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UW-RF clinic helps guide clients through challenges

Marilyn Delander, a longtime resident of Roberts, has made a personal commitment to herself at the age of 77: improve her communication skills that were suddenly seized from her as a result of a stroke in 2005 when she was vacationing with friends in Mackinaw Island, Mich.

Due to the stroke, Marilyn has been diagnosed with aphasia. Aphasia is a common occurrence after a stroke that causes difficulty in many facets of language such as speaking, word finding and comprehending.

Prior to her stroke, Marilyn was very active in the Roberts area. Marilyn and her deceased husband, Leon, farmed there until 1985 with their seven children. After that time, Marilyn and Leon purchased L & M's Bar, which has been family operated for the last 13 years.

Since communication was an integral part of her life, Marilyn knew she needed help to regain the skills she had lost so suddenly.

Diane Mulhollam, Marilyn's daughter, suggested attending speech language therapy at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic in the fall of 2007.

Currently, Marilyn is seen twice weekly, where she works with a graduate student clinician to help with communication skills via oral reading, word naming, writing and verbally expression tasks.

Marilyn commented on her aphasic diagnosis mentioning that, "It is not going to go away."

Her treatment has focused mostly on compensating for her deficits by learning strategies to improve communicative abilities. Marilyn likes working with the different students each semester, joking, "They work me too hard."

Marilyn also participates in a local aphasia support group. The Aphasia Group meetings, currently held at First Covenant Church in River Falls, allow other individuals who have also been diagnosed with aphasia and their family members to come together with students, graduate clinicians and supervisors to discuss communication barriers they endure in their everyday environment and provide strategies to overcome these barriers in the future.

The family of Philip and Lisa Dumont from the Roberts area have also seen the advantages of having their 8-year-old son, Matthew, attend therapy at the UW-RF Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic.

It was determined Matthew would need to receive speech therapy at the age of four due to speech delays found during the River Falls Preschool/Pre-Kindergarten Screening. Prior to this diagnosis, Matthew had also had PE (pressure equalizer) tubes put in his ears due to chronic ear infections, had his tonsils removed and was diagnosed with vocal cord nodules.

As a result of the recommendation from River Falls Preschool/Pre-Kindergarten Screening, the family sought speech services. Initially, Matthew was receiving services from speech language pathologists in the River Falls public school system.

Finally, in the summer of 2008, Lisa Dumont, a former graduate student from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, made the call to enroll Matthew for therapy at the clinic.

"Our speech-language pathologist from Willow River suggested the clinic, since I was concerned about totally stopping therapy over the summer. This would offer continuity," Lisa said.

Since coming to the university, Matthew's mother has noticed a positive attitude toward speech in Matthew, which was not always the case.

"I think he likes the one-on-one time with the clinicians," she said, "and I also think he stays more focused without three or four other kids in the room also receiving services. This therapy service has been great and convenient."

Another added bonus for Matthew's mother is the dual purpose of the clinic: serving the River Falls community, and providing valuable learning opportunities to the young, enthusiastic graduate student clinicians.

The UW-RF Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic, established in 1963, is located in B31 of the Wyman Education Building.

The clinic provides prevention, assessment and intervention services for individuals across the lifespan who have a variety of communication disorders including autism, hearing disorders, stuttering, language disorders, traumatic brain injury and stroke.

Services are provided by graduate student clinicians under the supervision of nationally certified faculty and staff. The clinic also has a collaborative partnership with the River Falls Hospital.

There are also a number of current research projects that are carried out by both faculty and graduate students. These projects enroll individuals with aphasia, as was the case for Marilyn, individuals who need augmentative/alternative communication services and children with CHARGE syndrome. These research opportunities provide a means for clients to contribute towards the science of speech and hearing.

For further information about the clinic and research projects, call 715-425-3801.