Q&A with CSD Student Jenna York

Jenna York, a Communication Science and Disorder (CSD) student and reading assistant in the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, speaks on her hearing disability which has formed her passion for Speech Pathology and the special needs community.

December 19, 2022
Jenna York - CSD Student
Tell us about how you initially became interested in CSD at Baylor.

I have seen an audiologist most of my life because I am hard of hearing and wear hearing aids. Because of my exposure to this field prior to attending Baylor, I declared as a CSD major my freshman year, expecting to go into a career as an audiologist.

Once I began to take classes in the major, I realized I enjoyed Speech Pathology more than I expected. In my anatomy class, I loved learning about the functions of the body, especially the science behind speaking and understanding language. It connected with many of my passions and interests better than audiology, specifically classes that focused on the connections between communication and the special needs community. Since the concentrations were in the same major, I was able to easily switch. Although I would have been happy pursuing a career in audiology, I now know Speech Pathology is where God wanted me to be.

How has your own disability allowed you to view CSD at Baylor differently?

            I am currently a reading assistant in the Baylor Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic; some of my clients have disabilities or learning disorders. Since I am actively working to grow in my own way with my own disability, I can connect and relate to my clients in their journey to improve. Because of my personal experience, I hope I make my clients more comfortable in the clinic.

Also, from my experience of wearing hearing aids for most of my life, I know other people view me differently just because of my hearing disability. Whenever someone empathizes with you and accepts you for who you are, it means a lot more than most people realize . Because of my disability, I can relate to my clients and give them opportunities in the clinic to feel seen and accepted.

How have the things that you’ve learned in your Speech Pathology classes changed your perspective with the work that you do with people with disabilities?

I work at Bitty and Beau’s, a coffee shop that hires people with disabilities, and I have found myself using information from my classes to assist people at work. I’ve learned a lot about communication devices in Speech Pathology­­– I knew what they were, but I didn’t know how to use them until I dove deeper into CSD. At Bitty and Beau’s, we have a couple of employees who are nonverbal or use a communication device to assist them if needed. It’s amazing to work with employees and utilize communication devices that I’ve learned about in class. These devices allow the employees to communicate more easily with customers.  

Additionally, an advantage of having a hearing loss is learning to be an intentional listener­­– I’ve always had to read lips to understand the context of conversations and in doing so, I listen to others attentively and purposefully. Through my CSD classes, I have learned about different sounds and the way we produce them, and those courses have helped me improve my own listening as well. I like taking the time to genuinely listen to people and make them feel heard at work. Both my personal experience and my time in my classes have deeply impacted the work I do with people with disabilities.

What has been your most impactful moment in the Robbins College as a CSD student?

            Dr. Drew is my audiologist, and she is also a CSD professor in the Robbins College. Normally, my hearing loss is something I need to inform teachers about; I have to worry about accommodations, sitting in the front of my class, and asking teachers to repeat information. However, Dr. Drew already knew who I was because she was my audiologist. She was excited for me to take her class and relate to the content she was teaching.

In my audiology class, my hearing disability was a learning opportunity for my classmates because I was able to take hearing tests in front of the class. I liked having first-hand experience because not many college students know people with hearing loss that are their own age. The class and Dr. Drew were so impactful to me because I could see the explanation and science behind my hearing loss, and I loved that I had the opportunity to share that with my classmates­­– it’s different than anything I’ve ever experienced!