Speech Language Pathology in Motion
Combining a Passion for Speech Therapy and Horses: Molloy College Alumna Tina M. Rocco Brings Hope and Help to Children and Families
By Rebecca Martinez
While Tina M. Rocco, BS ('05), MA CCC-SLP, HPCS, was a student at Molloy College, she was on the equestrian team, was the team captain in 2004-05, and qualified for the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Finals, and went on to receive an MA in speech-language pathology. In 2011, Tina combined her passion for speech pathology and horses and opened her private practice Speech Language Pathology in Motion. The practice offers a number of movement- and play-based therapy approaches. Unique to Speech Language Pathology in Motion is interaction with horses, and use of the movement of the horse, in speech therapy.
In hippotherapy, or using movement of the horse in therapy, therapists purposefully select, use and modify the movement of the horse to facilitate the neuromotor systems that support speech and language. Therapists also use different positions for the client while on the horse to maximize the benefits of the movement. Hippotherapy can be used in help all five of the main areas that speech language pathologists treat. Hippotherapy at Speech Language Pathology in Motion is included within a larger treatment plan to help clients make progress with their speech, language or feeding skills. "We find that using movement and play, and having our clients practice skills in different environments while engaging in meaningful activities helps them make better progress and generalize skills faster," says Tina.
Many of the clients who receive therapy at Speech Language Pathology in Motion have difficulty understanding or using language. Sometimes this makes it difficult for them to play, interact and enjoy age-appropriate activities. In 2016, several clients receiving therapy at Tina's practice inquired about the possibility of a full-day speech and language program that included horses and opportunities for interactions with peers. In response, Tina initiated a week-long speech and language enrichment program called the C.A.M.P. (Communicate, Articulate, Make Friends and Play) Program. The goal of the program is to help children practice critical speech and language skills with peers, while also providing a positive summer experience. The program feels like summer camp, but there is a strong focus on speech and language. Peer interactions and pragmatic language skills are built into the program. Activities include equine movement, creative arts, group lunch, language games and swimming, all led by a licensed speech language pathologist.
The C.A.M.P. Program also serves as an internship experience for future speech language pathologists. Undergraduate and graduate level speech therapy students come for the week, and serve as the program's one-to-one aides, group leaders or assistants. Interns are provided with training in communication differences, strategies for supporting speech and language, taking data and motoring progress, the use of visual supports and schedules, and how to modify activities to help the children succeed. The interns support the speech language pathologists as they run activities throughout the week and are given ample opportunities to gain hands-on experience as they prepare for their careers.
"It is a fantastic week! We can give children a positive summer experience with peers and help them work on their speech, language and social skills, while we also get the chance to give back to our profession by providing future speech language pathologists with a hands-on learning experience. It has been wonderful to see how many people have been impacted by the program, and how it has grown over the past three years. I would like to think that the experience and knowledge gained at the program will stay with the future therapists throughout their careers," says Tina.
In 2016, the program served eight children and twelve interns and has grown to eighteen children ages three to twelve and had 31 interns. The interns are all enrolled in undergraduate and master's level speech language pathology programs throughout New York state.
Notably, Tina has enjoyed the assistance of several Molloy students and alumni. Danielle Simpson ('11, '13) served as one of the programs licensed speech language pathologists and led the creative arts activities. Megan Meyer ('18) participated in the program for her second year, this year as a group leader, Hannah Butkiewicz, an incoming graduate student, was a one-to-one aide. Breann Rissland ('18) has been a part of the program for all three summers and was a group leader this year. Haley Sorensen, a nursing student her in junior year, worked at the program as support staff for the week.
When asked about her experience at the program, Megan said, "Another year of C.A.M.P. and I feel I gained so much more knowledge. My group was incredibly eye-opening and provided me with challenges and new experiences. I learned so much from the speech language pathologists and a lot about hippotherapy and cueing strategies which helped me work with the kids."
According to Breann, "C.A.M.P. is the best part of my summer! I have learned so much about working with children with autism and cerebral palsy. I always leave C.A.M.P. feeling like I have gained more knowledge about my field and methods to use within my future therapy sessions. I owe a lot of my current clinical skills to the speech language pathologists who have helped at this program over the years. I look forward to continuing to learn and grow in this profession."
Hannah said "I had an amazing time. I graduated with my undergrad degree in December and I am starting grad school and clinic in the fall. I was very nervous about it, but I feel this experience has given me so much confidence and now I can't wait to start."
For more information regarding Speech Language Pathology in Motion, or the C.A.M.P. Program, visit Speech in Motion or call 631.479.3393 x3. Their offices are in Hauppauge and Islandia, NY.