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Speech and Hearing Perspectives

American Academy of Audiology Issues Hearing Statements
January 30, 2017 11:12 AM by Speech Merion

The American Academy of Audiology on Jan. 27 released new statements on the accessibility and affordability of hearing care for adults and OTC hearing devices.

"Over the past two years, there has been considerable national focus on hearing care in the United States," stated the press release announcing the guidelines. "Much of this focus has been directed toward the issues of accessibility and affordability. The Academy recognizes the significance and implications that this national dialogue has for our profession and the patients we serve. Accordingly, the Academy seeks to ensure that the role of the audiologist remains central to the delivery of high-quality hearing care, while also balancing the consumer need for accessibility and affordability."

The Academy released the statements as guidance in light of ongoing consideration by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create a category of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing devices and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine competition, innovation, and consumer protection issues related to hearing health and technology.

The first issue statement discussed OTC hearing devices and primarily focused on the issue of consumer labeling. The second recommended access to safe and affordable hearing care, including the areas of accessibility, identification and assessment, management of hearing loss, affordability and education.

"The Academy recognizes that existing service delivery models for hearing care may need to be reconsidered in order to optimize hearing healthcare for a greater number of consumers impacted by hearing loss," summarizes the statement on hearing care. "Improving accessibility, encouraging appropriate assessment and management of hearing loss, and recognizing the impact of affordability on amplification usage are all priorities for the Academy. To this end, the Academy presents this position statement on the accessibility and affordability of hearing care for adult consumers."

Visit http://www.audiology.org/ to learn more.

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The Super Bowl & CTE: A Moral Quandary?
February 8, 2016 10:48 AM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

 

First thing’s first: It’s safe to assume that most of us have heard the common tropes about the Super Bowl and its accompanying media circus. Everyone knows it’s a massive event with viewership exceeding the number of people who celebrate Christmas. The commercials and halftime show are as much of a draw as the game itself (and at least as entertaining half of the time), and the whole cumulative event is a reminder of just how high football rates in American culture these days.

 

Having supplanted (and then some) baseball as our favorite national sport, football makes news for plenty of good — or at least entertaining — reasons. Yet at the same time, issues related to the sport’s inherent violence and that violence’s direct relationship to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) raises some deeply unsettling moral questions for those of us who watch the game from home.

 

In the past few months alone, we’ve discovered that the late Ken Stabler and Frank Gifford were suffering from the condition at the time of their respective deaths. Similarly the movie Concussion, based upon the story of Bennet Omalu, the doctor who first discovered CTE, came out over the holidays to wide release. And just last night, we watched an all-time great Denver Broncos defense slam Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton into the ground so many times, he ran to the wrong tunnel at halftime — leading many to wonder whether he’d been concussed.

SEE ALSO: Healthcare Tackles Concussion Dilemma

The bottom line is that one doesn’t need to have much medical expertise or background to recognize that the proverbial writing is on the wall for the NFL — these collisions are eventually going to lead to a question about the viability of the game itself. In a market economy, however, these decisions are often forced upon organizations by consumers. And that leads to a very interesting column appearing in USA Today just before the NFL's biggest game, entitled “Is it immoral to watch the Super Bowl?”

 

In the piece, author Tom Krattenmaker argues that football is a path out of poverty, a risky choice that fewer and fewer would make under more advantageous socioeconomic circumstances. “Juxtapose the sport’s massive spectator popularity with our growing knowledge of its dangers, and with the reality that most of the men playing in the NFL are black and/or from disadvantaged backgrounds, and you end up with a creepy feeling,” he said.

 

ADVANCE Opinion Poll: Are too many children being diagnosed with auditory processing disorders?

Citing his own abstinence from watching the game which began about three years ago, he continued, “But as the years pass, I suspect qualms like mine will start infiltrating more fans’ heads. More will begin to see the ways in which our football spectating resembles the “sport” perpetrated in The Hunger Games, albeit without the direct killing. More of us realize that what we take to be a ‘game’ that young men ‘play’ is actually not a game, but a path out of poverty pursued mainly by the desperate.”

 

So a few weeks removed from gathering together, gorging ourselves in a way that rivals Thanksgiving and watching the television event to end all television events, it’s probably worth keeping Krattenmaker’s words in mind, as well as those from The Nation sports editor Dave Zirin’s, who suggested in a similar column that the day is coming soon when we will ask ourselves just what we’re really watching every Sunday.

