my capstone experience

Elizabeth Cressman '09, a Child Development major and Psychology minor from Tewksbury, Mass., discusses her Capstone project, which included a literature review based on the affects of sign language of both hearing and deaf children. The Capstone project, which involves extensive research and presentation, is the culmination of each student's academic experience and part of the Liberal Education Program at Colby-Sawyer College.

Cressman was supremely dedicated to the college while at Colby-Sawyer, serving as a member of the Student Government Association and the Campus Activities Board, and she was recognized at Commencement with the Senior Achievement Award. After graduation, Cressman is seeking an early intervention position and plans eventually to go to graduate school.

Describe the subject of your Capstone project and why you chose to focus on this subject.

My Capstone was divided into two sections. The first was based on my internship experience in the Department of Child Development at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. In this section I explained my daily responsibilities, which included clerical work, reviewing patient files, observing assessments, and writing a developmental report. I also explained my various shadowing opportunities, including the craniofacial clinic, early intervention services, and the physical therapist. The research portion of my Capstone consisted of a literature review based on the affects of sign language of both hearing and deaf children. I chose this internship because I was really interested in working with assessments of children with disabilities, and this opportunity allowed me to explore this, as well as a variety of other opportunities. I chose this area of research because many of the children referred to the Child Development Clinic used sign language as an alternative form of communication, so the research allowed me to deepen my understanding of the positive effects that sign language has on a child. I am interested in working with developmentally delayed children after graduation and felt that this research would benefit me.

What kinds of research did you conduct for this project?

I conducted a literature review, analyzing different articles regarding the effects of sign language on early childhood development. I looked at different areas of research, including the benefits to deaf and hearing children's vocabularies; how sign language impacts a deaf child's self-esteem; the importance of visual attention to obtain the most benefits from sign language; and how the sign language interpreter's mood while communicating the sign language to the deaf child impacts how the child interprets the message.

What did you learn through your Capstone project, and in what ways is it a culmination of your learning experience at Colby-Sawyer?

My Capstone project really brought together my four years of classes at Colby-Sawyer. It allowed me to experience firsthand what I had been learning in my classes, as well as what I had been researching for my literature review. This was particularly true as I was writing the developmental write-ups after a child's assessment. I was able to apply what I had learned, and communicate it to the parents.

What was most fun and rewarding for you in the process of creating your Capstone?

The most fun and rewarding portion of creating the Capstone was my internship at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. It really allowed me to experience firsthand, and apply everything that I had been learning in my Child Development classes.

What did you find most challenging and difficult about the project?

The most difficult and challenging portion of the project occurred during my internship. Because I was constantly surrounded by medical doctors, and other specialists, it was difficult at times to figure out when and how to give my input as I was only an undergrad intern, and they are used to having graduate interns and medical students.

What do you hope will be the lasting value of your Capstone project, both for you and others?

I hope that others are interested in learning about the positive benefits sign language has on a child's development. I hope that I can take my Capstone experience with me as I enter the field, and that my experiences will benefit me as I progress toward my career goals. I hope that I can contribute my knowledge of the effects of sign language on a child's development to others as they may need it.