As per the ASHA requirements, and many American graduate program pre-requisites, those wanting to become a certified SLP must take classes in the biological sciences. They must pertain to human or animal biology as well. It makes sense, after all, how do you expect to understanding speech and hearing mechanisms without understanding the underlying mechanisms that are fundamental to their function? Most undergraduate programs consider classes in biology, anatomy, neuroscience and genetics for this requirement. If your someone like me who dreaded biology in high school (for some reason I enjoyed chemistry more.. I’m a weirdo, I know), this can be a daunting decision, especially since my university dictates I must take 6 semester hours… aka TWO classes in this area for a degree in CSD.
I knew that I didn’t want to take biology. There’s no way I’d touch that with a ten foot pole. But then what should I take? I want to learn and challenge myself, but I don’t want to kill myself either. I knew I’d be required to take anatomy and physiology of speech AND hearing processes as later classes (also required in my program). Plus, I hear that regular A& P at my school is very strenuous… ayy! So this left me with Neuroscience classes, or Genetics. Now, the one part of high school biology I DID enjoy was genetics. I have a feeling that if there was a way I could’ve double- majored in CSD and Genetics without having to take like 5 biology classes/ major in “molecular BIOLOGY”… then I would’ve done that. Sadly, the genetics class (Genes and Diseases) that I did want, was completely full last semester. (No worries, I got in this semester! 😉 ) This left me with choosing a Neuroscience class as my first biological sciences fulfillment.
Some of them seemed very daunting, including some that I had no idea what they meant. Then my eye caught something that sounded hopeful: Brain and Behavior. Well, I enjoy behavioral sciences. I find psychology and sociology interesting. And psychology also includes the brain, which I’d like to no more about at the physiological and neuronal level. So, I took a leap of faith a decided to take it.
The first class proved to be nerve-racking; I found out that our grade was based on 3 test scores. THREE TEST SCORES. First, this is a neuroanatomy/neuroscience class… now I have to manage to compress all this information into my brain and remember it for three tests? Ahh, not good. I’m more of a homework, quizzes and midterm/final kind of person. The more grades, the merrier! Somehow, I managed to get the hang of this neuroanatomy stuff. First I had to learn the inner workings of the brain, what part does this, what little things link to other little things to make a bigger thing happen, what happens if one fails… basically all the things I hated about biology, but in the brain. Then, we got into the more interesting subjects and seeing that basis of information being applied on a broader scale. Now, I was truly invested.
We began to relate this knowledge to diseases. In fact, quite a few dealt with disorders in the realm of SLP. Two of them were the ever-popular Wernicke’s and Broca’s Aphasias. The neuronal information that we had learned in the beginning actually helped me learn about these speech disorders as I could apply all the circuitry and figure out that if something was wrong in this section of the brain, then the outcome would result in a certain Aphasia, and other behavioral deficits. By not only knowing how it affected the patient’s Aphasia, but the other disabilities it could cause can help a lot in the field of Communication Science and Disorders. After all, in my post about Temple Grandin’s speech, if we can’t understand the other things involved besides the speech problem, how can we properly address and treat our patients?
After all was said and done, I received a decent grade in the class. I also realized that although the title “Neuroscience” as a course classifier maybe seem overwhelming and intimidating, it can prove to be less of a task and more of a learning process. And a fun one at that! Plus, as I seem to re-learn every semester, one class you take may not seem to relate to others you are in, but eventually you find a connection. It’s also about applying those connections in order to utilize them within your profession and enriching yourself along the way.