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Do Not DIY
January 28, 2016 11:25 AM by Speech Merion

By ADVANCE for Speech & Hearing

 

Once upon a time, the term “Renaissance man” (or the more technical “polymath”) was popularly employed to characterize those who were gifted and constantly seeking to enhance their abilities in areas ranging from physical, social, intellectual and artistic accomplishment.

While the term — like the period for which it is named — connotes a certain level of prestige, it has largely fallen out of fashion in recent years, for reasons mainly having to do with its populist replacement(s): self-help, self-improvement and do-it-yourself (or DIY).

If there’s one curious shift in society over the past few decades, it’s been the move away from the “self-made man” and toward the self-made expert. The economy is improving — and some sectors are strong — but with education costs continually soaring and information as accessible as it’s ever been, our collective know-it-all itch is scratched thousands of times every single day by countless websites churning out “explainers” and lists designed to trick us into thinking they confer expertise.

In a way, this democratization can be viewed not as the triumph but the death of the Renaissance man ideal. What was once an insatiable desire to improve — albeit somewhat tainted with pomposity — has morphed into a hasty competition to call the game early (rank with even more pomposity). And what’s worse, the availability of free — and (often) not properly vetted or verified — information stokes an unhealthy inner cynicism in a way that invariably leads to poor decisions.

One such poor decision: DIY doctoring. Jaynee Handelsman, PhD, CCC-A, president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and director of pediatric audiology at the CS Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, wrote an op-ed in U.S. News & World Report this week on this very topic, particularly pertaining to hearing care and senior citizens.

SEE ALSO: Alarming Statistics on Aging

In it, Handelsman writes, “According to the Hearing Health Foundation, the number of Americans with hearing loss — 50 million — has doubled in the past 15 years. One in five adults, one in five teens and three out of five veterans returning from war have hearing complications.”

She then referenced details of a 2011 ASHA survey on the hearing health of AARP’s members which found that almost half reported untreated hearing loss. “Many thought they were getting by. In doing so, however, they were putting themselves at risk for a lower quality of life potentially fraught with reduced social interaction, employment problems and additional medical complications. Studies have even linked hearing loss to dementia,” Handelsman said.

In sharing an anecdote about her 86-year-old father’s own resistance to proper hearing care — she’s a nationally recognized audiologist, remember — she noted that his own vulnerability to “ … the slick marketing of hearing aid technology as well as stories in the news media that encourage this do-it-yourself approach” led to his purchasing a personal sound amplifier that only exacerbated his frustrations; not only did his symptoms not improve, but he now was out a significant amount of money.

“Too many people are bypassing medical experts and shelling out dollars for devices that will eventually end up in the junk drawer, just like his,” she said.

ADVANCE Opinion Poll: Are too many children being diagnosed with auditory processing disorders?

And she’s right. Although she leadoff and closed her article with the suggestion that DIY culture might be better suited to tinkering with your car than with the health of your body, the truth is that trying to bypass the cost and hassle of seeing an actual credentialed professional in any field usually just defers that process and heaps excess pain — financial and physical — on the original problem.

So, with a nod to the admirable quality of self-reliance, remember to be practical. Don’t let DIY cause you to send out an SOS.

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A Better Understanding?
January 21, 2016 10:38 AM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

The degree to which something is understood goes a long way toward how well it is handled. The presence of a cough, for instance, is generally treated as a bad health symptom, but if you had been diagnosed with pneumonia, you’d understand that a cough is actually preferable. (Not having one implies that the congestion in your lungs is hard, solid and immovable).

The same is true about autism. As illustrated last week in this blog, the way in which presidential candidates and policymakers discuss the disorder speaks to just how different the landscape is now, as opposed to fewer than ten years ago. In lieu of a cure, there’s an emphasis on support and training professionals and volunteers to properly care for those who are on the spectrum.

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While this is an obviously positive development, the shift from treating autism like a disease to viewing it rightfully as a communicative disorder has necessarily prompted other questions, such as exactly what neurological markers are indicative of it and if there’s any way to predict whether or not a child will be born with these difficulties. While this sort of “mapping” can be considered somewhat controversial in and of itself, studies such as this most recent one (http://bit.ly/23eyHCB) from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) are likely to continue.

