Speech-language pathology is a dynamic and rigorous field of study. The expectations for students planning to pursue speech-language pathology as a profession are high. The ability to communicate is critical to quality of life. When working with individuals whose communication skills are compromised, the clinician must be a model of communication and clinical effectiveness, which is dependent on non-academic traits in combination with clinical expertise and academic knowledge. The clinician must at all times place the client’s best interest above any other consideration.

It is possible for a student to be in good standing academically but not possess the non-academic traits or abilities that are the underpinning of clinical effectiveness. These traits and abilities are important to the student’s standing in the program and will be considered during the admission process as well as throughout their academic and clinical training.

Once admitted to the graduate program the KASA Form will be used as the primary instrument to evaluate students during the course of clinical training. It must be understood, however, that evaluation of non-academic traits will involve a degree of subjectivity.

When concerns arise regarding an individual student, final assessment will be based on the opinion of a committee of professionals who are themselves successful in the profession. When concerns arise regarding the non-academic traits and abilities that provide the foundation for clinical success, the student will be brought up for non-academic review. The review process will be completed by a committee consisting of the Department Chair, Coordinator of Speech-Language Services, at least one clinical supervisor, and at least one faculty member. When appropriate, a remediation plan will be presented to the student with a timeline required for demonstration of an acceptable level of improvement.

The Department of Communicative Disorders welcomes applications to the graduate program from students with disabilities and from diverse backgrounds. Each student will be considered on an individual basis. Accommodations where needed and appropriate will be provided. If accommodations are (1) incompatible with acquisition of core competencies required for certification (KASA) or (2) become intrusive to the clinical process to the point that the client’s interests cannot be placed above all other considerations, a non-academic review will take place. The student will be advised according to the outcome of that review.

An overview of the non-academic traits that provide the foundation for clinical success is discussed below.

The non-academic, or personality, traits necessary to be an effective clinician include:

  • Sensitivity
  • Compassion
  • Non-judgmental attitude
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Ability to set and maintain professional boundaries
  • Ability to consistently treat clients with respect
  • Ability to work well with others
  • Motivation to be a life-long learner
  • Ability to put client’s interests above any other considerations
  • Communication skills as delineated below

The speech-language pathologist must be a model communicator to be a successful clinician. All graduate students must have their speech-language skills screened. Faculty members and clinical supervisors will also monitor students’ written and verbal communication. If a student fails screening, or concern is expressed by faculty or clinical supervisors, an in depth evaluation will be completed. Both informal and formal measures can be used. The Coordinator of Speech-Language Services and two clinical supervisors will review the evaluation results to determine if skills meet professional expectations. Their decision might differ from typical scoring of a standardized test since the goal is model communication skills rather than adequate communication skills. If deficits in communication skills are revealed, the student is expected to enter a treatment program. Situations might occur in which the student will not be allowed to begin clinic or continue in clinic until treatment is complete. If the student is enrolled in clinic an “I” or incomplete might be given until remediation is complete. Acceptable progress must be achieved for the student to remain in good standing in the program.

Examples of communication skills that will be evaluated as part of the clinical training process include:

  • Pragmatic communication skills adequate to conduct diagnostic and treatment session
    • Student can recognize and regulate the volume, rate, and prosody of their own speech
    • Student uses and recognizes the amount of eye contact and facial expression appropriate for communication intent
    • Student demonstrates appropriate metalinguistic skill (Student can use language to describe and analyze his/her own language)
  • Spoken English adequate to conduct diagnostic and treatment session
    • Student clinicians are expected to use grammatically correct speech
    • Student clinicians are expected to code switch from his/her typical dialect to standard English as needed for diagnostic and treatment purposes
    • Students who speak English as a second language
      • must be able to produce English phonemes with 80% accuracy
      • intelligibility of spoken English must be judged to be “good” by a panel of three evaluators based on a scale of “excellent, good, fair, poor” 82
  • English comprehension
    • Student must demonstrate auditory and reading comprehension of the English language for both literal and metaphorical expressions that is adequate for diagnostic and intervention with both children and adults
    • Student must demonstrate competency in English grammar, semantics, and morphology that is adequate for diagnostic and intervention with both children and adults

The clinical speech-language pathologist does not have a desk job. This profession is rigorous requiring active interaction with clients and manipulation of therapy materials, instruments, and equipment during much of the work day. The physical and sensory abilities necessary for this level of sustained activity are essential to delivery of clinical services and include:

  • Minimum fine and gross motor skills necessary to conduct a diagnostic and treatment session
    • Manipulate therapy toys and materials, turn pages in a book, etc. in a way that allows dynamic communication and interaction
    • Engage in interactive therapy activities such finger plays, games, and role playing
    • Provide intervention for swallowing disorders (feeding)
    • Use a communication/schedule board
    • Lift a small child (approximately 50 lbs.)
    • Provide support to an adult client who needs assistance getting out of a chair or walking
    •  Manage behavior of non-compliant client
    • Use instruments and equipment as needed for clinical services, such as
      • Program an augmentative device
      • Use equipment necessary for diagnosis and treatment of all disorders,
      • including voice and swallowing
  • Sensory abilities
    • Adequate hearing to conduct diagnostic and treatment session
      • Must be able to administer and score articulation test
      • Must be able to discriminate subtle phonemic differences
  • Adequate vision to conduct diagnostic and treatment session such as
    • Evaluation of non-verbal speech skills
    • Oral-peripheral examination
    • Swallowing evaluation
    • Visual analysis of speech production errors

Students who anticipate difficulty in any of these areas should inform the Department Chair to discuss necessary accommodations. The student should also register with Disabled Student Services.