Local helps children communicate
By SHELBA NIVENS / Community Columnist
Jan Higdon was pursuing studies to become an English teacher when she watched a speech therapist work with children who could not say certain sounds. She was so enthralled, Jan said, that she changed her major to communicative disorders.
After earning her B.A. and her M.A. in communicative disorders at Northeast Louisiana University/The University of Louisiana at Monroe, she worked in Louisiana and Missouri before moving to Chelsea with her minister husband, the Rev. Alan Higdon.
In 1997, Jan began work as a speech therapist with special needs students in the Shelby County educational system.
For several years, she served at Thompson Middle, Thompson High, Helena Elementary, Shelby County High, Columbiana Middle and Chelsea Intermediate, Middle and High School, traveling from school to school. This year, she works only at Elvin Hill Elementary School in Columbiana.
“I enjoy trying to help children overcome obstacles in their abilities to communicate with others,” she said. “So many people take for granted the natural abilities and ease of communication. They don’t understand the struggle with forming sounds, stuttering, language deficits, language barriers, social skills deficits, autism, Down syndrome and the list goes on.”
Jan told about one little boy with autism who used mostly single words to communicate. With therapy he began constructing three to five word sentences, sometimes using adjectives, to verbally request specific items or actions he would like. “That is an exciting leap in communication,” she said. “Improving communication reduces frustration levels for our students.”
“I consider my job a ministry,” said Jan, referring to the scripture verse, “…(W)hatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31NIV).”
“I’m not perfect in fulfilling this,” she added, “but on the days I remember to do therapy with my students as unto the Lord, all things go much better.”
Jan and her husband have two children, Cole, 14, and Abigail, 11.
Shelba Nivens can be reached by email at Shelbasn@juno.com.