According to a report in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, the CHOP researchers said, “ … they identified a gene that looks like it plays a significant role in raising a person's risk of having more severe subtypes of autism that co-occur with other genetic diseases, such as the chromosomal disorder 22q11.2 deletion syndrome. Variations in this gene, RANBP1, may disrupt brain signaling in different neuropsychiatric conditions, a finding that could open new research opportunities for treatment for multiple neurological diseases, according to the scientists.”

"The gene we investigated may function as an important factor, not only in forms of autism, but also in other neuropsychiatric conditions," said study leader Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Applied Genomics at CHOP. "We have uncovered underlying molecular defects across disease categories, suggesting that these biological networks are good targets for future research."

The full text of the paper, entitled “The Role of mGluR Copy Number Variation in Genetic and Environmental Forms of Syndromic Autism Spectrum Disorder," is published in Scientific Reports.

Per the report, “The team compared DNA from 539 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to DNA from 75 children with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, 25 of whom also had ASD. The researchers searched for copy number variations (CNVs) within a particular gene network, the metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) pathway affecting the neurotransmitter glutamate.”

ADVANCE Opinion Poll: Are too many children being diagnosed with auditory processing disorders?

As far as the conclusions to be drawn from their work, Hakonarson said, “Based on this study, we propose that the RANBP1 gene is a significant genetic factor in both ASD and 22q.11.2 deletion syndrome.” Furthermore, when the mGluR network is disrupted at multiple points, it predisposes individuals to a more severe disease." Numerous environmental studies also support a role for RANBP1 in autism.”

Hakonarson added that he believes further research will reveal more connections and interactions “ … among genetic and environmental factors that increase a child's risk of developing ASD."

While the research is no doubt fascinating and could lead to another potentially seismic shift in our understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder, it’s important to remember that “ … drug development for complex disease,” which Hakonarson alludes to, presupposes there’s something wrong that needs to be fixed.

Families who have a loved one on the spectrum, as well as their caregivers, might disagree with that premise — rather than a fix, how about acceptance, love and support?

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Speech Issues & the 2016 Campaign: Autism
January 14, 2016 12:31 PM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

Regardless of your profession, there’s always something exciting about hearing a politician reference what you do in a speech — to a point. When they’re on the campaign trail, it’s usually nothing but positives: tax breaks, more jobs, student loan forgiveness, etc. If and when they are elected, the addresses and policy announcements can be a little less galvanizing — few cheer for regulations.

For speech-language pathologists, it’s heartening to see politicians respond to issues the field is passionate about, because it’s a clear sign that voices are being heard and messages are being communicated. And in the world of speech, that often means they’re being sent out on someone else’s behalf.

This all comes in reference to Hillary Clinton’s release last week of what David M. Perry, an associate professor of history at Dominican University in Illinois, called “ … the most detailed policy document on autism in U.S. presidential election history.” A fellow ADVANCE staff member covered it for the ADVANCE Outlook: OT blog just last week.

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Writing for CNN, Perry said, “Her ‘Plan to Support Children, Youth, and Adults Living with Autism and their Families’ (document) is notable for its focus on adults and for the complete absence of stigmatizing words such as ‘cure’ or ‘epidemic.’"

Perry’s CNN piece is possibly too effusive about Clinton’s policy proposal — its applause of the language is basically a compliment for its having been published in 2016 and not 2008, when then-Senator Barack Obama’s disability policy committee (the first of its kind in presidential history) put out a document that’s language reflected the norms and understanding of its time, using several instances of “causes,” “treatments” and “cures.”

Still, praise aside, Perry’s not the only one giving Clinton’s document high marks. Sara Luterman, editor of NOS Magazine and an autistic activist said, "If even half of the things on Hillary Clinton's plan happen, I'd be extremely pleased."

ADVANCE Opinion Poll: Are too many children being diagnosed with auditory processing disorders?

Some of the thrust of Perry’s argument — not only that the former First Lady and Secretary of State’s proposal is great, but also that it also fills a vacuum left by the other presidential candidates — is somewhat disingenuous.

He even cites Lauren Appelbaum, communications director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit focused on empowering people with disabilities, later in his article. Just last week she wrote, "What is most remarkable is that Clinton is just one of numerous presidential candidates to be discussing disability issues. In comparison, during the 2012 cycle, the word ‘disability’ was very rarely even uttered. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been talking about autism since his announcement video. Ohio Gov. John Kasich often gets emotional when talking about the subject."

Perry counters that he’d like to see more documents like Clinton’s.

