Calera speech language pathologist does summer learning camps

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

CALERA — Alana Flow of Calera and Jessica Anderson of Maplesville just can’t get enough of teaching. Flow, a certified speech language pathologist, and Anderson, who has a degree in early childhood and elementary education, hosted a summer learning camp at Northside Baptist Church in Calera.

Flow, who is testing the waters with private practice work in the Calera community, said she wants to help children get a head start before kindergarten and to bridge the gap during summer break.

“Being in education we know a lot of families, so I just put it out on my Facebook page so it got attention quickly. We even had to turn away some campers,” Flow said. “Really it just came from a passion of loving my job at work and knowing there are needs to be met in the summer months.”

Flow has worked in the Chilton County Schools system for the past 13 years, but this year was her first to do a summer learning camp. Flow typically floats between different schools, while Anderson is based at Jemison Elementary. Northside Baptist, Anderson’s home church in Calera, offered their facility to host the camps.

“I just felt like it was a need, and I wanted to venture out and take a leap of faith and give it a try,” Flow said.

Four separate camps were held in June and July, with a break occurring after the first two camps. A total of 21 children ages 3-5 participated. Flow said the participants came from both Shelby and Chilton counties and included children with special needs. In addition, two volunteers who are currently pursuing speech pathology degrees assisted Flow and Anderson.

Camp activities included hands-on learning focusing on the alphabet, shapes, art, sensory activities and language exercises. The group met in a circle each morning and then rotated to different stations.

“Every camp had a theme, so we really honed in on our themes in all the activities,” Flow said. “They were introduced in each camp to new vocabulary. A big part of our camp was using pictures and visuals, because we know how important they are. Kids are visual learners.”

Examples of camp themes were Camping, Farmer’s Market, Summer; and Bugs, Bees and Butterflies.

“Basically, they were utilizing all modes of learning,” Anderson added.

The pair said that early intervention like the camps help more than just children—they can open doors of communication between teachers and parents, and can serve as a resource for daycares in the area. This involves identifying needs in specific students, such as the way each student communicates; that knowledge can then be passed along to other adults who work with the same children.

“I have a lot of friends in my community who work in preschools and daycare, and they come to me with a lot of questions,” Flow explained. “I would love to be able to help them.”

Likewise, Anderson said parents of the summer campers seemed thankful for the advice and support the women were able to provide. Some had concerns about whether their kids were prepared for school.

“It bridges a gap and just gives them somebody to talk to,” she said. “There were some parents that really needed that advice or support that we could provide them—concerns that they may have had already with their children.”

In January, Flow set up a Facebook page called “Let’s Talk” that provides speech and language services. She invites everyone in the community to visit the page and explore the options.

“I love my job and I love working for a school system, but I just feel like there are other needs out there,” she said. “I just want to be a resource to my community and surrounding communities to help get the kids on a good path.”