Supporting Literacy, Supported by CCCs

Throughout a career devoted to helping students, Jaumeiko Coleman knows she has been both a benefactor and beneficiary of a commitment to education.

Jaumeiko Coleman attributes two childhood experiences to propelling her towards her eventual career as a speech-language pathologist. The first was her tendency of always “playing school” with her dolls and stuffed animals, lining them up and preparing lessons for them. The second was watching her sister take great strides to overcome educational challenges that led many to say she wouldn’t be able to learn effectively.

“Seeing my sister’s experience got me interested in how I can support other people in understanding that we shouldn’t let the label drive what they’re capable of,” she said. “Like a straight arrow, I went into speech-language pathology.”

Throughout her career as a speech-language pathologist, which she has paired with a commitment to education, Coleman has focused on literacy development. Her current role as Director of Clinical Services at the Atlanta Speech School aligns with that calling. The school helps students achieve spoken language and literacy skills and provides comprehensive support for students. For Coleman, helping students achieve the ability to read and write ties into a larger picture of communication that includes listening comprehension and use of verbal language.

“When you have a hard time with spoken language, it just about always impacts your ability to read and write — and learning to read and write is actually very complex,” she explains. “When you meet someone who struggles with it, you realize all the pieces that are required and where you have to build scaffolding to help them to achieve something so important to life.”

In her own educational pursuits, Coleman experienced firsthand how valuable it is to have someone help a student grasp — and eventually master — a subject. When she was studying and working towards obtaining her CCCs, the direction from her professors was instrumental.

“Going to school, you have knowledge but you don’t necessarily have the practical application piece that goes with that — your CCCs help you develop that practical part,” Coleman says. “But if you’re not certified, you may not have clinical mentors.”

“That guidance was hugely beneficial for me— making sure I was supported, then pulling back to see how I did in the work. It helped me to know more than I would have otherwise, and have good clinical skills.”

Coleman has been able to play the role of mentor and teacher for others throughout her career too. She recalls volunteering at a school for students who were “on their last leg before juvenile detention.” Many didn’t have the privilege of developing a strong foundation of communication — and, in turn, reading and writing. They experienced significant challenges as a result. “One of the areas that always comes up from a research perspective and my experience in life is the ability to read and write, and how that opens doors for students.”

After working with these students and helping them translate their abilities into literacy, Coleman noticed how moved they were by their progress. “I could immediately see how their understanding of some of the reading concepts was a light for them,” she says.

At the Atlanta Speech School, Coleman’s role includes support of several other speech-language pathologists who help students achieve. “There are more speech-language pathologists than I’ve ever seen in one school building — and they’re all certified!”

As she and staff navigated the pandemic, having a team of professionals with their CCCs was especially important. While the school already had an established telepractice model prior to the pandemic, there was still a lot to learn and adapt to quickly. By having their CCCs, they could tap into ASHA’s wide network and array of resources.

“If you’re not connected into that network, you’re not understanding and knowing what’s available to you,” Coleman explains. “And you also don’t have as strong a voice within the field, making it difficult for ASHA and its network to understand your needs and advocate for you.”

“It’s really important for us to collaborate with other people — we really have to understand the power of that,” she adds. “That’s an important part of the value of the CCCs — it provides a network of professionals who strongly believe in collaboration.”