New Center for Speech and Hearing Dedicated at Southeast

Southeast Missouri State University’s new Center for Speech and Hearing was officially dedicated today, May 5 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the new facility.

The Center, located at the corner of North Pacific Street and Watkins Drive, provides comprehensive diagnostic and intervention services for communication disorders – speech, language and hearing evaluations and treatment – for all ages. It also offers clinical training for students majoring in communication disorders.

“We are pleased today to dedicate this building to provide services to the people of this community and this region for the future,” said Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast. “We are even more pleased to offer the patients the best in current technology, innovation in clinical teaching, and service to those with communication disorders.”

Vargas noted the Center’s impact to provide services for approximately 150 clients annually. Clients, ranging in ages from two to more than 92, come from hundreds of miles away in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas to receive the Center’s rehabilitation programs based on sliding scale fees.

The waiting room at Southeast’s new Center for Speech and Hearing.

Vargas also recognized Dr. Mary Ann Vogelsang for her integral role in the success of the Center as the first chair of the University’s Department of Communication Disorders and her 33 years of dedication as a faculty member, administrator, clinical supervisor, mentor to students and supporter of the clinical needs of the Center.

The new $2.45 million Center opened in January. It previously had been located in Grauel Building.

The new building will help better serve the needs of the Center’s clients and cultivate an atmosphere of education and professionalism, said Dr. Martha Cook, clinic coordinator at the Center.

“The students and the Center’s clients look at the new center as not only an education facility, but also as a professional services hospital or clinic,” she said. “In every one of the areas of the Center, we have raised the level of professionalism and confidentially of our services.”

The new Center features 10 therapy rooms, two labs for swallowing and acoustics and augmentative and alternative communication, rooms for diagnostic services and audiological testing, a clinical kitchen, an observation lounge, offices, and student and supervisor workrooms.

The clinical kitchen at Southeast’s new Center for Speech and Hearing.

The added space allows the Center to expand the number of clients it sees, provide enhanced services within Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines, and educational amenities facilitated by modern technology, added Cook.

One of the favorite new spaces for clients and students has been the clinical kitchen, where speech therapy can be integrated into every day activities.

“We really couldn’t offer that before,” said Cook. “Before, clients sat at a table and practiced their techniques, which is good to really focus, but with the use of the kitchen, clients can prepare food while interacting with their clinician, who is able to cue and guide them through this multi-tasking. They learn how to integrate things they can do and would have to do outside of the Center with their speech therapy techniques.”

Items from the kitchen have also been used to help children visualize concepts like blending the sounds of words while they read. She told the story of a recent client.

The soundproof audiology booth at Southeast’s new Center for Speech and Hearing.

“We got out the blender and made smoothies,” Cook said. “Every chunk of strawberry was a sound, and every chunk of banana was a different sound, and when we put them together and blended them they made something different, but they still had the same properties as the individual pieces of fruit. And he got it, but he didn’t get that concept until he saw it. He’s an experiential learner, and that’s what he needed. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without this new space.”

The addition of new equipment and technology in every room has been a key factor in the new Center’s design, including a soundproof audiology booth for hearing evaluations and videostroboscopy system for speech and swallowing analysis.

The Center is also the only facility in the state with an intelligent video solution system completely integrated throughout the building, said Cook. The system allows approved supervisors and clinicians to observe and record therapy sessions and provide immediate guidance and feedback to students in real time.

“We know that students benefit from immediate feedback, and this system allows us to do that,” said Cook. “Supervisors don’t interrupt that relationship or moment that a student has with the client during a session, but still provide advice.”

Via an HD-quality video system, a supervisor can view a session from a faculty work space and provide verbal guidance to a student-clinician who is providing services to a client in a therapy room. The supervisor speaks to the student, who is using an earpiece, through a microphone on a headset.

The intelligent video solution system completely integrated throughout Southeast’s new Center for Speech and Hearing allows approved supervisors and clinicians to observe and record therapy sessions and provide immediate guidance and feedback to students in real time.

“It allows us to provide guidance at teachable moments that occur during therapy,” she said.

The system also allows parents and family members the opportunity to observe sessions on a laptop computer in a private observation room separate from the waiting area.

This, in addition to a larger observation room, allows family members to watch and learn strategies used in the Center so they can put them into practice at home, said Cook.

“There’s really nothing that we don’t and can’t provide for Southeast students and community members who need speech, language, hearing or swallowing assistance,” she said.

For more information about the Center for Speech and Hearing, visit http://www.semo.edu/commdisorders/speech.html.