Smiling back is Maggie Gadbois, a second-year Communication and Sciences Disorders (CSD) graduate student, who is working with Kampa to help her gain a better use of her communication device.
Kampa has cerebral palsy and is quadriplegic. When she speaks, she uses her eyes to answer a question or turn a phrase using a computer screen. A form of augmentive alternative communication (AAC), Kampa’s computer uses eye gaze technology to access her computer system and uses a computerized voice to communicate. This is known as a speech-generating device. She scrolls her eyes across the screen to find the words and phrases she wants to express.
“I want to learn how to do more things with my computer,” Kampa said. “My goal is to communicate better, and I want to write a book. My biggest goal is to be more independent.”
For now though, she’s both learning and teaching at St. Cloud State through her therapy sessions. Kampa is one of almost 40 clients served each semester by St. Cloud State’s on-campus Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic in Brown Hall.
The clinic offers a range of diagnostic and therapy services both in speech-language and hearing for children and adults from throughout St. Cloud and Central Minnesota. Services are provided by the graduate program’s 39 students, who are learning how to work with people and put the concepts they’ve learned in the classroom into practice.
“Our department is known for being a strong clinical program, and I think it’s because we really put our students in a lot of different situations and they get to work with a lot of different clients,” said Rebecca Crowell, CSD department chair.
Each student must log 400 hours of clinical experience as part of their program and do so by working with a variety of people with different needs.They work with young children on forming words, help young adults with autism navigate daily life better and help older adults who have dementia or are recovering from stroke or other traumatic brain injuries.
Working in the clinic gives students the chance to work with people while receiving necessary guidance from faculty, who work in the clinic alongside the students and supervise their work, Crowell said.
The clinic is also a resource for faculty members who use it to gauge their students’ understanding of the concepts and practice new techniques in CSD. All faculty members who teach in the master’s program also do clinical supervision, which is a unique aspect of St. Cloud State’s program that helps it better prepare students, she said.
“At the end of the day what students want is to be able to do the job when they graduate, and it’s the clinical training that allows them to go out ready for the job,” Crowell said.
What the clinic does is gives students the chance to see how what they learn in class actually plays out in therapy. Sometimes issues look very similar to what’s expected, but sometimes they don’t, Gadbois said.
“It’s definitely more hands-on learning,” she said. “You’re really learning by experience and kind of learning that no things occur in isolation. Everything is combining and all these factors are coming together to create this person that’s in front of you.”
In the clinic, no two days are the same. One day you’ll work with a kid as an authority figure who needs to manage their behavior and do therapy, and the next day you’ll be working with an adult where your therapy role is that of a motivating friend and companion, she said.
SERVING THE COMMUNITY
The Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic doesn’t charge for its services and so it has been able to help people dismissed from therapy by insurance for not making enough progress, Crowell said.
“Our department is known for being a strong clinical program, and I think it’s because we really put our students in a lot of different situations and they get to work with a lot of different clients.”
“They can come here and we know that if we continue to work with them they will make gains and that is so exciting — that we can be a resource to the community,” she said.
The clinic also helps its partner organizations if a clinic’s caseload is too high or a child needs extra therapy after school.
“It’s a nice partnership to say that we’re not going to leave community members to fend for themselves if they’re struggling,” she said.
Outside of the clinic, the students also go into the community to work with people at schools, rehabilitation centers and county outreach programs.
“We do a lot,” Crowell said. “We have got our hands in everything, and we hope to continue to cultivate more experiences.”
PREPARING STUDENTS, EXPANDING LIVES
The demand for speech-language pathologists is so high that every student who graduates with their master’s from the program finds work, Crowell said. “We can’t graduate enough students to fill the need,” she said. “It’s just amazing. The demand is high both in education and medical settings.”
The clinic helps students prepare for the in-demand profession by exposing them to the needs they’ll address one day. Fall semester was Gadbois’ first time working with Kampa and her first experience working with high-tech AAC.
“Really she is the teacher of clinicians,” Gadbois said of Kampa. “She has used alternative communication her entire life.”
Kampa has been coming to St. Cloud State clinic for therapy since 2012. Each session she works at becoming more fluent and quicker at finding vocabulary on her device, which she also uses as a computer to control her TV, play music and games and read books. Kampa has worked with 13 students — Gadbois was No. 14.
“Working with students makes me happy,” she said. “I love to help the students learn about CP and AAC.”
After getting an upgraded device in January 2017, Kampa can now access the Internet and wants to download library books to read on her screen. It’s these skills too that students are working to help Kampa master, said Jodel Page, CSD clinical instructor and assistant professor.
“She wants to do everything. She wants to do a lot more with her computer, and there are so many possibilities,” Page said. “We’re not technology experts — we’re speech pathology and language experts, but we’re trying to bridge that gap between her ability to communicate
and use technology to the best of her ability.”
Kampa loves coming to the school each semester and every session she’s had has benefited her, said Ginny Olmcheid, Kampa’s sister.
“It helps her socially and expands how she can fill her day,” Olmcheid said. “She practices what she learns from all her speech teachers. They are all so very, very helpful and caring.”
Kampa’s entire family learns along with Kampa as they discover new possibilities. The program benefits everyone, Olmcheid said.
“We work together,” she said. “The students help me, and I help them.”