Strengthening Communication | Steps Magazine

Steps Magazine. Fall Winter 2012.

Strengthening Communication

CSUSM graduate student Lisa Gilbertson helps a client through functional therapy, a speech therapy techniqueWhen Rosario Kurtz, a previously-talkative court interpreter and Carlsbad resident, suffered a severe embolic stroke in May, her initial prognosis seemed grim and doctors cautioned that she may never walk or speak again. She spent weeks in acute care followed by rehabilitation. Although her motor function steadily improved, her speech remained impaired. While exploring options for intensive speech-language therapy, Rosario and her husband turned to CSUSM's Adult Speech-Language Clinic.

Part of the University's Communicative Sciences and Disorders master's program, the Adult Speech-Language Clinic offers free, one-on-one therapy for adults struggling with neurogenic disorders, traumatic brain injuries or fluency, articulation and voice disorders. The clinic is supervised by licensed speech-language pathologists and is one of the many annual and ongoing clinics that the Communicative Sciences and Disorders program offers. Working with a graduate student as their clinician, clients receive diagnostic evaluation, customized treatment plans and 15 weeks of intensive therapy.

"We learn as much from our clients as they learn from us," said graduate student Lisa Gilbertson. "As I'm learning the most advanced techniques, I am able to immediately apply that knowledge and use the latest methods to help my client."

Termed functional therapy, the clinical sessions are customized to the individual needs and interests of the client, ensuring that treatment is both practical and personal. One student clinician, for example, worked with her client on articulation of ingredients and cooking terminology; the client previously had difficulty communicating family recipes as she cooked with her adult daughters, a hobby she had enjoyed prior to her stroke.

Among the words Rosario practiced this past summer with her student clinician was "grandson" in anticipation of her first grandchild due in December. Other exercises ran the gamut from pronouncing names of her favorite restaurants to ordering her signature Starbucks coffee: a tall decaf latte.

"Our student clinician makes the weekly sessions a personal experience which builds up Rosario's confidence and generates momentum," said Michael Kurtz, Rosario's husband of 42 years. "Something as simple as going out to a restaurant and ordering off a menu is a victory for us, and we really feel that Lisa is invested in helping us reach those milestones, no matter how small. Her progress is a tribute to her perseverance and the help she's received."

A mutually beneficial program, the clinic enables students to gain real-world experience as they prepare for their future career in speech-language pathology. Students log over 400 clinical hours throughout the two-year graduate program to meet requirements for licensure, certification and credentialing.

"I feel so amazing seeing that smile on my client's face when they feel a sense of pride for what they've accomplished," said Gilbertson. "That moment is what drives me to deliver the best care possible."

Building a Community of Partners

This spring CSUSM's Communicative Sciences and Disorders adds a new clinical site to the program's robust list of partners, providing articulation and language services for scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla.

One of the largest private, nonprofit biomedical research companies, TSRI employs thousands of renowned researchers from around the world, some of whom are not native English speakers. To help scientists enhance their communication and language skills when presenting research or conducting outreach, TSRI is partnering with CSUSM.

Graduate students will assist post-doctoral scholars with acquisition of the American English accent, understanding and use of figurative language and jokes for participation in social conversation with colleagues and non-scientists, production of oral communication in a concise and timely manner and presentation of research in oral and written formats.

"We take the perspective of an additive model," explained Sue Moineau, professor and director of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. "We aim to enhance communication skills by having international students and scientists acquire new sounds and grammatical structures rather than lose the ones they have."

The Communicative Science and Disorders program at CSUSM currently partners with over 35 public schools, hospitals, clinics and private practices, providing speech-language pathology services for children and adults.


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