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Saint Mary’s implements Master’s program in speech pathology

| Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What started out as an undergraduate program squeezed into three classrooms has expanded and updated to become a feature academic program at Saint Mary’s, director of clinical practice in the department of communicative sciences and disorders Janet Lovett said.

In June 2013, the College implemented its changes to the new master’s program and the current communicative disorders clinic housed in the Madeleva classroom building, Lovett said. The clinic treats clients from the surrounding areas.

The new master’s program, speech pathology, will simply be referred to as the communicative sciences and disorders department (CSD), though the undergraduate students still receive their degrees in communicative sciences and disorders, Lovett said.

“There are 20 Saint Mary’s seniors, and there are four Notre Dame students who are co-exchange students who can’t really take it as a major but take all the required courses,” she said. “Total, I think, our major is about 95 students across all three years.”

All seniors will participate in the clinical practicum for the fall semester, during which they will be assigned two clients, Lovett said.

“This year we have 40 clients. We will be building the clinical population in anticipation of the start of the program,” Lovett said.

The news of an anticipated master’s program in communicative sciences and disorders excited many in the Saint Mary’s and South Bend communities, but for now, the graduate program is considered an additional focus, Lovett said.

“We hope to take our first students in the fall of 2015. We have an accreditation visit coming up in October [from] the Council on Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA),” Lovett said.

In the meantime, faculty and staff want to keep the undergraduate program strong on its own, providing and maintaining the same level of opportunities it currently offers, Lovett said.

“We have to build the clinic especially. We have the faculty in place. We have five faculty now, but the clinic needs to be able to provide enough experience in a lot of communication disorders for the graduate students to get at least a portion of the 400 hours they have to have in order to get certified need,” Lovett said.

“It’s a long process,” she said. “There’s an academic piece. There’s a clinical piece. There’s a resident kind of [period], what we call clinical fellow. You practice under the mentorship of a full-fledged speech pathologist. Then you have to make sure you meet your requirement to meet clinical requirement, your C’s.  In Indiana you have to be licensed also, and most states around us do require [the same].”

Colleges and universities now incorporate a five-year program for audiology students that combines undergraduate and master’s degrees, Lovett said.  Saint Mary’s does not currently plan to offer a master’s in audiology, Lovett said.

The clinic’s future goals include developing a telepractice program, Lovett said. Telepractice is a type of speech language pathology that clinicians use with long-distance clients.

“It’s very similar to providing speech services to people who need speech therapy,” she said. “Telepractice will be training the clinicians [in] what are the questions you ask, what do you practice, [what are] the things you have to do if you’re licensed in Indiana and your client is in Montana, or vice versa, [and] you have to be licensed in that state,” Lovett said.

Lovett said she was one of the first to be hired for the master’s program. As an adjunct professor with fellow communicative disorders professor Susan Lathem, Lovett helps bring clients to the program and hires the clinical staff, including program chair Dr. Michael Flahive, Lovett said.

“As the program director, he is responsible for making sure all the academic and clinical pieces are in place,” she said. “Obviously I’m in charge of the clinical, but he’s in charge of everyone. He makes sure that our students are in a position to go out and do what they’re supposed to do and getting the appropriate grades. We work hand-in-hand when it comes to what we’re supposed to do.”

Seniors Emily Scanlon and Emily Hazen have enjoyed the activity and opportunity their major has offered them during their time at Saint Mary’s, Hazen said.

“We love the program. I really like all the professors [and] clinicians. We’re glad we decided to focus on this area,” Hazen said.

Hazen and Scanlon each completed 25 hours of observation last semester watching the members of the class of 2014 work with their clients, Scanlon said.  This year, they will use what they’ve learned through watching students engage with clients, Scanlon said.

“We’ve seen how it’s done,” Scanlon said.

The clinic and master’s program will have a chance at accreditation in October when the CAA comes to evaluate the system and facilities, but students such as Scanlon and Hazen will continue to pursue the study of communicative sciences and disorders either way, Scanlon said.

“It doesn’t really seem like work, because we love it,” she said.

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