Nico Pérez Arboleda talks about her experiences with the Master's Program in Speech Language Pathology and the IMH-DP program.

My name is Nico Pérez Arboleda. I’m the daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants, and I grew up in South Florida. I moved to NYC for college, and I graduated from CUNY Brooklyn with a B.F.A. in 2011. After a couple of miserable years working in publishing, I decided to change career paths. Based on my experiences working with young children, I knew I wanted to work with kids with special needs. I was fortunate enough to work at JBFCS’s Child Development Center, YAI preschools, the Rose F. Kennedy Child Evaluation & Rehab Center and the League’s Joan Fenichel Therapeutic Nursery. These experiences were edifying and confirmed my interest in working with young children with special needs.

I chose to pursue a career in speech-language pathology, and in the fall of 2016, I was accepted at Adelphi. During our orientation, Nicole Trotter came to present on the Infant Mental Health-Developmental Practice (IMH-DP) program. Before then, I had never heard of infant mental health, but by the time she finished a brief explanation, I was completely sold. I knew I wanted to participate in this program. This was further confirmed by my experiences in the Communication Sciences and Disorders department. Although our language development classes were extremely informative, I felt that an important component was missing from our training. From my work with kids, I knew that experience heavily impacted language development, and that certain diagnoses under a Speech-Language Pathology’s domain really require a strong social-emotional approach. It’s also apparent to me that when working with young children with communication issues, it is necessary to consider how their parents interact with them.

I have just reached the midpoint of the IMH-DP program. Learning about attachment and early relationships has changed my worldview. It’s now everywhere I look — I see everyone on a developmental continuum. It has also helped me to become a more compassionate and curious person. The coursework is challenging, but I expected that. What came as a surprise was the camaraderie, support and encouragement — from the rest of my cohort, as well as our professors. My cohort is full of bright and passionate women. We’re all very different people, and having the benefit of such diverse perspectives helps to broaden my own. The level of engagement, support and expectations from our professors has been completely unanticipated and deeply appreciated. The clinical work in internship has been completely different than anything I’ve previously encountered. It has been challenging, rewarding and empowering.

Although I’ll be sad to leave the program, I am excited to work ‘in the real world’. I’m hoping my externship placement during my final year in the communication disorders department will help determine which setting is the most appropriate for my career goals. I’ve been thinking a lot about attachment and how it relates to early linguistic input. Ideally, I’d love to participate in research pertaining to that, and/or trauma and its impact on language development and literacy outcomes. I am grateful for the education and support of this program and the trajectory it has put me on.

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