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CDC: facilitating the art of communication

Tucked away in the heart of campus, on the first floor of Memorial Hall, lies a clinic serving people of all ages. The practitioners, however, don't walk around with stethoscopes, Band-Aids or needles; instead their tools are often bright colored toys, ipods and ipads.

Started in 1964, the Communications Disorders Clinic has served thousands of men, women and children over the past 48 years. Some come to find their voice and relearn speech; some learn to adapt to hearing aids; the young ones might need help learning to talk or pronouncing their "r's" or "f's"; and others might need help flattening their accents. It's all in a day's work for students and their clinical supervisors in the Department of Communication Disorders.

"The CDC has always been an important part of our graduate program," said Leisa Harmon, department chair. "We serve clients through the lifespan - pediatrics through adult - so by the end of their master's program, students have 375 hours of direct clinical practice.

"Our undergraduate students also complete two semesters of clinical practicum, which is about 40-50 hours by the end of their senior year. Most (communication disorders) programs don't have students directly involved in the clinic until graduate school."

Clients usually come through referral: school, hospital, their doctor, a loved one. But it is not necessary. Often, due to a recent trauma such as a stroke or brain injury, patients come because their insurance benefits for speech or hearing rehabilitation have run out. Because the CDC utilizes supervised students, fees are more affordable.

Rehabilitation programs are as individual as the people they treat. Lisa Roteliuk, CDC director, recalls scads of success stories of clients who've been helped throughout the years.

"Years ago, we had a young client who came to the clinic without any diagnosis, except that at age three, she didn't speak and had behavior problems.

"For the first five to 10 sessions, she cried most of the session, mostly out of frustration because she wasn't able to tell us what she wanted," Roteliuk said. "She's been in therapy for six years and is now able to speak in complete sentences and ask for specific things.

"An older gentleman who lost his hearing late in life was referred to our clinic after he'd received a cochlear implant," Roteliuk added. "He came thinking 'I'm doing OK,' but the truth was he couldn't use the telephone, and he had to take leave from work because he couldn't communicate with his coworkers. He came for three semesters to relearn how to listen to speech and other sounds through the cochlear implant, as well as how to manage difficult listening situations. We also provided webinars for his wife, so she could learn how to facilitate his progress," Roteliuk said. "It was like I saw a light go back on when he realized what he'd be able to do."

The CDC is open to the public and operates year round. For information or to make an appointment call Donna Zeigler, clinic operations manager, at (701)858-3030 or visit www.minotstateu.edu/cdse/cd/CLINIC.shtml.