CSD Graduate Student Learns Value of Adaptability in Summer Internship

Erika Mueller, a second-year master’s student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program, spent her summer interning at Blossom Children’s Center

An early intervention clinic for children with autism spectrum disorder and other special needs, Blossom was the ideal place for Mueller to develop strengths in adaptability and communication through the use of applied behavior analysis, speech therapy, occupational therapy and more. 

“I would assist my supervisor in running speech therapy sessions for children, or if they were children who I’d taken onto the caseload myself, we would do speech therapy sessions depending on the client and their goals,” Mueller said. “Then we’d write up the documentation for the day, we’d communicate with the families, the occupational therapists and the ABA specialists. It was a very collaborative environment.” 

Part of the learning curve for this position, Mueller said, was learning to work with children who had less advanced communication skills than in previous cases. 

“This internship was initially pretty challenging for me because before this internship, I was with eighth graders,” she said. “Going from working with children who had already had somewhat of a foundational language base to kids who were building the foundation of their language and speech acquisition—that was the biggest challenge. I think being adaptable, flexible and always being prepared for whatever situation is going to come up was something that was initially challenging, but one of the most valuable skills that I learned.” 

Despite the early challenges, seeing the clients’ strengths develop throughout the program made the experience worthwhile. 

“I think my best memory was watching the growth of the children throughout the summer,” she said. “It was really, really meaningful to watch how much they grew in their speech, their language, their social skills and their confidence. Watching them navigate the world was very exciting.” 

In addition to helping young people develop their speech and language skills, Mueller also figured out how to simply navigate having a job in the CSD field. 

“I think being in that internship taught me how to be a bit more independent,” she said. “It taught me how to plan out a day, how to target multiple goals within one session for a client, how to talk to the care team, how to relay messages to families and how to readjust when things aren’t going as expected.” 

Mueller’s advice for other interns is to find a balance between relying too heavily on a supervisor and being afraid to ask for help. 

“Ask questions, but also have initiative yourself,” she said. “I would ask my supervisor every single question I ever had. Don’t be afraid to get things wrong or make a mistake, because that’s how we learn and I think the best learning comes through failure.” 

A highly involved and motivated student, Muller’s success was bolstered by the Career Center Internship Award which allowed her to stay focused on achieving her occupational and educational goals. 

“This internship award was incredibly valuable to me,” she said. “As a graduate student, I am financially responsible for myself. I was looking to work while also doing a full-time internship position, while also doing a master’s thesis and maintaining an active role in our Spartan Stuttering Lab on campus. I’m so thankful to have won it because it did alleviate some of that financial burden that I was facing.” 

Mueller was once unsure which career path to pursue. After talking to professors and learning more about the CSD program, she decided it was right for her. Her summer internship experience sealed that decision. 

“I’ve always felt very secure in this choice as a career and I’m very fortunate to be very passionate about what I’m doing,” she said. “There’s something so meaningful about helping people communicate in a way that’s meaningful for them.” 

By Stella Govitz