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Brooke Sheaffer
“My family was close to multiple children who experienced verbal communication challenges in their toddler years. This inspired me to study communication sciences and disorders. ”
Brooke Sheaffer
Communication Sciences and Disorders

Bridget Ford
November 1, 2018

Brooke Sheaffer got the opportunity to kick start her dream career last summer when she was offered an internship providing support and schooling for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her experience took place at The Vista School in Hershey, which caters to children from pre-kindergarten to secondary school with special needs.

The role she fulfilled at The Vista School was particularly hands-on, a new territory for Sheaffer, who had just finished her junior year as a Communications Sciences and Disorders (CSD) major at Penn State.

One of the most interesting aspects of her internship was the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication, or AAC devices. These are electronics, often iPads, that are frequently used to supplement speech and writing in educational settings. The integration of this technology allows professionals in the field to communicate more effectively with their students.

Sheaffer will never forget the look on the face of one of her students every time they met.

“He was completely non-verbal but when I would walk in the room he would get so excited to see me. He would love to show me how to use his device,” Sheaffer said of her time spent working with a 15-year-old student.

Sheaffer has been interested in working with children from a young age. She was exposed to multiple individuals close to her family who experienced verbal communication challenges throughout their life, which inspired her to study communication sciences and disorders. She also noted she, herself, was at risk of developing such disorders as a child.

“I was a premature baby, three and half months early,” Sheaffer said. “So, I always knew at some point I wanted to give back to that community for everything.”

Brooke Sheaffer and quote: "“With the support of the 2017 #GivingTuesday scholarship campaign, I interned at a local school that provides education for children with Autism. I was able to work with these children while also gaining skills that will help me later on down the road as a speech-language pathologist."

Sheaffer arrived at the University Park campus at the start of the Fall 2017 semester. Prior to that she attended Penn State Altoona where she earned entry into the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society for first-year students in the top ten percent of their class. Additionally, she is involved in Neumann Catholic Club Student Association, the National Society for Leadership and Success, the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association and the Health and Human Development Honor Society.

As she looks forward to her graduation in May, Sheaffer is beginning to think about her next step, graduate school. She is currently applying to Speech-Language Pathology programs in order to earn her Master’s degree. She hopes to hear back from most schools this coming March.

Looking back on her internship experience, Sheaffer is thankful for the opportunity to be exposed to real-life situations that helped her to learn and grow as a professional in the field of CSD.This internship was partially funded by a scholarship awarded by Penn States College of Health and Human Development.

“This was all just fantastic,” Sheaffer said. “I am incredibly grateful to the donors for giving me the financial ability to be able to see all that I could at Vista.”