The speech, language and hearing clinic in the lower level of the Wyman Education building on the UW-River Falls campus has been offering services to people with a variety of different needs for almost 50 years.
The clinic provides evaluation and treatment services for speech, language, cognitive problems, stuttering, voice issues and a wide variety of other problems relating to speech, language and hearing.
Sarah Smits is the director of the clinic and sees about 60 to 70 clients of all ages and from different places around the cities on a daily basis.
“Right now, we probably have 60 percent children, 18 and under, and 40 percent adults,” Smits said. “We usually have a handful of older adults but we do have several adolescents who are right around the adult age who might have a diagnosis like Down syndrome or autism.”
Clients come in and out of the clinic throughout the day and the amount of time that people spend using the clinic varies depending on their needs.
The clinic on campus is a teaching facility and the people who run the clinic for the most part are graduate students who are supervised by certified speech pathologists.
“We have 20 first-year graduate students and 20 second- year graduate students,” Smits said. “The second-year students are all out on internships, so all of the first year students are the ones who do the therapy in the clinic.”
There is a minimum amount of supervision of the graduate students that needs to be done at the clinic in order to stay accredited as a training institution.
“Fifty to 75 percent of the therapy sessions that the graduate students run we are watching indirectly,” Smits said. “If anything happens during the session that shouldn’t be happening then we are the first to run in and talk to them about that.”
Graduate students have to go through a skills assessment before they can see the clients to make sure they are ready and understand the client’s diagnosis.
Lindsay Laramy is a front desk receptionist at the clinic and a communicative disorder major who is interested in attending graduate school to become a speech language pathologist at UWRF next semester.
“I think that having graduate students work with the clients at the clinic is beneficial for both parties,” Laramy said. “The graduate students learn how to be better prepared for their future as a speech language pathologist, and the clients are receiving great care from people who really want the best for them.”
Professors on the UWRF campus are encourage to recommend students from their classes to visit the clinic if they notice different speech, language or cognitive difficulties that their students have.
“It’s nice when professors reach out to help students, but they can’t do that if they don’t know about our services,” Smits said. “I would encourage any professor who is questioning whether or not to refer a student to give me a call and I can help walk them through how we may be of assistance.”