New Speech and Language Clinic on Campus Helps Community (South Bend Tribune)
By Gwen O’Brien
Fifteen-year-old Daniel Ratkiewicz of South Bend spent a recent afternoon learning how to make pizza. He wasn’t at home or in a restaurant kitchen. He was at the Judd Leighton Speech and Language Clinic at Saint Mary’s College.
As part of a speech therapy session, Daniel and communicative sciences and disorders major Kristine McInerney, a senior, talked through and demonstrated the steps of making a pizza.
“Now what does the next direction say?” asked McInerney, pointing to a handout that lay on the table.
“Spread the sauce on the pizza dough,” Daniel responded.
“So do you want to put that on there?” she asked, handing him a packet of sauce.
“Yes,” he answered, no doubt looking forward to the final product.
“What a difference five years makes,” noted his mother Kathy Ratkiewicz, who sat on the other side of a glass window where she observed the therapy session. Daniel has Down syndrome and has been coming to campus for speech therapy since 2009, first in a small lab and now in a much larger clinic on the ground floor of Madeleva Hall. The new clinic, which opened in the fall, was dedicated and blessed last month.
“When Daniel first came to Saint Mary’s, he only had a few words that he could say,” Kathy Ratkiewicz explained. “He used ‘dee’ for just about everything. The first student who worked with him had me list 10 things that were important for Daniel, and then she worked that semester on helping him to say those words. By the end of the semester, he could say those words. All the students he has worked with have tailored their sessions to fit with Daniel’s interests (Lego’s, Marvel Super Heroes, etc.). He still has a way to go to improve his articulation, but he has come a long, long way.”
As president of the Down Syndrome Family Support and Advocacy Group, she says the clinic meets a community need. “Most kids get a limited amount of speech therapy in schools, but that’s not really enough to make a difference. They need frequent, consistent therapy and you can’t always get into a speech therapy program because of long wait lists.”
With the additional space that the clinic offers, Saint Mary’s students, under the supervision of faculty, can help more clients from St. Joseph County who struggle with speech and communication due to stroke, dementia, autism, Down syndrome, or other factors.
And speech and language therapy support by Saint Mary’s for the community will grow from there. At the clinic’s dedication, the College announced it would soon offer a Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology. In April the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) approved the graduate program. Pending accreditation from the Council on Academic Accreditation in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, the program will begin in the fall of 2015. Both the clinic and the implementation of the master’s program are thanks to a $1 million grant from the Judd Leighton Foundation, Inc.
“We are very grateful to the foundation for this generous gift,” said Michael Flahive, chair of the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders and director of the Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology program. “In northern Indiana, we face a shortage of qualified speech and language personnel in schools and healthcare facilities. It’s my hope that Saint Mary’s graduates will help meet that critical need.”
Dan Ryan, director of the Sonya Ansari Center for Autism at Logan Center, who attended the clinic dedication, noted, “Saint Mary’s undergraduate students have volunteered countless hours of service for Logan families for many years. The graduate program and clinic will further provide opportunities to help individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities in the are to communicate better.”
Those interested in the services provided at the Judd Leighton Speech and Language Clinic may contact Janet Lovett, director of clinical education, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (574) 284-5210.
This article appeared in the South Bend Tribune as an article in the Beyond the Campus series on May 18, 2014 as an example of the impact local colleges and universities have on the South Bend community. Gwen O’Brien is director of media relations at Saint Mary’s College.