More than 3 million Americans stutter, a communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions, prolongations, or abnormal stoppages of sounds. The exact cause of stuttering—a disorder that has been described since biblical times—is still unknown, but the contributing factors can be genetics, child development, neurophysiology, and/or family dynamics. The best prevention tool is early intervention, using the help of a specialist.
In the near future Thelma Acquaah-Harrison may well be one of those specialists. "After observing numerous therapy sessions and speaking to clients about how they feel about stuttering," she decided to focus her Honors in the Major thesis on the area of fluency. "I started getting my hands on anything I could about stuttering. The causes, genetics, and social factors all interest me."
Two courses have influenced Thelma's research: Neuroscience, with its overview of the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of communication and the processes that can affect it; and Fluency, with its overview of stuttering and other disorders. "We learned how vital a role we play in helping clients communicate their basic needs again. Sometimes people who have had a stroke have difficulty communicating something as simple as the need to go to the bathroom. Our job is to help them regain their abilities so they can live without embarrassment or pain."
Why has she been drawn to this field? Thelma says, "I've always loved working with children. I've taught preschool and worked with youth of the Muscular Dystrophy Association for many years." At the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, she assisted in research for FirstWords, an early identification and intervention program of the Department of Communication Disorders.
This past summer, she had the "experience of a lifetime." While working in Ghana's Osu Children's Home, helping children ranging in age from 3 days to 6 years old, who had been left on the streets, were HIV/AIDS positive, or who were mentally handicapped, she learned of a nearby school that specializes in autism. "After spending a few days there, I loved it so much that I plan to volunteer again next summer!"
She explains, "I considered teaching, but it just wasn't enough. I want to work on a closer level with children and families. Communication Disorders is the perfect profession to teach, counsel, and express creativity in a light hearted atmosphere. I couldn't have chosen a better area of study to fit my personality!"[Close Button]