Speech and hearing grads have hearts for service

Each year, students from across the country apply for a few coveted spots in TU’s Department of Communication Disorders. Known worldwide for its outstanding alumni and caring allied health approach in the community, TU’s competitive program features degree tracks in speech-language pathology and deaf education.

For speech-language pathology students, an undergraduate degree is just the beginning. Like all other similarly accredited programs in Oklahoma, TU’s requirements are a master’s degree plus 400 clinical hours, primarily in the Mary K. Chapman Center for Communicative Disorders. The facility offers Tulsa and its surrounding communities assessment and therapy services for speech, language, swallowing and hearing disorders.

“It’s our mission to serve all ages, from infants to older adults along with individuals of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Suzanne Thompson Stanton, clinic coordinator and instructor in speech-language pathology.

Support from the Leta McFarlin Chapman Memorial Trust provides patient scholarships, equipment and faculty training, as well as specific outreach efforts for the Spanish-speaking community. Open year-round, the clinic has 125 ongoing patients. “We’ve served hundreds of children and generations of families over the years,” said retired speech-language pathology faculty member Mary Moody.

The diversity of medical and communicative diagnoses among these clients is what sets TU’s program apart from others in the state. Skilled faculty members are certified in and passionate about teaching beyond the basics of speech and language problems. The department offers support groups for people with aphasia, cleft palate and craniofacial anomalies, and cochlear implants as well as a faculty member who is board certified in treating swallowing disorders.

“The field of speech pathology began with the study of fluency and articulation disorders, but now it includes so much more,” said Paula Cadogan, department chair. “We have transformed from speech therapists to speech-language pathologists who are critical team members for treating children with disabilities in schools and the community.”

According to Cadogan, students in the program begin their TU journey already focused and motivated with hearts for service. Alumni have a job placement rate of nearly 100 percent and are hired quickly by some of the area’s leading educational and medical facilities.

Also in high demand are TU’s deaf education specialists who, after graduation, apply for state certification to teach deaf and hard of hearing students. TU students are required to complete courses in American Sign Language as well as clinical audiology and auditory-oral techniques. Petra Teel (BS ’94) took her TU instruction a step further by earning a master’s degree in deaf education from Gallaudet University and achieving certification as a listening and spoken language professional. An intervention specialist for Sooner Start, she travels Oklahoma helping families develop listening and spoken language skills as well as sign language.

“I knew I wanted to work in a service field,” Teel said. “I’m empowering families by helping them understand their child’s hearing loss and explore their communication options.”