On October 20, 2018, FSU first-year speech-language pathology distance learning student Natasha Quinonez provided an hour-long workshop at the 2018 HISPA Autismo conference in Orlando, FL. Sponsored by the the University of Central Florida Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, HISPA Autismo is in its fifth year of providing workshops entirely in Spanish for professionals, parents, and siblings of children with autism.
Natasha was the only student to present at the conference, and impressively spoke in Spanish (her second language) for the entire hour. Her workshop focused on the use of visual supports, which are methods for helping children with autism increase their communication skills, make choices, assist with transitioning from one activity to another, organize their environment, and reduce overall frustration. Approximately 50 parents and professionals attended the session. Natasha described the purpose and evidence for the use of visual supports, including examples of different types of visuals that could be used to support children at home, in the community, and while in the car. Parents received “first-then” boards that they could begin using immediately with their children.
An Orlando resident, Natasha entered the distance learning graduate program in FSU’s School of Communication Science and Disorders (SCSD) in Fall 2018 after working for two years as a bachelor’s level speech-language pathology clinician in Orange County Public Schools in Florida. Her work was recognized with an award from the district, “Rookie SLP of the Year.” She continues to work full-time for the district, but this year was appointed as Speech-Language Pathology Program Assistant for its Bilingual Speech Team and Program Specialists. Her clinical experiences with children with autism led to her being invited to present at HISPA Autismo. Natasha said she chose FSU’s Distance Learning Program because of SCSD’s high national ranking and also because the program allows her to attend graduate school while working full-time. Although Natasha is in her first semester of the graduate program, she says, “I have learned so much and I am now able to apply my experiences within the schools more easily. I am thankful to be here and learn from such amazing professors. Thanks Florida State University, for giving me the opportunity to reach my future dream of becoming a well-equipped Master’s level Speech Language Pathologist. I am glad we found each other.”
SCSD Director of Clinical Education, Dr. Lisa Scott, said that Natasha is an outstanding student who is a great example of the kind of student the graduate program hopes to attract. “Students who are dedicated clinically, academically, and willing to engage in professional development for the good of the community are exactly the kinds of students we hope to enroll. Natasha’s willingness to combat her admitted shyness and present not only to a large group but also in her second language is so inspiring!”