Students Conduct Hearing Screenings at Bay Cliff
Three NMU students recently volunteered a day to conduct hearing screenings for more than 130 youth at Bay Cliff Health Camp. They gained valuable experience interacting with children ages 3-17 who have a variety of physical and communication challenges. Lori Nelson (Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences) said the students had previous experience using portable audiometers. In advance of the Bay Cliff session, they also were trained in two different screening procedures: one for older children and one for preschool kids who have more difficulty understanding the concept of when to raise their hands in response to an audible tone.
“The young campers have to be taught to pair their behavioral response with the stimulus, which requires more time,” Nelson said. “But the overall hands-on experience is priceless. It’s one thing to practice a procedure in a classroom role-playing with fellow students. It’s totally different having a 3-year-old sitting in front of you who has never done it before and you have to hold his attention and keep him engaged while also handling the audiometer. It helps students learn to think on their feet, be flexible and adapt to the needs of each individual.”
Student Katherine Marner agreed: “It was interesting to switch gears according to age and to see how some disabilities can affect people’s lives. It was also beneficial to help such a large group of kids with special needs because I’ll most likely be working with that population in the future. They were great. I loved every second of it and left smiling. It was really fun.”
By volunteering their services, Nelson said the NMU students give the speech therapists on staff at Bay Cliff more time to analyze their own speech and language evaluations of the campers and figure out therapy goals for the summer. If hearing issues are identified during the screening early in the summer, follow-up care can determine if it is a case of wax buildup in the ear canal, an undetected ear infection or something that may require a full audiological exam.
Bay Cliff, located in Big Bay, is a year-round, nonprofit therapy and wellness center for children and adults with physical disabilities. Its priority program is a seven-week summer therapy camp serving children with speech, hearing, orthopedic and vision disabilities. NMU students from a broad range of academic majors work or volunteer in various capacities at Bay Cliff. Those who handle the hearing screenings must have completed NMU’s introduction to audiology course.
“I had been to Bay Cliff in the past, but not during the summer therapy camp,” said Gentian Waller, who will be a senior this fall and plans to attend graduate school for speech-language pathology. She is pictured far right with (from left) Kati Stilwell and Katherine Marner.
“I was surprised by how many campers we were able to get through in that time frame. The screenings were always conducted in a positive manner and the kids got a sticker at the end. It wasn’t a chore; it was fun and exciting. I got to apply what I learned in class, but learned a lot more by helping clients get situated, entertaining them, getting acquainted with their personalities and figuring out how the process might be changed to get the child to attend to the screening.”
In addition to supervising the student volunteers, Nelson engages in professional development each summer by providing speech therapy services to diverse age groups. This year, she works part time with both pediatric clients at Bay Cliff and geriatric patients at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans.
Other volunteer opportunities in the Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences department include fall preschool screenings at St. Christopher’s Day School as part of a methods of diagnosis class and screenings at the Wildcat Wellness Health Fair as part of the introduction to audiology class. Nelson reports that Wildcat Willy has had his hearing tested twice and passed with flying colors—green and gold, most likely.