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The East Stroudsburg University graduate program in Communication Sciences and Disorders is designed to prepare graduates to enter the growing field of speech-language pathology and achieve teacher certification and provisional licensure in the state of Pennsylvania. Many of the students meet and seek certification and licensure in other states throughout the United States as well. Following an additional year of clinical fellowship, graduates meet the requirements for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competence and PA licensure.

While, historically, students applying to the graduate program have been recent bachelor’s degree graduates, in recent years the university has had the opportunity to offer acceptance to numerous returning adult students.

“These students have the opportunity to reinvent their careers,” said LuAnn Batson-Magnuson, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders and graduate coordinator. “Many are making a mid-career change seeking a field that allows them to give back to society and some are making more lateral moves in education as a result of the reduction in the local teacher workforce. Many individuals seeking a Master’s degree in speech-language pathology have had personal life experience that has led them to this field of study.”

Speech-language pathologists work in varied environments: from the more educationally based settings like public schools, preschools and special education programs to the more medically based settings which include acute care hospitals, rehabilitation units and long-term care facilities. Licensed speech-language pathologists may set up private practices.

The diversity of disorders that speech-language pathologists work with include speech disorders related to voice, fluency and speech sound production including apraxia and dysarthria, acquired language disorders such as aphasia, acquired and developmental cognitive-communication disorders associated with dementia and traumatic brain injury, developmental receptive and expressive language delay and pediatric and adult swallowing/feeding disorders.

Speech-language pathologist help clients gain or regain the ability to communicate with peers and family and work to improve a client’s ability to access adequate nutrition and hydration. Clients work to develop oral verbal communication, or non-oral communication systems including sign, alternative and augmentative low-tech and high-tech systems or utilize a combination of approaches, according to Batson-Magnuson.

Batson-Magnuson explains the program trains speech-language pathologists to work with clients from birth to the end-of-life.

East Stroudsburg Speech and Hearing Clinic offers speech-language therapy at no cost to members of the community. Graduate students complete three rotations in the on-campus clinic working with children and adults. They are supervised by licensed speech-language pathologists, including university faculty, which enhances the connection between class material and clinical application.

The East Stroudsburg University Speech and Hearing Clinic graduate students, in addition to individual therapy sessions, offer support groups for individuals with Parkinson’s disease, aphasia and traumatic brain injury. Students have the opportunity to work with groups designed to enhance the social skills of individuals with Autism and individuals with intellectual impairment.

Following the three on-campus rotations, students complete a school based externship and a medically based externship completing more than 400 clinical hours of experience prior to graduation.

Students have the opportunity to complete research of their own or collaborate with faculty on their projects. This provides them with the opportunity to gain skills in research, present at the state and national level and enhance their knowledge in specific areas of interest.

Faculty and student projects have included the impact of concussion on hearing, the relationship between rheumatic disease and cognition, hearing, and language, normal voice parameters, relationship between oral language and reading, fluency, singing as a therapeutic intervention for Parkinson’s disease, test validity, analysis of functional communication in individuals with autism and perceptions of dialects.

“Our program seeks applicants with a strong desire to help others and work collaboratively with other professions including physicians, psychologists, teachers, radiologists, physical therapists and occupational therapist,” noted the director. “We welcome applicants from a broad range of professions with the desire to learn the medical and developmental aspects of communication and swallowing disorders. Individuals with bachelor degrees outside of speech-language pathology or communication sciences and disorders will need to take pre-requisite courses prior to enrolling in a graduate program. These courses are offered at the university.”

The application process is competitive. The employment rate is 100 percent and there is a 100 percent praxis exam passing rate. There continues to be a shortage of speech-language pathologists across the country, allowing individuals to move if they desire. It is also a field that allows significant flexibility in work schedule with individuals able to work both full and part-time to suit their current needs without a fear of not being able to return to full-time work.

“More than anything, speech-language pathology is a career for individuals passionate about helping others,” said Batson-Magnuson.