Meeting the Needs of the Community
You can expect to make an impact in an area in great need of your services. Currently, there is a shortage of qualified speech language pathologists in education and healthcare settings, and nowhere is this shortage more deeply felt than Indiana. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) 2012 Schools Survey, Indiana has the highest number of caseloads in the country.
Thanks to extensive community partnerships (Saint Mary's has 150 affiliation agreements), you'll be able to make a dent in this shortage while gaining firsthand experience working with clients. Logan Autism Learning Center is one of many community organizations set to benefit from your talents. "We expect to double or triple the services we'll be able to provide to the community thanks to the master's program students," said Joshua Diehl, Chief Strategy Officer for Autism Services at Logan Center. Collectively, our fall 2015 graduate student cohort will devote nearly 10,000 hours of speech services to the community over the next two years, leading to a measurable impact on the social skills and lives of many individuals at Logan Center and beyond.
Graduate students recently screened more than 300 children over a three-day period at LaPorte County Head Start for speech and language delay. Head Start promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families, supporting the mental, social, and emotional development of children from birth to age 5. According to Gretchen Bergan, director of family, community, and parent engagement for LaPorte County Head Start, without the students' help the children may not have received these services. "We try to identify speech and language problems as early as possible, but it's doubtful that they would be screened for this until they got to school years later." They hope to continue the partnership with screenings in fall 2016.
Another area organization to benefit from our graduate students' care and expertise is the Readiness Center, a nearly 40-year-old parent/child preschool program for low-income families in the Benton Harbor, Michigan area. Our students work with the preschoolers on phonology awareness and language-based intervention through games and activities. Rachael Young, a second-year student, has already noticed a difference in some of the kids with whom she is working. "They're more verbal, more excited to engage with their peers and teachers as a result of the increased confidence that comes with improved communication skills."