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U.Va. Launches Part-Time Graduate Program For Speech Pathologists

Dec. 1, 1999 -- Speech pathologists employed by Virginia public schools will lose their jobs if they have not earned master’s degrees by 2005. To address this situation, the University of Virginia has started this year a graduate program in speech-language pathology for speech clinicians currently employed by regional public school systems.

The program allows individuals to complete their master’s degrees in speech-pathology on a part-time basis, at night or during the weekend, while they maintain their employment in the public schools. A total of six people are expected to enroll in the program. To date, five pathologists, serving 420 children, have enrolled from the Fluvanna, Nelson, Lynchburg, and Front Royal school districts.

The Virginia Department of Education has awarded two grants totaling $109,000 to the communication disorders program in the Curry School of Education’s Department of Human Services. The grants enable the department to provide personnel and materials for the students, as well as supervision personnel to oversee the students’ required practicums.

A Virginia Department of Education regulation that takes effect July 1 will prohibit public school systems from hiring unlicensed speech pathologists. To gain licensure, pathologists must have bachelor’s and master’s degrees and pass a test.

The Department of Education has offered grants to colleges and universities with accredited master’s programs in speech-language pathology to support the development of these special degree programs. James Madison University and Radford University also received state grants to run similar programs.

"The goal of the new regulation is to ensure that the most qualified providers of speech-language pathology services are in the schools," said Robert Novak, principal investigator of U.Va.’s new program. He noted that licensure is required for pathologists to practice in hospitals, clinics and private practice settings.

There are differences between a bachelor’s and master’s degree in communication disorders, said program coordinator Carol Dudding. An undergraduate curriculum includes very general classes, while graduate studies in speech pathology and audiology cover disorders of phonology, articulation, fluency, language, hearing and communication.

In addition to taking classes, students must complete a practicum at three different work sites. "The idea is that they get experience with clients in a variety of ages, pediatric through geriatric, and a variety of disorders," Dudding said.

U.Va. offers undergraduate courses in communication disorders, as well as full-time master’s and Ph.D. programs in speech pathology and audiology.

For more information, contact Carol Dudding at (804) 924-4622 or ccd3c@virginia.edu or Bob Novak at (804) 982-2323 or ren3f@virginia.edu.

Contact: Jill Johnson, (804) 924-6855

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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