“I know many disabled Republicans, including plenty of autistic people. None of them plans to vote for Hillary Clinton. But they are going to vote, and the Republican candidate who takes a stand on their issues is likely to get their attention.”

He’s right, and with the attention they seem to be paying to these issues even in their rhetoric, proposals of their own should be expected right around the corner. And rest assured, SLPs, we’ll cover them here at ADVANCE when they do.

In the meantime, what do you think of the Clinton plan, (the full text of which can be accessed at tinyurl.com/zvuo3cf)? Let us know in the comments below.

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Have You Heard?
December 30, 2015 12:50 PM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

With tens of thousands of them leaving the workforce daily, it’s probably safe to suggest that the time of Baby Boomers is at an end. The implications that exodus has for programs such as Social Security aside, one interesting dynamic is the degree to which the American economy has changed and evolved since the first Boomers started contributing to it nearly 50 years ago.

Nowadays, there’s almost no second thought given to the idea of going to college — even if you aren’t sure what for. And for those in need of advice when it comes to choosing a major, many helpful parents and grandparents have no doubt chimed in over the years that — in the absence of another plan — virtually any healthcare discipline offers excellent job prospects upon graduation.

Even so, an objective measure of growth rates — or just a cursory glance at healthcare job boards — reveals that too few of us have taken up our elders’ advice, so there’s essentially never a lack of demand for nurses, doctors or other specialists. For all the year(and associated costs) of school, the reward is usually less job-hunting stress than those of us peddling liberal arts degrees experience.

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With that said, choosing a particular field or specialization is by no means a simple process. One has to take into account their passion for a specific field, as well as the practical aspects of it such as median income, job growth outlook and its current unemployment rate. The good news, however, outweighs the bad: those looking to break into the healthcare profession have several great options.

In a new CareerCast survey listing the “Best Jobs in Healthcare of 2015, the Jobs Rated report, which “… evaluates careers based on criteria of stress, hiring potential, income potential and workplace environment,” scored audiologist as the number one overall job in healthcare. It came in with a median income of $69,720 and a growth outlook through 2022 of 34%.

In addition, the report also echoed the sentiment that it’s hard to go wrong when choosing anything from the compiled list, saying “As of November 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports approximately 18.9 million are employed in healthcare professions. That’s an increase of nearly four million from a decade ago, and the industry is projected to grow, as a whole, by another five million by 2022.”

It’s worth exploring — both the survey’s methodology and the careers themselves — but those interested in pursuing a career in hearing care should no doubt be taking away a message from this survey that’s loud and clear: they’re on the right track.

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The Living Past
December 17, 2015 12:35 PM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

Has anyone ever accused you of “living in the past?” It’s a tough charge. It’s the kind of phrase you both take at face value — because it usually has some reference to your physical presentation — and dissect. It cuts to the core of a character flaw; you’re preoccupied with something that no longer exists.

Any discussion of the past — without getting too deep in the weeds — is always just one step away from a philosophical deep dive, isn’t it? It all fades away and the most we can hold onto from it is sensory, so the further away we get from any particular point, the more we have to fill in the gaps.

At the same time, there’s a conflict. Beyond the necessity of understanding some amount of history or gleaning lessons from lived experience, aren’t all relationships fundamentally built upon familiarity? We love and care for each other, but the degree to which we truly know each other is inherently tied to how much of the past we retain.

All of which contributes to what makes Alzheimer’s so devastating and heartbreaking. Progressively, someone you love is losing their grasp on who they are, who you are and on reality itself. While it remains harrowing and there is no known cure for the disease yet, its gradual nature means that the earlier one can have an accurate diagnosis, the better they can deal with the implications and brace for inevitable increase in symptoms.

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Thanks to a new study led by Toronto Rehabilitation Institute scientist, Dr. Frank Rudzicz, and published in the December issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, computerized language analysis may be able to provide patients and their families that precious time to prepare in better than four out of five cases.

According to Neuroscience News, “It was determined that four collective dimensions of speech are indicative of dementia: semantic impairment, such as using overly simple words; acoustic impairment, such as speaking more slowly; syntactic impairment, such as using less complex grammar; and information impairment, such as not clearly identifying the main aspects of a picture.”

“Previous to our study, language factors were connected to Alzheimer’s disease, but often only related to delayed memory or a person’s ability to follow instructions,” said Rudzicz. “This study characterizes the diversity of language impairments experienced by people with Alzheimer’s disease, and our automated detection algorithm takes this into account.”

