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Many of us take for granted the ability to communicate with ease, but for individuals with communication disorders, operating in a hearing and speaking world can be a daily challenge.
For more than six decades, the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Clinic (WJSHC) at the University of Iowa has focused on serving individuals with communication disorders. In 2011, approximately 800 Iowans of all ages received care through WJSHC, part of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The department’s graduate programs in speech-language pathology and audiology are consistently ranked as top programs in the country. The speech-language pathology master’s program ranks as the No. 1 program in the country and the audiology clinical doctorate program is ranked No. 2 nationally, according to U.S.News and World Report’s America's Best Graduate Schools 2013.
In addition to teaching and research, the department’s faculty, staff, and students participate in and employ their expertise through a number of engagement programs throughout the year. These programs provide valuable real-world experience to students, as well as serving individuals with speech, hearing, language, or voice problems.
Iowa Now was able to tag along in a program that took place earlier this month, UI SPEAKS (University of Iowa Summer Program to Educate Adults and Kids who Stutter).
(Click on the thumbnails below for a look at the UI SPEAKS program.)
UI SPEAKS is comprised of two summer programs—one for elementary school children, and another for teens who stutter. Both give kids who stutter a safe and supportive place in which to “let stuttering out.” Staff speech-language pathologists and student clinicians then help them in making decisions about how they want to manage their speech.
“We want the kids to learn to accept their stuttering, but we also want them to try to improve it,” says Toni Cilek, clinical associate professor of speech-language pathology and UI SPEAKS director. “Our clinicians really get to know the kids and build relationships. A lot of times in the summer, we can take them to the next level.”
Intensive therapy includes individual and group therapy, with numerous opportunities to practice specific speech tools in various situations. The summer day camp for elementary children continues to expand each year. The teen program is a one-week residential program where teenagers come from Iowa and other states and stay in the university residence halls. During their week at the university, they work to develop their own policies about speaking and stuttering.
“It’s really empowering for them to meet other kids who stutter,” Cilek says. “The kids who have been coming for three or four years, they’ll step up and mentor the younger kids.”
In addition to UI SPEAKS, the communication sciences and disorders department reaches out to the community through a wide array of programs:
- Be Social coordinates small, year-round social interaction groups for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other social cognition challenges to learn and practice their social skills. The groups are designed for elementary-age children with a focus on “social understanding” and “social doing.” Under the guidance of clinical faculty, student clinicians develop homework assignments for families to develop a common social vocabulary and to help their children generalize skills to the home and community environments.
- The Columbus Junction Service Learning Course is a year-round service-learning course for undergraduate speech and hearing majors. These students visit four preschool programs at Roundy Elementary in Columbus Junction, Iowa, which has a high population of Spanish-speaking residents. The students lead preschoolers in an evidence-based early literacy program that includes daily supplemental language-literacy instruction and group story-time to enhance the children’s emerging knowledge about the forms and functions of written language, which are crucial pre-literacy skills.
- FOCUS (Facilitation of Communication and Understanding Services) is a biannual daylong program offered for families of children with hearing impairments. There are dual goals: daylong authentic assessment of children with hearing loss in the areas of auditory skills, emerging speech, language, and literacy, as well as concurrent seminars for parents and professional service providers relative to those same communication areas.
- Listen and Speak Up is a summer preschool program that promotes the spoken language skills of children with hearing impairments. Thematically based group sessions promote communication skill development in natural learning situations, as well as individual sessions to focus attention on each child’s needs. Group music therapy sessions are provided by music faculty and staff affiliated with the Department of Otolaryngology’s Cochlear Implant Program to reinforce the children’s auditory-to-speech production and language goals.
- SPARC* (Social opportunity for People with Aphasia + Resource Center) is a year-round support group for people with aphasia and their families or caregivers. Aphasia can affect a person’s ability to express and understand language, both verbal and written. It typically occurs suddenly, after a stroke or a head injury, but can also come on gradually from a slow-growing brain tumor or a degenerative disease. The group offers a combination of informal and structured activities.
- Each summer WJSHC hosts children with speech, language, or reading problems for one-on-one assistance through the Summer Speech, Language, Reading, Hearing Impaired Program. A six-week summer clinic designed for children in preschool and primary grades, the program’s focus is to prepare the child for existing school programs and/or carryover of a current school program.
- UI~SAFE (The University of Iowa~Sound Awareness for Everyone) is a newly implemented program that addresses the issue of dangerous sound levels that are present in everyone’s daily lives. It has been shown that sound exposure levels that occur during daily activities can surpass safe levels. These levels would require implementation of hearing conservation programs in the workplace and could be hazardous to hearing; yet, most people are unaware these levels are actually hazardous to their hearing health. UI~SAFE also provides services especially designed for musicians to address their unique acoustical environments, as well as specific prevention and remediation needs.
“The value of programs such as these cannot be truly gauged. The children and their parents, as well as the student-clinicians and supervising faculty, are left with a great appreciation of the value of first-rate clinical intervention. Everyone benefits,” says Ruth Bentler, professor and chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.