Carol Messier '04

Carol L. Messier, MA, SLP/CCC

Carol L. Messier, MA, SLP/CCC completed her undergrad and graduate work at CU, graduating with her masters in speech-language pathology in 2004. Since then Carol has focused most of her continuing education in the area of literacy. Carol serves students at Alpine Elementary School in Longmont, Colorado. When asked about her most passionate SLP interests during grad school, Carol related that she found every bit of it fascinating, “I was actually one those people who had a very hard time finding one area of passion in this field. It is all so fascinating! From the little guys in the preschool to the elderly clients with the brain trauma; there is just nothing boring about it.” Carol’s passion about literacy, however, won out. She is curious about “the links between language pathologists and literacy.” Carol believes we should change our titles to language, speech pathologists rather than the other way around because language is so much larger than speech. She is dedicated to the principle of prevention and points to “the simple fact that so many of the difficulties people suffer due to illiteracy are preventable and therefore unnecessary.” Citing Shaywitz, S., Overcoming Dyslexia, 2003, Carol related some critical statistics to us, “Did you know that reading disability is estimated to comprise at least 80% of all learning disabilities?. I know many speech, language pathologists still believe that literacy issues are out of our realm of expertise; however, quoting Shaywitz, ‘Dyslexia is a complex problem that has its roots in the very basic brain systems that allow man to understand and express language.’ I believe this premise based not only her work, but on other research as well; Louisa Moats, CU’s own Anne Whitney, J.F. Greene, to name a few who have conducted and published said research." Carol seems to be in the right place to explore literacy first hand. "I'm very excited to be in St. Vrain Valley School district as they are instituting a program to establish three Elementary schools that will become "Literacy Center Schools'. Some personnel in these schools will be trained in researched based intervention strategies proven to be successful for children with literacy difficulties. These strategies will be explicit, intensive, and targeted to the students needs. I am lucky enough that the special education director for St. Vrain, Jackie Whittington, recognizes the role speech, language pathologists have to play in literacy intervention and therefore includes the SLPs in the district in these trainings.” Carol is currently participating in a training program that allows her to provide students with more intense intervention in the area of literacy. “Eventually I may pursue a degree either specifically in literacy instruction or in Education with an emphasis in literacy.” One of Carol’s most moving memories from grad school was her involvement in the Talking with Technology Camp located outside of Empire, Colorado. “First you need to know, camp as a general concept is definitely not my thing. I am not a prima dona who needs a 5 star hotel or anything like that, but I definitely prefer less shared bathroom and sleeping facilities. I was also considerably older than most of my co-students, so getting undressed in front of them was not high on my list. It is one thing to gradually become aware of what time and gravity can do to your anatomy; you can deny it for quite a long time. It’s an entirely different matter to have it abruptly exposed next to young firm bodies; no more denial. So let’s just say camp was not an experience I would have chosen for myself. My camper was a 15 year old boy who, due to a brain injury, lost his ability to communicate orally as well as many motor skills. The injury was fairly recent (at that time, perhaps only a year previous) so this whole concept of therapy and medical care, etc. was all new, not only to him, but to his entire family. Camp was the first time he encountered other children using devices to speak. When he arrived at camp he was awestruck by how many other people “like him” there were: kids in wheelchairs and kids using various devices to communicate. At the final day of camp we had to do an interview with our camper and one of the things we had to ask was, “What did you get out of camp?” My camper looked at me and looked at his counselor and then used his device to say, 'I learned how to talk.' That’s what the whole thing was about wasn’t it? I was moved to tears. The other big thing for me during the camp experience was, as stupid as this sounds, that I still had some fear of the disabled. Not out and out terror or anything, but just a sense of being uncomfortable with them. Camp changed that – from then on I never purposely avoided eye contact with people with disabilities. I go out of my way to nod or smile and say hello to them and to treat them the way I would treat anyone else." Carol also remembers the lighter moments. “One of the funniest memories would have to be toward the end of our class time, getting ready for internships (Funny now, it was not funny at the time): I arrived home late one evening to a somewhat grouchy, irritated husband who said, ‘The phone has been ringing off the hook for you--stupid sales people and they won’t talk to me, just ask for Mrs. Messier and hang up when I say you aren’t home. After 5 of them, I couldn’t take it anymore, I told the next person who called and asked for you...She died! and hung up the phone.’ Okay, I’m thinking that’s pretty rude but grad school does take a toll on the whole household! I thought whatever, I’m tired, stressed, still have reading to do before I can finally collapse. The next day, I’m up in the computer lab at school and I send an email off to one of the Special Education directors of one of the school districts where I had applied for an internship. She emails me back, ‘Oh Carol, I am so glad to hear from you. I tried to call you last night and some man yelled at me that you died and hung up.’ I screamed in the computer room (there were several witnesses), Oh my God! I’m going to kill him! Luckily she was very understanding, I did get the internship and I am still married.” Regarding her fellow students, Carol writes, “Socially I was extremely lucky to have graduated in the class that I did. What a great bunch of people, both the students and the professors. I still see, run into and keep in touch with some of the people from our class and I know if out of the blue I had a question that anyone in that class could answer, I could email or phone them and they would graciously accept the call. Because so many of us have “specialized” in different areas we did, about a year after graduation, get together a group of people and we just gave each other different helpful hints and resources for our special areas. We talked about doing it again, but life happens and people get separated. I think this website you are doing will be great because it is very beneficial to have contact with people in all areas of the field.” Carol has recently discovered that she enjoys traveling, “not the actual moving from place to place (I get terrible motion sickness), but being in, exploring and learning a new place. Last year my husband I had the privilege of fulfilling a life dream of his, we went to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. This was, so far, the best trip of my lifetime. My difficulty with travel is that each place we visit I would like to spend time living in to really get a “feel” for the people of the place. But alas, one week or so is all we can usually manage. At home, I love to read fiction novels, just finished the latest Janet Evanovich, she never fails to make me laugh out loud. I also scrapbook, make my own greeting cards and sew.” Carol was extremely satisfied with her graduate experience. “During my first years out of school and even in recent years I feel the education I got at CU was some of the best there is in our field. Of course a school program cannot teach you all there is to know, largely because what you need to know is constantly changing. However, I met people from other programs during the course of my first couple years teaching and I felt I was better prepared to handle many things due to of the education I received at CU. I felt confident with the IEP progress, the ability to read, understand and filter research (know if it is good research or not), the practicum experience of problem-solving and figuring out best next steps--just all of it was so invaluable. Current students need to know, if you want to be good in this field, your education isn’t over with the receipt of that diploma. Your education is a lifelong process, but it is a program of your own design." One of our most recent graduates...Carol has obviously established herself solidly in the field. Our best wishes go out to you for continued success Carol!