“Where are they now?” Checking in with two AAC Collaboration Project graduates

Nicole Romano, 2019 graduate of the AAC Collaboration Project

We are now recruiting students for the AAC Collaboration Project, a training grant that provides funding support to prepare Masters-level students as either speech-language pathologists or special education teachers with the skills needed to provide outstanding services to children who require AAC.

As we start to recruit new students, we would like to highlight the successes of our recent graduates and the contributions they are making to the AAC field!

Today, we are featuring two of our most recent graduates, Nicole Romano and Victoria Starr, who were both part of the AAC Collaboration Project from 2017-2019. 

Nicole is now a speech-language pathologist at the George Crothers Memorial School (CADES), a specialty school for students with multiple disabilities and/or students who require intensive behavior supports. In her new position, Nicole provides direct and consultative services to 25+ students, with the majority requiring AAC supports. Some of her primary responsibilities include collaborating and co-treating with other professionals (e.g., physical and occupational therapists) and integrating communication services into the classroom. 

Victoria is a speech-language pathologist in Loudoun County Public Schools. She currently provides services to around 40 students, with the majority requiring AAC supports. Just a few of Victoria’s responsibilities include conducting AAC evaluations, trialing devices, and ensuring the delivery of effective AAC services with systems ranging from high-tech eye gaze devices to low-tech visual supports. 

When asked how the AAC Collaboration project prepared Nicole for her current position, she shared:
The grant prepared me a lot for my current position.  Through the grant I was able to gain a lot of experience working with students with multiple disabilities and also had a lot of experience programming and planning for AAC devices.  The grant also prepared me in working with other professionals and receiving input from all of the team members.  I felt like I was able to work with a wide range of professionals, which is very helpful now because I feel comfortable reaching out to other team members for help or advice.
Victoria added:
Being a part of the grant taught me so much about all the different AAC devices available and how each person deserves to have a device that meets their needs and allows them to access their education. 

Victoria Starr, 2019 graduate of the AAC Collaboration Project, providing AAC services in her new position

For those interested in applying, Nicole shared the following thoughts:
The grant is one of the best decisions I made because I was able to work with the population that I always wanted to work with. I got a lot of different experiences working with students with a range of disabilities and also with a lot of different AAC devices.  The grant was very helpful in teaching me how to work on a team and also how to collaborate with other professionals.  Since my school requires collaboration among professionals, I feel like I was able to jump right in and be a part of the team from the start.  It was also nice to have a lot of research knowledge to bring to the school and help them to implement new curriculums and therapy ideas.
Many thanks to Nicole and Victoria for sharing their experiences! We are so proud of your hard work and the impact you’re making on the lives of individuals who use AAC. 
For more information on the AAC Collaboration Project, please contact Jessica Caron, Ph.D. at jgc169@psu.edu (CSD)or David McNaughton, Ph.D. at dbm2@psu.edu (SPLED). 
Financial support for master’s students comes from a personnel preparation grant from the U.S. Department of Education, grant #H325K170130.

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