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UWRF Clinic Provides Exceptional Services

By Charlotte J. Muenzenberger
UW-RF News Bureau

FEB. 11, 2005--A little blonde-haired girl picks up the doll and holds it in her left arm like it was her own child; she animatedly smashes a bottle against its mouth. A clinician tells the girl, "Feed the baby her bottle. Here you go." The little girl gives the clinician a blank stare. "Just feed the baby the bottle."

The girl throws the bottle away, and the clinician once again picks up the bottle and hands it to the girl. This time the clinician says in a soothing tone, "It's alright, you won't hurt the baby." The little girl clutches the bottle and then in one swift motion sticks it into the doll's mouth.

The little girl is a client at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. Raechel Des Combaz, a graduate student at UW-RF, is the clinician, and the clinic, run entirely by UW-RF graduate students and their supervisors, provides prevention, assessment and intervention for any and all kinds of communicative disorders.

Established in 1963 as part of the department of communicative disorders, each week the clinic serves between 45 and 50 residents of all ages from western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota with disorders ranging from articulation and phonological disorders to hearing and cognitive disabilities. Some examples of the types of disorders served include laryngectomy, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, cerebral palsy, stroke, autism and traumatic brain injury.

Located in the lower level of the Wyman Education Building on the UW-RF campus, the clinic consists of many separate rooms and labs, each devoted to solving communication problems. The augmentative communication laboratory provides the latest technology offering the use of laser devices that allow patients to look in a certain direction causing the laser to point at a picture to communicate their needs. This way the patient only has to move his or her head slightly to make it work.

Another innovation is the use of a small button the patient can press with his or her head to communicate. These are just some examples of the many new devices created to aid in communication for those who cannot speak.

The clinic also serves clients with degenerative diseases. In instances where an illness causes patients to eventually lose their voices, a computer allows clients to use their own voices by storing words and phrases. Voice output devices such as head mounts, light beams and voice analysis also makes life simpler and improves communication.

Another feature of the clinic is hearing testing and screening both on-site at the clinic and in nearby schools. Offered each fall, the clinic performs hearing screening at St. Croix Central, Prescott, and River Falls school districts. In the spring, the clinic offers speech and language screening at those sites as well.

Clinic director and assistant Professor of communicative disorders Mike Harris explains that the clinic benefits both clients and the graduate students who work there. "By bridging the gap between theory and practice, the clinic allows students to practice in their future profession and build skills while supervised by a faculty and staff of certified speech-language pathologists," says Harris.

Supervised by department professors and professionals who work in the field, students evaluate clients, create appropriate therapy goals, and implement treatment for clients. Guided and supported by her supervisors, Des Combaz works with clients diagnosed with a wide variety of speech and/or language disorders. "I feel that the clinical experience here at the University has prepared me well for a future career in the field of speech-language pathology," says Des Combaz.

"The clinic is a perfect fit with the mission of the University," says Harris, particularly with outreach and service as well as training future speech and language professionals. The clinic improves learning for clients and UW-RF students alike.

For more information on services of the UW-RF Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, call 715/425-3801 or take a virtual tour at: www.uwrf.edu/comm-dis/Clinic%20Tour.htm.

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Last updated: Tuesday, 22-Jun-2010 16:21:19 Central Daylight Time

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