January 3, 2023 | Erin Bluvas, email@example.com
Growing up in Los Angeles, Calif., Kaigan Benning had a close friend who had a speech impediment. This person was belittled and ostracized for their differences.
“Although there was little I could do back then, I knew that one day I’d enter a profession designed to help others,” she says.
As a student studying speech, language and hearing sciences at San Diego State University, Benning joined Sonja Pruitt-Lord’s ChiLD3 Language Lab as a language facilitator. In this role, she provided targeted language and literacy interventions to preschoolers from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. Benning had found her niche.
Not only does the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders offer a convenient distance-ed program to students, like me, who are unable to fulfill the obligations of a residential program, the courses are taught by professors who are passionate, inspiring and student-focused.
-Kaigan Benning, M.S. in Speech-Language-Pathology
The next few years saw Benning making multiple moves alongside her military spouse, gaining experience in child development and becoming a registered behavior technician. In 2020, she saw the opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a speech-language pathologist.
“USC offers an excellent master’s program, and I am honored to have earned acceptance,” Benning says of the M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology, opting for the flexible part-time path. “Not only does the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders offer a convenient distance-ed program to students, like me, who are unable to fulfill the obligations of a residential program, the courses are taught by professors who are passionate, inspiring and student-focused.”
Currently in her second year of the program, Benning has already completed a research project assessing the effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving social skills for children with autism. She has also served as student clinician at an elementary school in Summerville, South Carolina and has been selected to receive the Sharon G. Webber Scholarship.
In the classroom, Benning clicked with clinical associate professor and graduate director Beth Barnes, who has been an integral role model since the beginning. “Her knowledge is only surpassed by her articulate way of explaining difficult concepts paired with her humor and personal stories that tie everything together,” Benning says. “I am always in awe of her experiences and accomplishments.”
After her 2024 graduation, Benning hopes to work in a private practice setting or children’s hospital. She is also interested in completing a second master’s degree – this time in applied behavior analysis – to enable her to provide the best services possible to children with autism and their families. In the meantime, Benning will continue learning through her COMD courses and as a speech-language pathologist assistant at Optimal Beginnings, where she recently accepted a position close to her current hometown of Alexandria, Virginia.