University of Delaware
Cecilia, who has CHARGE syndrome, sits in her customized chair, which was donated by the Newark Morning Rotary Club.

Spoken word

Word spreads on UD's New Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic

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3:13 p.m., March 3, 2016--Word is spreading about the University of Delaware’s new Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. Located at UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus, the clinic is adding a constant stream of new clients, not through advertising but thanks to word-of-mouth. 

“People are sharing their positive clinic experiences with their peers,” says Jacquie Truluck, director of clinical education. “And that’s what we want — parent to parent or caregiver to caregiver conversations about the benefits of speech pathology services through STAR Health.”

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One such parent is Jen Andrisani of Hockessin. Her daughter Cecilia has CHARGE syndrome, which includes a combination of birth defects; as a result, the 3-year-old is extremely reluctant to accept foods with new textures and struggles to self-feed. 

With nutrition so critical to a child’s development, Andrisani called the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic for its feeding therapy services. 

Once a week, Cecilia visits her UD speech-language pathologist, who uses hand gestures and the tangible reinforcement of books, music and playtime to encourage her to self-feed. 

As an added hurdle, Cecilia struggles with balance in a normal chair, which takes her focus away from the therapy. Andrisani was actually lugging a personalized chair for Cecilia from home, but Truluck had a better idea and tapped the Newark Morning Rotary Club, which raised money for a customized chair that gives Cecilia more stability. 

Andrisani says that kind of extra effort and individualized care is what she enjoys about the STAR Health clinic. 

“I like the atmosphere here. I like the people. They have rooms geared toward kids. It doesn’t feel like a doctor’s office,” says Andrisani. 

While the community knows speech pathology basics, feeding therapy is just one example of the lesser-known specialty areas offered by speech-language pathologists. 

Truluck says she hopes the new clinic will help educate Delawareans on the array of services available. 

“Many people think of speech therapy as only helping kids who lisp,” says Truluck. “Our clinic already has clients with an array of needs — feeding, social language, stuttering, head injury and stroke.” 

In addition to working with top area speech-language pathologists, UD will soon offer another major benefit to clients — master’s level clinicians at therapy sessions. 

A new communication sciences and disorders master’s program, which, once candidacy is officially granted, will consider students for its inaugural class in the fall. It is the first of its kind in the state of Delaware. 

Housed in the College of Health Sciences, the graduate students will spend their first year working with two or three clients. In the students’ second year, they will have externships in elementary schools, hospitals, agencies and sub-acute nursing facilities. 

“Our faculty and students will be engaged in research discoveries that enhance the quality of health care for Delawareans with speech, language and hearing disorders,” says Aquiles Iglesias, director of the communications sciences and disorders program. “Our facility will serve as a training site for our students and a place where researchers translate basic knowledge to practice.”

UD employees are also making the short trip to STAR Campus, becoming a major cohort of clients. Hearing about the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic from a fellow University staff member, Darcell Griffith brings her son to speech therapy once a week, observing his sessions in the next room on an iPad. 

“They’ve done a fabulous job of educating not only my son, but also my husband and me. It trains us as parents so we can practice with him at home.”

The Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic is a big part of STAR Health, which are the open-to-the-public health care offerings of UD’s College of Health Sciences. In addition to the speech services, STAR Health offers physical therapy, primary care, fitness counseling, health coaching and nutrition counseling.

Article by Dante LaPenta

Photos by Evan Krape

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