One of the most memorable moments in Brandon Kerr’s time at CEHS occurred at a McDonald’s in Romney, W.Va.
Kerr, a second-year master’s student in CEHS’ speech-language pathology program, had the opportunity to work with a child and his family at Camp Gizmo, a five-day summer program held at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in Romney, W.Va. For the duration of the camp, Kerr was paired with a young boy who was nonverbal and his family.
“I really enjoyed my experience as a speech-language pathology graduate clinician at Camp Gizmo,” Kerr said. “I was honestly kind of intimidated by the thought of going to an unfamiliar place to work with families who really needed answers and reassurance for how to help their children communicate. After meeting my client and his family, I felt much more at ease and really enjoyed spending time with them.”
At Camp Gizmo, Kerr used Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) to help this boy communicate with his family. When Kerr joined the family at McDonald’s for dinner during camp, Kerr had programmed different menu items into the boy’s AAC device so that he could identify them. Kerr’s client was then able to point out what each of his family members was having for dinner.
“It was just really cool to see that even though he was basically nonverbal and didn’t really have any verbal output, he still knew what was going on,” Kerr said. “He could still communicate. You just had to give him that method of communication so he could participate in conversation and relate to his loved ones.”
Now prepared to complete his program in May 2018, Kerr did not always envision himself working as a speech-language pathologist. After graduating from Messiah College in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in music business, Kerr went to work as a fundraiser for Redstone Presbyterian Senior Care in Greensburg, Pa. While working there, he came to know the facility’s speech therapist, and his interest in the field grew.
“I was always interested in voice and kind of became interested in the voice therapy aspects of speech-language pathology, so that’s really how I bridged that gap from music business into the field of speech,” Kerr said.
While Kerr was working at Redstone, his grandmother was a patient at the facility. This gave him the opportunity to see the real-world applications of speech-language pathology.
“Toward the end of her life, my grandmother was starting to lose a lot of her speech, and she wasn’t really able to communicate with us,” Kerr said. “I always sat there with her and would help her eat her dinner and wonder what was going on in her mind. I just wished she could still speak her mind the way that she once would have.”
Kerr was drawn to CEHS’ speech-language pathology program for its small feel, wealth of resources and numerous opportunities for practicum experiences.
“I think that the program itself has a small, personalized feel to it, but then, you’re also at WVU where you’ve got a major medical center right across town,” Kerr said.
As he looks toward graduation, Kerr hopes to find a position in healthcare to be able to help clients like his grandmother.
“Because I have spent so much time in healthcare, I have gained a little more appreciation for the way somebody’s healthcare care is managed,” Kerr said. “I’m just looking forward to graduating, getting out in the real world and putting everything I’ve learned to use. It’s about helping people live their best lives.”