San Marcos,
08:14 AM

Students making a difference at Speech-Language Clinic

By Eric Breier

Alice and Norman Bishop had lived in Oceanside for just a week after relocating from Colorado when Norman suffered a stroke in April 2015.

Norman was in an intensive care unit for almost a month. He was eventually moved to a rehab center and suffered another stroke six weeks later.

The strokes left Norman with aphasia, a communication disorder that can cause speech and language difficulties, among other issues.

But the Bishops have found a measure of relief through Cal State San Marcos’ Speech-Language Clinic.

“It’s been a blessing,” Alice said. “Norman’s evaluation scores have really improved a lot.”

The Bishops found CSUSM’s Speech-Language Clinic through a recommendation from Norman’s speech therapist at an outpatient center in Oceanside.

CSUSM graduate students work with clients under the supervision of state-licensed and nationally certified speech-language pathologists. The free clinic provides services to people with neurological impairments to help improve speech, language and cognitive skills.

“The students are extremely well prepared,” Alice said. “They’re really positive and friendly and make you feel welcome. They do a great job.”

Laura Coca, one of the clinical supervisors along with Decemna Tang, said the majority of the clinic’s clients are people who have had a stroke or traumatic brain injury, have gone through acute rehab and their insurance has run out.

“They usually have 10-15 speech therapy visits, and for someone who has had a major stroke 10-15 visits isn’t going to get you too far,” Coca said. “So they come to us and our students do a full assessment on them. Then the students do traditional speech therapy with them. It’s a great community service.”

Clients visit the clinic for two-hour sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the fall and spring semesters and attend daily during the summer program.

Twelve students work in the clinic each semester during the academic year and six in the summer, each working 80 contact hours.

“So many clients really feel like they are giving back to the students,” Coca said. “They can participate in this community situation where they’re also giving back and helping the students learn.”

Chelsey Johnson is one of those students. She worked with Tony Munoz at the clinic during the summer session that recently ended.

Munoz suffered a brain injury in April 2009 when he was thrown from a horse and then kicked in the head. Marisol Munoz, Tony’s wife, said he has undergone 12 brain surgeries and been in multiple comas, including one that lasted five months.

“The students really are involved,” Marisol said. “Chelsey knew right away what he needed to do and the things he likes.”

The clients receive individual speech therapy at each visit followed by group sessions that include a variety of activities.

One of the summer session group activities included a series of art-healing workshops led by Marilyn Huerta, a public affairs communication specialist in CSUSM’s College of Education, Health and Human Services.

The art workshops were interactive projects that helped clients and students communicate with one another. Clients completed tasks and then reflected by addressing questions such as why they selected certain colors and what the artwork means to them.

The projects included a small personal painting, painting a mask that described how they felt and a group project in which they painted a canvas together.

“Art uses another area of the brain, so it’s another way for the clients to express themselves,” Coca said.

Alice Bishop said the sessions have had a positive impact on her husband. She said he also has benefited from the connections made through the clinic.

“Just through their knowledge with what’s happening in the community, it’s opened up a lot of things for us,” she said. “The socializing with other people who have been through the same type of things, they’re so understanding. It’s like a camaraderie within the group.”

The clinics are equally beneficial for the students.

“When you get to apply your knowledge and interact with the clients, that’s what makes it rewarding and makes all of the classwork worth it,” Chelsey said. “The whole environment of the program is really positive and supportive and helpful.”