The result of this study was that Rudzicz and his team of researchers were able to diagnose Alzheimer’s with more than 82% accuracy by making evaluations based upon those four linguistic factors. The next step will be to begin testing the screening technology on current patients and control subjects in order to validate the approach.

Until Alzheimer’s is finally cured, the disease will continue to take our loved ones from us even before they pass away. Thanks to studies like this one, though, we’ll have a better chance to say a long goodbye.

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An Invite to the Party
December 10, 2015 1:50 PM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

No matter what you attend college for, one of the incredibly annoying things you’re treated to upon graduation is the deluge of career-placement and human resources types essentially asking the same thing: Who invited you?

For some odd reason, all those classes where you debated complicated theories and all those internships where you fetched coffee suddenly seem to be a little less useful and you, the poor student shackled in debt who was previously told he had to go through that process, seem to be not so subtly blamed for your lack of so-called adequate preparation.

It’s a comically unfair argument and one you’ll ultimately find your way around, but for those fortunate enough to be part of a program or a department that actually does a little bit of fieldwork pre-graduation (such as those enrolled in a speech-language pathology graduate program), you know how valuable that can be — and how (grudgingly) right the whole “this isn’t college anymore” talking point can end up seeming.

The reasons for going to a university were once much more intellectually aspirational than they are now — though no one seems to have bothered to inform the English lit majors — but realistically, the self-improvement aspect of obtaining a degree always had somewhere in its roots the notion that it could also serve to make you more employable and financially prosperous.

For students enrolled in Baldwin Wallace University and Jacksonville University’s SLP programs, the benefits of fieldwork aren’t just for them — they’re making a huge difference in their respective communities also.

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At Baldwin Wallace Speech Clinic, a 43-year-old free community clinic led by Christine Needham, a professor of communication sciences and disorders, “Professors and students help clients cope with physical, cognitive and other challenges in speaking, listening, swallowing, singing and related tasks,” according to Cleveland.com.

And according to those who attend and bring their children there, the clinic gets results.

Per Cleveland.com, Mary Frances Heuer said her four year-old daughter Kaylyn “ … Couldn't make herself clear to her family before enrolling here in September. Now she can communicate with acquaintances.”

Said Heuer, "It's a great opportunity for the young students and for the clients,” while Needham added “Anyone can come and get the help they need to communicate with their families, participate in work activities and increase their quality of life."

Meanwhile, down in Jacksonville and according to WJCT News, “Duval County Public Schools will use Jacksonville University speech-pathology students as instructors at the dyslexic-focused GRASP Academy.”

According to school board Superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, “Those interns that will be servicing students at GRASP, as far as speech is concerned, (and) we’re hoping to recruit them as full-time employees after their education is completed so that we’re building a pipeline or a bench of speech-language pathologists, so we’re not relying as heavily on contracted services going into the future.”

District-wide, Duval is reportedly short 13 speech pathologists, so this initiative has the very real potential to be mutually beneficial for the children as well as the SLP students — a welcome departure from fields where graduates can walk in feeling like an intruder.

Perhaps most importantly, there won’t be any plausible argument that these students aren’t prepared.

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Finals Focus
December 3, 2015 12:13 PM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

Conceptually speaking, there’s nothing like college. It’s a place where you think, write and talk about ideas you’ll probably never revisit after graduation — unless you return as a professor. It’s a place where you get up at 11, go to parties three nights of the week and rack up debt you won’t have to worry about until after you’ve left.

In short, it’s a very odd state of being — you’re an adult, but with very few of reality’s encumbrances. So when you bring home a lot of strong opinions on The Bell Curve, you might find it hard to understand why your parents (who’ve worked all day) would rather just eat dinner and talk about whether you’re dating anyone.

There is one week per semester, however, when all the worst elements of post-college life show themselves, giving you a glimpse of what awaits after you turn the tassel: the sleeplessness, the lack of time to get things done, the constant rushing around. Just saying it can still send a shiver down your spine: it’s Finals Week!

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As any grown adult will tell you, real life is sort of a perpetual Finals Week, minus the part where you bomb a test on everything you should have been learning. The fact of the matter is, at least half of the struggle of any Finals week has to do with logistics and organization and clutter or an inability to compartmentalize necessarily make zeroing in on the task at hand that much more difficult.

Which all leads us to a little primer developed by Hallie Bulkin, MA, CCC-SLP. A speech-language pathologist who specializes in working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Bulkin has also had an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) since she was 19.

