“The field of communication sciences and disorders prepares students to assist individuals with the most basic of human rights — the ability to communicate,” says Ms. Victoria Henbest, a PhD candidate in the Arnold School of Public Health’s department of communication sciences and disorders (COMD) at the University of South Carolina. “Helping individuals learn to effectively communicate is the most rewarding experience.”
[Photo: Ms. Victoria Henbest]
As a social determinant of health, the ability to communicate (oral and written) influences access to healthcare, social support, career opportunities, and many other factors that impact the health and wellbeing of individuals and populations. The COMD field plays a key role in identifying and addressing language and literacy challenges.
Ms. Henbest will contribute to the advancement of language and literacy through her dissertation research with support from a Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders Ph.D. Scholarship. Her project will investigate the linguistic awareness skills that contribute to success with reading and spelling in children who have autism spectrum disorder — an area where research is critically needed.
“Although we have substantial information on the role linguistic awareness skills play in children who do not have autism spectrum disorder, these skills have not been thoroughly investigated in children who do. This is important because children with autism make up a growing number of children who receive special education services in public schools,” says Ms. Henbest. “Thus, more research in this area is urgently needed so we can best support these students’ literacy skills.”
The scholarship program is open to all PhD students who have risen to the candidate level of their accredited doctoral programs. By providing dissertation support, the Council aims to facilitate recruitment, education and retention of faculty and students to meet the public need for researchers and clinicians in the COMD field.
“Learning to read, spell, and write are some of the most amazing feats of children as they progress through their school-age years, and for those who struggle with these skills, everyday life is a challenge,” says Ms. Henbest. “Working with and on behalf of children is the highlight of my life and being a part of a team of researchers and clinicians who work diligently to support these children and their language and literacy skills is my life’s work.”
Ms. Henbest earned her first speech-language pathology degree from the University of Arkansas in the same town (Fayetteville) where she was born and raised. After graduation, she immediately enrolled in a master’s program in speech-language pathology at Missouri State University. For the next five years, Ms. Henbest worked as a speech-language pathologist at an early childhood center outside of Springfield, MO.