BJU trains students in a way that allows them to serve others in the church and the community. Students such as senior Abby Leaman, who study communication disorders, learn skills they can use to share the Gospel with deaf and blind children in a local outreach.
Leaman was inspired to study communication disorders because of her older brother, who is hard of hearing. “Growing up around the hard of hearing population and … having someone very close to me who is hard of hearing, I’ve always wanted to give back to that community,” she said. “That’s what really drew me to communication disorders.”
Although a current internship at Greenville Memorial Hospital redirected Leaman’s focus from audiology to neurorehabilitation, she maintains her original passion. “They’re both communication disorders, but they have a little bit of a different flavor,” she said.
By studying science, health care and language, communication disorders students can apply their knowledge to a variety of professions. Laryngology, speech-language pathology and communication disorders research all reflect the mission of this field. “It’s all about diagnosing, treating, interacting and just helping individuals who have either been born with some sort of disorder that prevents them from communicating like everyone else, or someone who has sustained some sort of injury,” Leaman said.
Taking the Classroom to the Children
Leaman and other BJU students have the opportunity to interact with deaf and blind children at an extension ministry at Grace Baptist Church of Campobello. The church hosts a Wednesday evening outreach for students from the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind.
Leaman heard about the outreach from her older brother, who previously coordinated it. Now she coordinates BJU student transportation for the 45-minute drive to the church and oversees release forms, background checks, training and announcements.
With the outreach, BJU students teach classes, run game time and monitor the children. “The Bob Jones students are the hands-on people who work in this ministry,” Leaman said.
Most students monitor the children, and a few teach deaf or blind classes. “Only students who have been attending outreach for at least a semester and who demonstrate a thorough understanding of ASL and comorbid disorders are permitted to teach,” Leaman explained. “Teaching positions are usually reserved for senior leaders because of all the challenging factors involved.”
No matter their roles at the outreach, students apply skills they learn in class to communication with the children. Said Leaman: “I apply learning about specific diagnoses of disorders. Learning about those in classes and learning about the physiological and anatomical properties of the disorders helps me better understand where my kids are coming from. … I’m able to match a disorder to a child and say, ‘Oh, so they have trouble processing this, so I need to communicate with them in this way.’ ” She also took an American Sign Language class to expand her ability to communicate.
The Reward of Outreach
No matter how students get involved, the outreach is a rewarding experience. “What I love about this specific ministry is the kids,” Leaman said. “I do it for the kids. They’re absolutely amazing. …
“They’re the people who a lot of society doesn’t understand and I think that a lot of society is a little bit afraid of because they don’t know how to interact with these people with communication disorders. How do you communicate to someone who’s hard of hearing and also a little bit blind, or someone who has a neurological processing disorder, or someone who is completely blind or completely deaf or has a cochlear implant?”
She is humbled to interact with children who are happy despite their disorders. “They can be very sassy, but they can also be very sweet,” she said. “I really love reaching out to these … individuals because they just want to be loved and heard and understood. And to have the ability and the heart to do that because I grew up with someone who also experienced that hardship is just amazing and such a blessing.”
Whether she is standing at a Campus Opportunities Expo tent or talking to new students, Leaman encourages others to join this outreach. “It’s just an amazing opportunity, and … I would encourage them to go to this outreach and … have their expectations and … thought processes stretched by their definition of communication. I think if they came to this outreach, … they would be stretched beyond what they can imagine.”
Because of the coronavirus, precautions are being taken this semester to protect the children, many of whom are medically fragile. The South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind is currently not meeting in person, and the ministry is postponed until further notice. For more information about the extension, email Abby Leaman, Lili Genatt who leads teaching deaf classes, or Madelyn Gerard who teaches the blind class.