In a guest blog for ADDitude, she discussed the seismic shift she went through during her first college semester, dropping from a straight-A student growing up to a 2.4 grade-point average (GPA).

“I went from being a straight-A student to receiving a 2.4 GPA in my first semester. I felt like a failure. I was devastated and couldn’t understand why I got C’s on tests, while classmates, who borrowed my notes, got A’s. I also couldn’t understand why I knew the answers to 13 of the 15 questions I got wrong, two weeks after the test, when I had not studied the material since before the exam. Something had to give.”

“I assumed that I had test anxiety. I was wrong. I was tested and diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 19. I was told that I was highly distractible and was a good candidate for Ritalin. Now I knew why I could hear a pin drop in a quiet room and have trouble refocusing. It drove me crazy.”

With the help of Ritalin and new, improved study habits, Bulkin improved her GPA to a 3.8 that spring and had a 4.0 each semester thereafter, all the way through graduate school. From her own private practice, she shared what she calls her “CORE” strategies for helping ADHD students succeed in school.

They’re certainly worth looking into, whether or not you have an ADHD diagnosis or have a loved one who does. As mentioned, everyday life is sort of like its own Finals Week. And unlike those crazy college days, not passing is really not an option.

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Divine Intervention
November 25, 2015 10:04 AM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

No matter how far society progresses in terms of medical treatment and technology, there will always be those who pine for the past. Out of all the golden age fallacies we are prone to fall for — even commodify — few compare to the yearning for a simpler time in healthcare, when old-fashioned remedies carried the day in lieu of Big Pharma’s more instantaneous potions.

What the artisanal enthusiasts frequently fail to mention, of course, is that the concoctions their grandmothers used to make were the only options available — and if mortality rates are any indication, those options were routinely not strong enough.

Similarly, people of faith can often find themselves on the side of more holistic and homeopathic cures for common and even acute illnesses, eschewing whatever the latest unpronounceable medicines happen to be.

For Pastor Jerry Reeves and his wife, Venodia, co-founders of the Milwaukee Pentecostal Outreach, they wanted to ensure that their congregants were as well physically as they were spiritually. As such, the church hosted its first “Get Healthy and Live" seminar since 2003 on November 13.

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Featuring presentations and testimonials on Alzheimer’s, breast and prostate cancer, stroke, hypertension and diabetes, the seminar was intended to inform, educate and help prevent new cases of these conditions, which the Reeves said are common among African-Americans.

“We want to teach people what to do and what not to do to prevent and treat these diseases. Fear of going to the doctor is especially common among African-American men because they are scared of what they’ll hear,” said Mrs. Reeves, a registered nurse.

According to Milwaukee Courier’s Mrinal Gokhale, “The speakers included speech pathology masters student Courtney Brasher, Health Unit Coordinator at St. Mary’s Columbia Hospital Eucita Seals, Mrs. Reaves, occupational therapist Annie Whitlock and administrative assistant Laura Bowen.”

Brasher commented on stroke and signs to be on the lookout for, discussing how stroke actually affects the brain as much or more than the heart, which runs counter to conventional wisdom. “Stroke happens when blood flow is cut off in the brain’s area. However, heart conditions such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure can increase chance of stroke,” she said.

For members of the Milwaukee Pentecostal Outreach community, it’s truly a blessing to have a pastor proactive enough to make sure their physical well-being is in order. As Pastor Reeves noted himself, “Some very religious folks assume that if you pray on it, the illness will go, but if you have bad diet and lifestyle habits, you’re going to have to pay for it.”

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Worth Hearing About
November 19, 2015 2:40 PM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

If you’re a non-audiologist, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and its enormous convention were the only game in town when it came to large professional organizations within the speech and hearing care fields.

Although it certainly goes without saying that ASHA and its 182,000-plus members — including 12,000 audiologists — indeed comprise the greatest collection of members of those professions, you might be surprised to learn that they are not the only major national organization for audiologists.

Having attended ASHA’s national convention last weekend in Denver, Colorado, ADVANCE joined with over 14,000 others in the organization’s largest ever gathering for a time of education and celebration. During the same period, however (and actually lasting one day longer), The Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) also held an Annual Convention of their own. Perhaps fittingly, it was all the way across the country, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Obviously, in terms of size and scope, there are few comparisons between ASHA and the ADA — while ASHA was filling the Colorado Convention Center, the ADA estimated hosting around 1000 members and industry professionals in D.C. last week. And to ASHA’s more than 2500 education sessions, the ADA held about 30, according to The Hearing Review.

