Alexis Koomler

Logan Center, South Bend, IN

image of Alexis Koomler

Alexis works as a Speech Language Pathology Graduate Student Clinician at her practicum.

Why did you choose this placement?
I chose this placement partly due to our wonderful Program Director Susan Latham and Professor Kim Boyton. They both have spoken highly of their experiences in the early intervention setting and encouraged me to try it when talking about final clinical placements. Early intervention seemed interesting to me because I enjoy working with young children and in this setting there is a lot of focus on the family. Being able to work with the family as well as the child appealed to me, and I also think early childhood development is extremely fascinating.

Outline of your role and responsibilities at your practicum.
My role at my placement is to engage the child in therapy activities while utilizing toys or objects that are motivating for them. My main goal is to elicit verbal responses and initiation from the child during play in their natural environment. It is my job to select items that match the interests of each child in hopes that the child will vocalize or verbalize with me or their parent during the session. I have also taken on the responsibility of writing the case notes for each session, creating visual support materials for our clients, and organizing my supervisor's caseload in a working document in order to keep track of our client's progress and make a large caseload more manageable. 

Describe a challenge you have faced thus far in your practicum.
One challenge I have faced during my time in the early intervention setting is learning to be more flexible when it comes to therapy and the environment it takes place in. Before this setting I was in the Saint Mary's clinic, a skilled nursing facility, and a school, all of which are way more structured environments with specific protocols. I was used to having a set number of clients on a certain day and time that was the same time each week. There were different restraints each setting had as far as therapy materials, time the client can be seen, etc. and it was all very regimented. I am a pretty "go with the flow" type of person but this is how I was taught as a therapist and what I had experienced in placements thus far. The early intervention setting requires a lot of flexibility, because clients cancel suddenly and it can throw the whole day off. Since the spring semester mostly takes place in the winter months, cancellations have been great due to illness and winter weather. I found it a little frustrating at first that our weeks could get so messed up, but this experience has taught me that you can never know exactly what to expect as a therapist and that being flexible is a good quality for a therapist to have. I think I have also become more flexible in the way therapy is conducted, as each child is so unique so you truly have to wait and see how they are that day to create your plan of action. Overall I think this EI placement has helped me hone my skills in being a more adaptive therapist. 

How has Saint Mary's College prepared you for this practicum?
Saint Mary's has prepared me for this final practicum experience by ensuring that I had a solid clinical and academic base to begin and fine tune our skills. I had zero clinical experience when arriving at Saint Mary's. The experienced clinical supervisors at the Judd Leighton Speech and Language Clinic helped me become more confident and knowledgeable as a clinician. Our coursework has a lot of application-based assignments, which prepares you to use your skills in the real world as an SLP. I especially enjoyed the childhood language and dysphagia classes and feel both especially prepared me for a variety of clinical situations. My supervisor in the early intervention setting was impressed with my knowledge of language acquisition and language therapy. I believe the professors and supervisors at Saint Mary's truly want to see us succeed and did everything in their power to help us grow and learn along the way. They view us as their colleagues and that is very cool, and I believe this gives us the extra push to excel in our studies and clinical experiences. I really appreciate the point of view our professors taught from and how it caused me to shift my way of thinking in delivery therapy to a variety of clients. I feel capable to succeed as a first year SLP next year and am very excited to see what opportunities come my way!

I am extremely saddened that the last few months of my time at Saint Mary's College have been impacted by COVID-19. I will greatly miss my classmates, professors, and supervisors, and was looking forward to reuniting at graduation. The pandemic has shown my cohort how quickly things can change in our field and shows the need to be adaptable in this profession. From the pandemic I am learning more about teletherapy and home programs in a variety of settings.