December 3, 2018 | Erin Bluvas, email@example.com
Madison, Wisconsin, native Lyndsay Schmitt became interested in communication sciences and disorders (COMD) while she was working as a behavioral therapist during her bachelor’s program at the University of Wisconsin in her hometown. Her passion for COMD was sparked while providing therapy for a young boy on the autism spectrum.
“In working with him, I saw how important speech-language pathologists are in aiding in communication development,” Schmitt says. “I have always loved helping kids and felt called to this occupation to help kids in their daily lives.”
While studying COMD as an undergraduate student, she completed an honors project on alternative and augmentative communication and how functional these tools are for children with autism spectrum disorders. Her research looked at the many different types available to determine the most effective forms—an experience which further cemented her passion for the field.
After her 2017 graduation, Schmitt spent nearly a year as a research assistant in the University of Wisconsin’s Developmental and Disabilities Language Lab while maintaining her role as a behavioral therapist. She also researched graduate programs and fell in love with UofSC when she came to Columbia for a tour.
“This program is one of the best in the nation, as students are provided with clinical opportunities, extensive coursework, and research opportunities that aren’t provided by any other university,” she says. “The clinical supervisors work very closely with students to provide their own expertise as well as sufficient education to ensure that students will use evidence-based practices as future speech-language pathologists.”
In addition to being impressed with the COMD department’s rankings and reputation, Schmitt jumped at the chance to serve as a graduate assistant on assistant professor Jessica Klusek’s SC Family Experiences Study. Klusek’s expertise with autism and fragile X syndrome match perfectly with Schmitt’s interest in working with children who have developmental disabilities.
“Dr. Klusek has guided me through not only my education as a speech-language pathologist but has also provided me with opportunities in research that I never thought I would experience,” she says of her mentor. “There is still so much to learn about the causes of developmental disorders as well as aiding in therapy and treatment, and I think research is a really important part of the field.”
Though she’s only just begun her two-year program, Schmitt is already looking ahead. She plans to continue conducting research in parallel with her classroom and clinical experiences. After her 2020 graduation, she would like to work with young children (birth to three years old) with developmental disabilities to aid in their overall communication development.