Speech and Hearing Sciences Students

Students from the WSU and EWU speech and hearing sciences and communication disorders programs share an American Sign Language class.

(Ed. Note: The latest edition of the WSU Spokane Magazine is available as a PDF here. It is also distributed statewide to WSU alumni and friends. We will share a story each day from the latest issue on the blog. Enjoy!)

By Doug Nadvornick

On Spokane’s health sciences campus, where most of the departments complement each other, the University Programs in Communication Disorders (UPCD) is a unique case.

The UPCD partners—WSU’s Speech and Hearing Sciences (SHS) and EWU’s Communication Disorders programs— compete for undergraduate and graduate students who want to train to become speech-language pathologists and audiologists. But once the students are enrolled, they’re embraced by both institutions.

“We’ve grouped students together. Faculty have taught together,” said Roberta Jackson, EWU’s graduate program director for Communication Disorders. “Often teachers don’t know which university their students are from. It’s irrelevant.”

The two institutions’ programs have worked well together. Staff, faculty and alumni of the programs celebrated UPCD’s 25th anniversary last spring. Students enjoy 100 percent placement after graduation.

“It’s the only program in the country that is cooperative with two partners as equals,” said Jackson.

Though the partnership goes back more than a quarter century, the programs have only been housed on the health sciences campus since 2002. Initially, they were based on their respective campuses in Pullman and Cheney. However, in the late 1980s, both WSU and EWU moved their graduate programs in Speech and Hearing Sciences and Communications Disorders to Spokane, occupying shared space in the WSU Spokane facilities in downtown Spokane and formally launching their UPCD program.

“Some of my colleagues realized it might be better for students if the program was based in Spokane because there were far more opportunities for clinical practice here,” said Professor Charles Madison, Ph.D., who has been with WSU for 44 years and coordinates its SHS graduate program.

Around that time, he says, administrators from the two universities began to talk about cooperation. In the fall of 1988, UPCD was born when graduate students from both programs took a class together on the campus of Gonzaga University, where students received instruction via a televised distance learning system.

Spokane HOPE School

UPCD students work with children who wear cochlear implants and digital hearing aids in the nonprofit HOPE School.

In 2002 the two graduate programs moved into the new Health Sciences building on the Spokane campus. Then a few years ago both universities moved their undergraduate programs there as well. Presently, WSU students spend their first two years in Pullman and EWU students in Cheney, then shift to Spokane for their final two years of undergraduate study and their two years of graduate school.

The two programs not only share a teaching mission, they also collaborate on research. This past spring, WSU Clinical Assistant Professor Georgina Lynch and EWU Professor Donald Fuller, Ph.D., worked together to mentor an EWU graduate student as he conducted autism research for his master’s thesis. The student later presented his research at the national convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Lynch says she used their findings from this research to adapt the autism treatment provided in the UPCD’s Hearing and Speech Clinic.

Gail Chermak, Ph.D., the chair of WSU’s program, says the programs have grown considerably, in students, faculty and research capabilities, to become one of the largest on campus. She says the two-university collaboration gives students exposure to faculty with a broad range of expertise and research programs.

UPCD’s community impact

The University Programs in Communication Disorders provides services to the community with a variety of programs for all ages, from pre-school children to senior citizens. While recent access to health care insurance has increased demand, there is still room in most of the programs, and with graduate students needing 400 hours of clinical experience, the services are varied.

In many cases they are a one-stop shop for families. “WSU Spokane prides itself in teaching our students in an inter-professional manner,” says Chermak. “That means our patients can take advantage of a variety of clinical professionals, not to mention cutting-edge research, without having to drive all over the city or across the mountains to Seattle.”

Many rooms feature one-way windows so parents, family members and students can watch patients interact with their therapists without interrupting.

Unless otherwise noted, the UPCD

programs are located in the Health Sciences building:

• The University Hearing and Speech Clinic, a shared EWU/WSU facility open to the community, provides evaluation and therapy to children and adults with speech, language and hearing problems. First-year graduate students work under the supervision of nationally-accredited and state licensed faculty members.

• The HOPE (Hearing Oral Program of Excellence) School is a non profit auditory-verbal preschool that works with children who are deaf and hard of hearing and who use modern technologies such as cochlear implants and digital hearing aids. The program is the only one of its kind in eastern Washington. Graduate students help prepare children for a mainstream K-12 education. The school is the charity of choice for Bloomsday 2015.

• A Friday morning cooperative preschool serves children referred by Spokane Public Schools. The program welcomes young children whose speech is unintelligible. WSU and EWU students work with children in group and one-on-one settings.

• Autism clinics help people of a variety of ages. UPCD students and faculty partner with the Northwest Autism Center to provide services for young children, from early evaluation and diagnosis to intensive social language interventions, in settings such as the center’s former Domino Early Learning Center in Cheney and the Northwest Autism Center ABA Clinic. A clinic on the Spokane campus provides social skills training for adolescents and young adults. First-year graduate students provide direct clinical services while also serving as mentors and role models.

• Student delegations participate in week-long clinics in a rural mountainous region in eastern Guatemala during spring break and in August. Their work, in cooperation with the medical mission group Hearts in Motion, supports local physicians and other health professionals who perform cleft palate surgeries. The UPCD students provide assessment and speech therapy to clients and education for teachers and families impacted by speech, language, feeding and hearing disorders in a variety of settings (e.g., special language programs, rehabilitation centers, a hospital, nutrition center, and senior center). Students from other programs, including pharmacy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, dental hygiene, and nutrition and exercise physiology, perform additional services.

• WSU Speech and Hearing Sciences actively recruits Native American students and provides them with culturally-appropriate training to work effectively with people in their home communities.

• Camp Candoo is an intensive speech therapy and literacy summer camp for children ages 4-8 with severe speech disorders. The nine-day camp on the Spokane campus allows graduate students and Speech and Hearing Sciences faculty members to assess and provide intense speech therapy for the campers, many of whom come from out of state.

• EWU operates a three-week summer Successful Stuttering Management Program on its campus in Cheney.

• WSU hosts an annual public forum that addresses issues related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.