OXFORD, Miss. – By trying some new approaches, Communication Sciences and Disorders students at the University of Mississippi are experiencing a successful conference this week.
More than 200 speech language pathologists and audiologists packed the Inn at Ole Miss Thursday (Sept. 24) for the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders’ annual Fall Institute. Registration for the two-day event, which this year focuses on enhancing the skills of children with highly unintelligible speech, has doubled from last year.
Members of UM’s campus chapter of the National Student Speech, Language and Hearing Association are also excited that fees received from institute registration are enough to fund all their travel expenses to the next American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or ASHA, meeting, scheduled for Nov. 18-21 in New Orleans.
“We put forth a great deal of effort to publicize this event to ensure its success,” said Jamie Malone of Nettleton, president of NSSLHA. “Several months of preparation and hard work finally paid off and we are extremely excited about the turnout.”
John Smith of Tupelo, NSSLHA vice president, said seeing the student-led event grow and make an impact on industry around the region has been “an amazing experience for me.”
“I have seen the original plan for the event evolve and grow to what it has become,” Smith said. “The success thus far is truly a combination of several good ideas from many different people within our department.”
“We are flowing over the brim,” said Stephanie Beebe, an instructor and speech-language pathologist who serves as NSSLHA chapter co-adviser. The student organization has planned and conducted the institute since 2002. The department and EBS Healthcare are co-sponsors.
“There seems to be an unexpected, but well-received excitement about this year’s conference,” Beebe added.
One new approach that paid off was the manner in which the group promoted the event, said Brad Crowe, director of the Speech and Hearing Clinic who shares co-advising duties with Beebe. In lieu of the usual paid advertising in trade publications, the chapter sent a mass e-mail notification to several hundred professionals and students in the South and beyond.
“We just wanted to try a different approach,” Crowe said. “Apparently, it worked.”
A guest speaker who is a renowned researcher in the field of child language helped, too.
“Having Barbara Hodson, who is professor and doctoral program coordinator at Wichita State University, is an incredible honor,” Crowe said. “I’m certain that once word got out that she was coming, many more people than usual began making plans to be here.”
The author of English and Spanish phonological assessment instruments, Hodson is also the developer of a copyrighted computer software program used to analyze phonological patterns. A frequently published scholar, she has received both the ASHA Foundation’s Kleffner Lifetime Clinical Career Award and the 2008 WSU Excellence in Research Award.
During Thursday’s sessions, Hodson discussed with participants how to identify phonological and metaphonological deficiencies of children with highly unintelligible speech. (Phonological deficiencies refer to problems creating the sounds necessary for speech; metaphonological deficiencies are problems comprehending and thinking about rules for putting those sounds together for speech.)
“These children have difficulty understanding and implementing the rules for creating speech,” Beebe said. “Once their strengths have been assessed, pathologists and audiologists can create plans that help them put together understandable speech.”
Friday’s half-day session is to focus on selecting appropriate tasks for enhancing these skills. Participants will engage in problem-solving exercises and activities before the institute closes at noon. Those completing the institute earn a continuing education credit from ASHA.
For more information about the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, call 662-915-7217 or visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/comm?disorders/index.htm/