PULLMAN, Wash.–Native Americans will be trained as speech and language professionals in a newly funded program in the Department of Speech and Hearing at Washington State University. The program, which begins in January, offers financial and educational support to students interested in becoming speech-language pathologists or audiologists.
Graduates of the program will be prepared to work in educational or medical settings with individuals who have difficulty with speech, language or hearing. The training includes professional mentorships, leadership training, observations, clinical experience and research in Native American communities. Students who have a commitment to serve Native American communities and who have college experience are given admission preference.
A three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education and funding from WSU support the program. The DOE funding for the first year totals $173,000, 58 percent of the program budget. WSU’s first year contribution is $125,147.
There is great need for the program, according to speech and hearing professors Ella Inglebret and Anthony Seikel, co-directors. They cite studies which show that speech, language and hearing disorders occur 5 to 15 times more frequently for Native Americans. “It is estimated that 74 percent of Native Americans with these problems may not be receiving services,” said Inglebret. “Furthermore, in 1996 there were only 12 certified Native American speech-language pathologists and audiologists in the Northwest.”
The newly funded program is an extension of a similar ongoing, highly successful program that has already graduated six students with master’s degrees and 14 with bachelor’s degrees. Program graduates are working in tribal or public schools on or near reservations and native villages, in tribal headstart and health care programs, and in an urban acute-care facility and an audiology facility. Two have gone on to doctoral programs.
“Two elements of the new program are significant departures from what we have been doing in the past,” said Inglebret. “First, ‘teaming’ will be integral to instruction and delivery of services in the clinic and public school settings. The teams will be cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural due to collaboration with students preparing to be public school educators. Secondly, the project will develop and disseminate a three-part multimedia curriculum to other higher education institutions that train speech-language pathologists and audiologists. It will address cultural, assessment, and intervention concerns specific to Native Americans,” she said.

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