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January 27, 2021

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Helping students who have learning disorders become more socialized

May is “better hearing and speech month.” The Icon took this opportunity to talk with Sherry Miller, Ada schools speech language pathologist.

The interview coincided with a fire drill. Miller was with a pre-schooler at the time. She thought it was best that she walked with the student and stayed with her during the drill so the student wouldn’t become scared.

I agreed and followed the two outside. All the while Miller assured the pre-schooler that everything was going to be okay and not to worry, “We will all take care of you,” she said, referring to the teachers and students standing outside.

After heading back inside and interviewing Miller it struck me that witnessing her in a fire drill best expressed her role with students: “We will all take care of you.”

The signs in her office wall reinforce that thinking and express some of the thoughts she impresses on students. For example:
• No excuses. Always do your best. 
• Please don’t touch things that belong to other people.
• Use kind words and actions. Use nice manners.

While her work with the pre-schooler was one-on-one, Miller says that she usually works with small groups of students at a time.

In her roll with the Hardin County Education Service Center, Miller spends four days a week in Ada and one day in at Upper Scioto Valley with junior high and senior high students who have severe disabilities. Her job involves youths age 3 on up to young adults age 22. She also co-teaches Kindergarten at Ada.

Miller has a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders and a master’s degree. She is a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. 

“Language involves reading, writing and comprehension. It involves thinking, making choices and problem solving,” she said about her involvement with students. “I help students who have learning disorders become more socialized.”

“Each child is an individual and I work to raise them each up to their own ability,” she said. “My goal is for my students to be able to function with their like-age peers.”

During the school day she comes into contact with many students. Some have a stutter problem. Others are autistic, or are hearing impaired. No matter the students’ disability, Miller’s goal is to have those students function within their community.

With autistic youth Miller helps create a picture schedule of their week. “They rely on structure,” she said. “I may spend time with a student teaching that student how to get in an out of social situations without alienating their job. Or, I may show them ways to disagree politely.”

With a student who stutters, Miller might help the student practice preparing to make a presentation in front of a class.  “For some stutterers it’s a life-long journey,” she said.

“My goal is to start with pre-school students.  A lot will fade off my caseload by second to third grade. Her work with students is 30 minutes at a time.

“I know my students really well. I have a sense of humor and am dying to have fun,” she said.

She says there are lots of success stories. “Students will still see me in the community and will come up and thank me – give me a hug,” she said, admitting that that is one of the rewards of her job.