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University Relations

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Jan. 18, 2005
Contact: Karen Henry, Schiefelbusch Life Span Institute, (785) 864-0756.

Grant to train KU speech-language pathology students in Lawrence classrooms

LAWRENCE -- The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the University of Kansas a four-year, $923,200 grant for an innovative speech-language pathology graduate clinical training program that will serve Lawrence students with communicative disorders, and their families and teachers.

Jane Wegner, director of the Schiefelbusch Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at KU, will direct the Augmentative and Alternative Communication in the Schools (ACTS) project, which will train 20 graduate students over four years beginning with the fall 2005 semester.

ACTS trainees will earn master's degrees in speech-language pathology through KU's Department of Speech-Language-Hearing while working with Lawrence Public School students who use augmentative and alternative communication and their families in collaboration with Lawrence Public School teachers.

" We're excited about the prospects of working with the University of Kansas through this grant project," said Bruce Passman, executive director of student services for the Lawrence Public Schools. "We look forward to the new partnership with the university and the learning opportunities it will provide our students and staff."

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a relatively new area of study and clinical practice. AAC specialists develop or restore communication in individuals with severe disabilities such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, autism, traumatic brain injury, stroke or neuromuscular disorders such as multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy.

" The goal of augmentative and alternative communication is to improve the quality of life for individuals with significant disabilities," Wegner said. "In the case of school-aged children, this means supporting their ability to use AAC to form friendships and participate in general education classes."

AAC systems range from gestures to communication boards and books, sign language and electronic communication devices.

Finding the right communication strategy for individuals with severe speech and language problems is complex, according to Wegner. A unique KU resource for training speech pathologists in AAC is the Pardee Augmentative and Alternative Communication Resource and Research Laboratory, which was endowed by former client Russell Pardee in 2001.

The KU trainees will receive an annual $15,000 stipend each year they participate in the project. For each year of participation they will provide two years of speech and language service after graduation to students who are eligible for such services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The Department of Speech-Language-Hearing: Sciences and Disorders offers an undergraduate degree in speech-language-hearing, a master's degree in speech-language pathology, and doctoral degrees in audiology and speech language-pathology. Approximately 150 undergraduate and 70 graduate students currently are seeking degrees.

The Schiefelbusch Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic offers comprehensive services to people with speech, language and hearing disorders in the University of Kansas community and surrounding area. The clinic also provides professional training for graduate and undergraduate students in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing and the Intercampus Program in Communication Disorders. The clinic provides more than 5,000 consultations each year.

For more information about KU's ACTS program, contact Jane Wegner at (785) 864-4690 or jwegner@ku.edu.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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