Name: Lauren Olsen
Year: First Year Speech Language Pathology Grad Student
Hometown: Long Island, NY
Lauren Olsen is a first year speech language and pathology student from Long Island, NY. This year, Lauren was one of six individuals chosen to be a recipient of the Todd Roche Memorial Scholarship for her hard work and dedication in the field of speech pathology and autism.
Q. What is the Todd Roche Memorial Scholarship?
A. It is a scholarship that was started in memory of Todd Roche, who was killed in a car accident. He was a special education teacher at Muhlenberg Elementary School, who loved working with children who have autism. So this scholarship is for anybody in speech pathology, special ed, speech therapy or occupational therapy who is interested in working with autistic students as well.
Q. What was your reaction when you found out you were going to receive the scholarship?
A. I was really excited! It wasn’t just speech pathologist students, it was a wide range of people from everywhere, so it was very humbling to know that all the work I’ve done here at Marywood for students with autism was appreciated.
Q. What are some of the things you’re currently doing for children with autism or speech pathology issues?
A. We have quite a few children with autism coming to the hearing clinic we are running now, so that’s my main focus, working on planning therapy. But when I was an undergrad, I worked closely with Autism Speaks and the SOAR (Students On-Campus Achieving Results) program. We worked on planning a lot of social functions for the people in those programs because it’s really important for them to gain social skills that they are going to need in the community when they go on to working or whatever else comes next for them.
Q. What are some ways that students on campus can get more involved with the autism community?
A. I think the hardest thing for me was when I first started Autism Speaks and was thinking I’m going to go through all this work and nobody is going to show up or care. But here at Marywood, people really have a strong desire to work and make a difference within the autism community. We have a really good speech pathology program and a really good special education program, and over the past couple of years I’ve discovered that people really are willing to participate and give up their time. So I think that the hardest part is people thinking that nobody will be interested or support them. I think if you have an idea to help in the autism community, just go for it.
Q. Why is it so important to you to raise autism awareness?
A. I first got started with this organization because my brother has autism. So I have seen first hand how autism can affect a child and how autism can affect a family. Also, the statistics are crazy, how much the prevalence of autism has grown just in the past couple of years is pretty alarming. Now, all of us in college are approaching that age where some of us are having kids, and it’s going to affect some of us. So I think it’s really important that we start raising awareness now and keep going with it.