The plethora of programs available at UMD is a real draw for applicants seeking a college education. Among the many options, the Speech-Language Hearing Clinic located in the Chester Park Building at UMD provides a unique hands-on experience. Fifth year senior Danielle Privratsky made an exciting discovery as a communication sciences and disorders (CSD) major. “The clinical work I’ve done at UMD is not always offered at the undergraduate level across the country. It’s been great to get that experience,” she said.
UMD students at both the graduate and undergraduate level are supervised by licensed clinical instructors. The students work with clients and their families to find solutions to communication challenges. In the process, the students gain and hone important skills they will need in their careers as speech pathologists, audiologists, and clinicians.
The clinic offers free assessments to anyone from the community, whether it’s a young child who seems to be experiencing a delay in language development or an adult who has suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury. The clinic serves clients of all ages; ranging from toddlers to octogenarians.
“Because this is a teaching clinic, we offer services at an extremely reduced rate,” said Clinical Director Lynette Carlson. “We want people to have access to our programs. It’s also an opportunity for student learning.”
The clinic often serves individuals who lack insurance. The sliding fee scale combined with the hands-on teaching element allows for reduced rates. Carlson estimates that the clinic donates about $100,000 worth of services to the community each year.
Privratsky was undecided when she arrived at UMD. “I went to Career Services and took a few assessment tests. I was interested in something health related that combined teaching with helping people. One career on the list was CSD.”
Now, she is not only in the CSD program, applying to graduate schools, but she is also the president of the CSD Club. The club, which has about 35 members, raises money for people who go to the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic and who are in financial need. “We provide them with gas cards,” she said. Last semester, the club held a music event and silent auction, and this spring they will hold a car wash to raise funds to purchase the cards.
As an undergraduate, Privratsky worked with one client in the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. “It’s wonderful. We get hands-on experience, and the client gets the therapy they need,” she said. She worked with a young boy who didn’t use verbal language. “We did a lot of games and focused on him saying simple things, requesting things,” she said.
While she worked with the client in a therapy room, her instructor sat in a room next door and viewed the session through a two-way mirror. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to join the instructor in an observation suite to watch each session and learn more about the therapy process.
Interacting with parents and caregivers is an important part of what a CSD therapist does. “We have to learn what they want to accomplish,” she said. “They may be new to therapy. You need to ease their concerns. Sometimes you need to give them different techniques to try and give them feedback.”
Working with the young boy, Privratsky gained experience dealing with behavioral issues. “It was his first time in a therapy room, so he was learning about the process. Sometimes it took a couple of tries to get him to focus. He really liked trains. I could use that as reinforcement at the end. We’d do certain activities and then he could play with a train,” she said.
In addition to the instructors watching a session from an observation suite, the sessions are also recorded. The student and instructor can then review them afterwards for critique and further insights.
She is interested in pediatric dysphagia, which is a swallowing disorder in children. “I’d like to work in a medical setting,” Privratsky said. She hopes to continue her training at UMD in the CSD graduate program, but wherever she goes, she is well on her way to a successful career.
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Story provided by UMD External Affairs