Learning (and shining) among the stars

Speech-language pathologist reminisces on her time at ISTAR and how it helped her become the clinician she is today

Amanda McCarthy - 09 November 2018

In the midst of an undergraduate degree, Bethany Hartman had no idea the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR) would soon play a big role in her professional life. In fact, she didn't even know the clinic existed.

Her strong interest in fluency led her to the Organization of Alberta Students in Speech (OASIS) conference where she came face-to-face with a new opportunity.

"I attended the OASIS conference during my undergraduate degree where ISTAR had a booth set up," Hartman explained. "I chatted with representatives about who and what ISTAR was. I was able to learn all about the great placement and volunteer opportunities. I really looked forward to the chance to apply for a placement with them if/when I got into the MSc Speech-Language Pathology program."

Two members of Hartman's family were stutterers, which was not something that was often or easily discussed. She found herself growing more curious-what exactly is a stutter? This was something she hoped she could find the answer to at ISTAR with the help of a placement.

To her delight, she got exactly what she'd hoped.

"ISTAR was the third and last of my external placements for my graduate degree. I spent four weeks learning how to identify and count stutters, how to teach and explain some of the causes and processes of stuttering, how to structure and plan a therapy session and treatment plan, and so much more."

While Hartman loved the work she got to do at ISTAR, it was the people that really made her experience shine.

"My favourite part about this placement was the clients and clinicians. The program is fast-paced and intense, but you feel like a family after just a few hours on the first day. It was remarkable to reflect back on the first time we met our clients on day one and compare to how we all had grown by day 15.

I wanted to be a speech-language pathologist to help people communicate in the best way possible, and this experience has showed me how to do that. The transformations I witnessed were amazing."

Now that she's well into her career, Hartman believes the skills and experience she gained at ISTAR helped make her the speech-language pathologist she is today.

"As I complete my first full year of working, I often find myself reflecting on my experience and am truly thankful for the opportunity I had to grow and learn at such a prestigious research-oriented place. I highly recommend that other speech students consider completing a placement at ISTAR.

Everyone there is dedicated to providing the best support and therapy to the people who walk through their doors, whether they be volunteers, future clients or doe-eyed clinicians who don't really know what's in store for them. The people of ISTAR are truly one of its greatest assets."