Lehman Speech Clinic Patients Lunch with High School "Pen Pals"

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Photo of Lehman grad students and clinicians hosting a luncheon for clients from the Speech and Hearing Center's Aphasia Clinic with their special guests—a group of high school 'pen pals.'
Photo of Lehman grad students and clinicians hosting a luncheon for clients

The classroom off of the main office at Lehman College’s Speech and Hearing Center was brimming with friendship and fun as grad students and clinicians hosted a luncheon for clients from the center’s Aphasia Clinic with their special guests—a group of high school “pen pals.”

As part of their vocational training this semester in an individualized education program at James Monroe High Annex in the Soundview section of the Bronx, the high school students were performing light office work twice a week at the Speech and Hearing Center. But Leslie Grubler, director of clinical education and clinical services in Lehman’s Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences had an idea: Develop a writing partnership between the Annex students and the aphasia clients, most of whom are re-learning language and speech skills following a stroke.

“The writing partnership was a great opportunity for both the high school students and clients to engage in meaningful writing exercises while also developing social communication and increasing a sense of belonging to a wider community,” said Grubler.

For the last three months, the students and clients have exchanged letters and shared basic interests and preferences about food, music, and other general subjects. Each of the eight participating Monroe Annex students corresponded with five different aphasia clients. The luncheon marked the first time all of them had met.

Georgia Powell, a classroom teacher from Monroe Annex who accompanied the students to the luncheon, agreed that the experience has been a good one for the students. “This allowed the students to experience a work environment and be part of a fulfilling project. All of the modeling and support they received here really helped—I could see them growing from week to week.”

While handing out the food, setting up board games, and facilitating some of the encounters and conversations, the Lehman Student Clinicians and several students in the Graduate Program in Speech-Language Pathology, along with a few undergraduate volunteers, were all obviously enjoying the gathering as well.

“I came into this program wanting to focus professionally on children, but I fell in love with my work in the adult clinic,” said Elena Karavassilis, a second-year grad student in the Lehman Speech-Language program.

The graduate program is now in its third year of a New York City Department of Health partnership in which graduate students receive training in best practices while working with families and children 0-3 years old in the Speech and Hearing Center.

As she surveyed the lively interactions inside the conference room during the luncheon, Grubler said, “We need to do this every semester.”