When most people think about speech-language pathology, the first thing that comes to mind is usually a speech therapist working with a child who struggles with a stutter or helping a child who has trouble articulating certain sounds. However, at the University of Central Arkansas Speech-Language Hearing Center, the services extend far beyond that.
The UCA Speech-Language Hearing Center has been serving the community and surrounding areas for more than 40 years. Individuals of all ages with a variety of communication needs can receive a comprehensive speech and language evaluation as well as therapy services.
“Our clients consist of UCA students, faculty, staff and members of the Conway community,” said Kathy McDaniel, director of the clinic. “Our graduate students provide the therapy and are supervised by faculty. Our undergraduate students watch and learn, and it’s wonderful to see everybody connect.”
But the connection doesn’t stop within the walls of the clinic. Most faculty members host community clinics as well, focusing on an area in which they specialize. UCA clinical instructor Candice Robinson teaches a brain fitness class to senior citizens at the College Square Retirement Community with the help of the Silver Sneakers program through the UCA HPER Center.
“We bring the class to them. We have grad students who go to outside locations and we teach brain health, like how to improve brain memory and cognition as they age,” said Robinson. “I teach them what they can do in their life to improve, and possibly ward off signs of dementia. What I love about UCA’s speech path clinic is the community aspect. I love that part of my job.”
Dr. Brent Gregg, a professor of communication sciences and disorders, hosts a community clinic every summer focusing on children who stutter, but he assures that it’s much more than that.
“The kids come in for eight weeks in the summer and do therapy twice a week, for two-hour sessions in a group-based setting. We focus on team work and attitude building, which is way beyond just speech therapy,” Gregg said. “That’s what is lost when people think about speech therapy. It’s more than articulation. It’s cognition, bouncing back from bullying and learning resilience. This fantastic cohort of kids is also part of our community.”
UCA students in the speech-language pathology community are able to work in close contact with their clients, which allows them to get real world experience while being supervised by faculty. They receive support and guidance while learning how to make real connections when they are on the job.
“The best part of working with the speech path clinic for me is just working with the client,” said first-year grad student Holly Burns ’16. “Getting to see them have fun while seeing my skills develop is an amazing experience. I feel like I’m prepared by what I’ve experienced here at UCA.”
“The supervisors are really supportive. They’ve guided us to where we have needed to be,” said Amy Chieu, first-year grad student. “Having smaller classes of 30 classmates means we always have support, and each faculty member has their own specialty, meaning they’re all really knowledgeable, which makes each class more interesting because they are more passionate about their topics.”
Some surprising connections come out of the clinic as well. When the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre begins its summer festival in Conway, the members of the company come to the clinic to ensure that their voices are stage-ready all season long.
“We have individuals after rehearsals who need someone to talk to about voice remediation or rest, or who go through voice issues, especially if they have no understudy and the show must go on!” said Gregg. “We are the ones they come to. We have a partnership with them as well, so our community keeps growing larger.”
“There are so many stories of clients who come through here and have success,” said McDaniel. “I’ve been here many years, and just to see how many people whose lives have been changed and now they are able to communicate, able to use strategies that they have learned here. It’s rewarding. The students get to see that too. It’s a rewarding place to be.”