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With that being said, the gathering was still peopled by several decorated audiology professionals and featured neuroscientist Robert Cooper, PhD as its keynote speaker. According to The Hearing Review, “He provided ADA members with new findings about neuroplasticity in the brain and what he calls ‘upwiring’ for the attainment of important personal and professional goals.”

As part of the pre-convention proceedings, 120 ADA members and industry professionals reportedly “ … educated Congress and staff members about the organization’s initiatives, which include the Audiology Patient Care Act … ” as part of as ongoing lobbying initiative by the organization.

ASHA and the ADA have had their legal dustups in the past, revolving heavily around certifications (ASHA’s CCC-A vs. the ADA’s the Au.D), but if attendance is any indicator, the older of the two organizations remains the preeminent professional association for both speech-language and hearing care professionals in the United States.

While it seems like something that self-evidently intelligent people ought to be able to settle, the fact remains that as long as rival professional organizations to ASHA are holding their own conferences — during the same week, no less — it’s worth covering and letting you know. Whatever credentials they have following their name, those in the business of audiology are worth hearing about.

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No App for That
November 6, 2015 7:30 AM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

Back in 1986, Ferris Bueller told us “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” However true that fictional character’s now nearly 30-year-old statement was at the time, it seems absolutely prophetic when applied to modern times and technology.

Consider yesterday’s news, where Twitter decided it would be trading in its “favorite” button for a heart, mimicking what Instagram already employs. The “favorite” feature was introduced fewer than five years ago and was intended to compete with Facebook’s “like” button, which was itself only two years old at the time of the favorite’s introduction.

Now the favorites are all gone, Twitter is in dire straits and there are probably hotshots everywhere the Bay Area to Brooklyn attempting to dream up the app that’ll swoop in to fill its void and be the next big thing. The point is, technology has become such a deeply entrenched function of our lives, it not only streamlines the ways in which we do things, but devices and apps also literally go from cradle to grave in a matter of years; the average house pet probably lives through at least five of these cycles.

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In the world of speech-language pathology, apps have emerged in recent years as an increasingly popular tool to help children with communicative disorders help to better articulate themselves and overcome whatever their stumbling blocks happen to be. For all the convenience of downloading a program that’s free or costs a nominal amount, though, Janesville, Wisconsin’s Dana Brown, M.S., CCC-SLP and Emily Kieck MS, CCC-SLP say that there isn’t a single one that can take the place of parents sitting down and just talking with their kids.

Long considered an essential supplement to speech therapy, they caution parents who may be developing an overreliance on apps in place of practicing therapies and speech techniques with their children themselves.

“ … Neuroscience shows young children need actual real person-to-person conversations. It's critical for language development. Passive video presentations aren't the same as actual interaction. There's no substitute for actual real, organic conversations and exchanges,” Kieck said.

Brown suggested that exposing children to new vocabulary words is another immensely effective way to develop communication skills, in a manner that apps simply may not be able to.

“I think it is just important for parents, like if you are doing something on your phone, maybe you're ordering something online, talking about what you're buying and why you need it and introducing them to different vocabulary words.”

"The exposure piece, I think, is huge. You don't even have to have them repeating what you're saying. Just adding a little bit more every time until they are ready to speak in sentences gets them to talk about what they see and what they're doing, and that's huge."

Life definitely moves a bit faster than it did in the time of Ferris Bueller. And inasmuch as it comes off like unsolicited advice from a grandparent, one thing is empirically true about modern technology: on the subject of replacing vital, face-to-face human interaction, there really isn’t an app for that.

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The Versatility of Speech-Language Pathology
October 29, 2015 4:10 PM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

If there’s one objective of a site such as this one — aside from serving its particular healthcare constituencies in the realms of speech and hearing — it’s to provide clear, succinct information about what professionals in these fields do and how they could be of help to untreated patient populations in ways they might not have imagined.

While there’s little ambiguity about what your local audiologist — often just referred to colloquially as the ‘hearing doctor’ or something — can help you out with, there’s a widespread misconception that the majority of speech-language pathologists spend all of their time helping children with speech impediments form better consonant sounds and speak more fluidly.

Just as SLPs fit into the broader, larger and much more diverse spectrum of communication disorders, however, those things that they are able to treat (such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or Alzheimer’s disease) as a result of their background and expertise are similarly misunderstood and subject to misconceptions.

