit campus, and Adelphi’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is one of the few college programs to offer clinical training to undergrads.

Ms. Castellano received a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders, which encompasses speech-language pathology and audiology, from the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education in May 2014. She spent part of her senior year as a student-clinician in TOTalk, a program on the Garden City campus in which she helped treat toddlers with undeveloped verbal skills.

“It’s different from doing observations when you have to go in and actually give therapy to children,” Ms. Castellano said. “The biggest challenge was remembering what goals go with what child. Even if I’m assigned to one child, if another child comes up to you in a group intervention, you have to know what to do. It took about three weeks before everything clicked.”

Under the supervision of Susan Lederer, Ph.D., Ms. Castellano and fellow student-clinicians Rebecca Nuzzi and Rachel Fernandes worked with six toddlers in 12 sessions of 90 minutes each. The sessions were videotaped to reinforce the learning experience.

“In TOTalk, you have children, their caregivers and three student-clinicians in the same room,” said Dr. Lederer, who created TOTalk in 1998, as well as the KIDTalk and PreRead programs. “With so much going on, collaboration is important and these ladies worked incredibly well together.”

As part of Adelphi’s hands-on learning approach, the student-clinicians devised a way to command the toddlers’ attention during class. “We bought a bubble gun that lit up and made sounds,” Ms. Castellano said with a smile. “That worked really well. All the kids’ eyes were on us.”

Possessing a serenity that prompted Dr. Lederer to nickname her “Zen,” Ms. Castellano came to Adelphi from a large family in Brooklyn, New York, already comfortable around children and eager to help others. When she earns a bachelor’s degree, she won’t be the first Adelphi graduate in her family. Her cousin, Maria Birch ’09, works in Adelphi’s human resources department.

Graduate school is next for Ms. Castellano, who has acquired the requisite skills and a deeper understanding of human communication at Adelphi.

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