University opens free speech therapy clinic with bilingual services: “Our clients must be able to look in the faces of their providers and see themselves” | Nation
CHICAGO – Chicago resident Precious Tahiru just wants to hear her 2-year-old son say three things – mom, dad and her name, Paris Thompson. Tahiru noticed a delay in her child’s speech development at 10 months and began to try to help her. This trip required speech therapy, occupational therapy, as well as a visit from a doctor specializing in the ear, nose and throat.
“When I took him the doctor said your son can hear like he’s on a plane or underwater, so you talk to him, he can hear, but he can’t hear you clearly,” he said. Tahiru said. âThen he had a tongue tie (a condition that restricts the range of motion of a tongue). He couldn’t move his tongue at all. And he couldn’t breathe through his nose because his adenoids were so big, so he had surgery.
Since then, Tahiru and her fiancÃ© have seen a change in Paris – he moves his tongue, making sounds he didn’t make before.
âYou can tell he can hear us betterâ¦ he’s (faster) looking at us now than he was before he had the operation,â she said.
And the journey to Paris continues. That’s why Tahiru is excited about the opening of the DePaul Speech and Language Clinic at 2400 N. Sheffield Ave. What was once the admissions office at DePaul University has been transformed into a space where young people and adults can get free speech-language pathology services. and clinicians who can help people with speech, language, communication and swallowing disabilities.
âWe do everything from the neck up,â said clinic director Treasyri Williams Wood and clinical assistant professor DePaul. âEverything related to cognitive processes – attention, organization, concentration, language, speech, stuttering, fluency, swallowing. Just think of all the people who have been put on ventilators for COVID. We must wean them, teach them to swallow, rehabilitate all these muscles, rehabilitate their speech. It’s within our scope of practice and children with the autism spectrum, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, whatever we deal with. We have babies in the NICU who are born prematurely and need to work with speech-language pathologists to acquire swallowing milestones and develop language. We are really a wide scope.
The Lincoln Park facility has been under construction for two years and was launched in tandem with DePaul’s new Speech-Language Pathology Masters program. Students in the program will work alongside faculty and provide care and therapy to the public. Services will be offered in English and Spanish; DePaul’s clinic and university program will also offer specialized training to provide speech-language pathology services to bilingual families and their children with disabilities. In addition to housing the clinic, the space will house classrooms and hands-on learning for the Occupational Therapy graduate program that will launch in fall 2022. The School of Nursing and the Department of Psychology will collaborate research and learning within the clinic.
The clinic held an open house on September 23. According to Jayne Jaskolski, director of the graduate program in speech-language pathology, there is already a waiting list for screenings which will begin in October. The site will offer assistance to the public on the basis of a donation (which will not require insurance) or a sliding scale payment.
âWe count on the kindness of donors. â¦ It’s really this altruistic mission to have access to people who would not normally have access to these types of services, and in particular for bilingual clients and people of color, âsaid Williams Wood. âOur main focus is diversity, equity and inclusion, in truly training and exposing our future speech-language pathologists to the world they are in today. “
Delilah Martin is a first year graduate student and wishes she could give people a voice again. She is trying to decide on her niche in speech therapy. She is interested in both sides of the age spectrum, helping children in schools and helping the elderly. With a minor in psychology, she wants to be able to integrate the mental health aspect into her work with the community.
âI think that as clinicians we need to be able to understand the mood of our patients to better assess them,â she said. âI like that the clinic offers free services. I think it’s an amazing thing and it makes me happy to be a part of this program.
Jaskolski and Williams Wood said the DePaul Speech and Language Clinic is the only site offering such services for free in the heart of the city. Their location is not limited to certain cases or disorders.
âWe are trying to elevate ourselves to meet the needs of the community,â said Williams Wood. This includes making diversity, inclusiveness and access a priority both in the clinic and on the academic side. Williams Wood said she had supervised future clinicians who had never interacted with a person of color or with someone from another background. This space will help fill this gap in a safe environment. As a speech-language pathologist of color, Williams Wood is passionate about creating speech-language pathologists who resemble the populations they serve.
âOur clients have to be able to look in the face of their providers and see themselves – this is very important,â she said. âOften in these programs with university clinics and free clinics, we have non-white clients who are served by this homogeneous group of people who really have no cultural competence. … We have to train our graduate clinicians and we have to expose them to a wide variety of different cultures and practices so that they can be ready and it starts here in our clinic.
Martin says cultural competence, especially in an area like speech therapy, is very important.
âYou can’t promote something that you don’t embody either,â she said. âTo see that we have a diverse faculty and to know that there are people who understand, clinicians who look like you and understand you, brings that comfort and that’s something that makes me happy.
Professors and students expect to treat 400 patients in the clinic’s first year. Tahiru found the facility through a referral from Marillac St. Vincent, where her son is educated in early kindergarten. Paris is today one of the clinic’s first clients.
âI want to see black and brown kids running through our quad and receiving our services and I want them to feel like this clinic is their clinic,â said Williams Wood. âWe say Chicago is our classroom, the community is our goal. We were fortunate to have this clinical space, this environment and these resources, and we are giving them back to the community.
Martin said seeing a black woman like Williams Wood running the clinic gives him hope. Tahiru is also optimistic that the clinic can help her son.
âHonestly, I want him to go at his pace, but of course I have more expectations for him,â she said. âI just want to hear three words. All I can do now is continue to give him all the resources he needs, and DePaul will be a great resource.