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One such condition that SLPs are often called upon to care for is aphasia. According to the National Aphasia Association (NAA), aphasia is an impairment of language affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Often brought on by stroke, aphasia can also be the result of brain tumors, head trauma or infection.

NJ.com has this week published a particularly informative article about the condition and in it, spoke to the startling lack of attention aphasia receives while highlighting the work of the New Jersey Aphasia Study Commission, a bipartisan group brought together by Governor (and presidential hopeful) Chris Christie and the state legislature.

From NJ Advance Media’s Martta Kelly’s reporting, “Aphasia affects more than two million Americans, making the condition more common that Parkinson's disease, ALS, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy. Most people have encountered someone with aphasia but just don't know it by name. Despite its prevalence, it's rarely discussed and care options for people with aphasia go widely unrecognized.”

As New Jersey addresses how best to care for its estimated 56,000 aphasia patients, members of the commission who are experts on the topic such as Andrew Gomory, CEO of Lingraphica, have taken note and been encouraged by the progress they’ve witnessed.

“Lack of awareness about aphasia has made it extremely difficult to get much-needed funding for research and treatment. If people understand the prevalence of aphasia, there would be more research dollars and treatment options available," he said.

According to Gomory, the commission hopes to accomplish three things: "One, establish an accurate count of people who have aphasia. Two, push for more accurate reporting metrics and systems in our medical facilities that allow for physicians and speech-language pathologists to correctly document and report on the numbers. Finally, we want to broaden the support and increase awareness of aphasias because this will open the door for expanded treatment options at most a community and online level." And by all accounts, the commission is meeting those goals.

What’s most important to takeaway about all this is that in the process of raising aphasia awareness, both in-state and nationally, New Jersey is also bringing to light another little known fact for anyone caring for a loved one who has aphasia: SLPs are here to help — and they have been all along.

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Diversifying Speech
October 21, 2015 2:53 PM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

If you happened to catch the Democratic Presidential Debate last week, you might have noticed something a little odd for 2015: not only was there a Vietnam reference, but former Virginia Senator Jim Webb reiterated his opposition to affirmative action, a topic which has largely been absent from the national discourse since the late 1990s.

The political and socioeconomic implications of an affirmative action policy aside, it’s fairly non-debatable that it isn’t a bad thing for institutions of any kind — and particularly those purporting to carry out a public good — to be somewhat emblematic and representative of the public they attempt to serve.

It helps, if nothing else, to have a bit of a shared perspective from where the person you’re working with is coming from. While it may not be essential, it certainly cannot hurt to be of the same racial background as the person you’re assisting. And it could be extremely helpful.

The 2014 Year-End Report from ASHA on member and affiliate counts found that a startlingly low 7.8 percent of all members identify as a racial minority, a figure which lags well behind the most recent U.S. Census data from 2010, where a reported 27.6% of Americans identified as such.

That report, which accounts for audiologists as well as SLPs, speaks to the broad diversity problem felt within the field of speech therapy, especially with regard to how it can better serve large minority populations in urban settings.

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To that end, Hampton University's Communicative Sciences and Disorders department recently received a $1.2 million grant to train minority speech-language pathologists. 24 graduate students will receive scholarships over a period of five years in exchange for committing to work at least three years in an impoverished school district upon graduating.

Said Tamara Freeman-Nichols, Graduate Coordinator for the department and a co-investigator for the grant, "We were just looking for a niche to fill, so we noticed that many of our students didn't always choose to work in the schools as a career and particularly didn't always choose to work in schools in urban settings, where a large number of students whose families were poor. That's the niche we wanted to try to fill, training our students to have empathy for and passion for working with this population so that we could somehow address the shortage in the field.”

Her sentiment was echoed by Carla Jones, Associate Professor and principal investigator for the grant.

"So for a number of different reasons there has been this gap. At the same time there is the shortage in qualified personnel. The need becomes kind of multiplied, for lack of a better word, when we are faced with challenges associated with poverty. There is always, as in many fields, a shortage of qualified minorities. In order to address simultaneously some of those gaps, we sought this training grant as a mechanism to do that."

This is a great initiative that incentivizes the provision of first-rate, highly qualified speech-language pathologists to traditionally under addressed areas of the country. That’s an affirmative action worth supporting regardless of what decade it is.

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A Documentary with Dignity
October 16, 2015 9:33 AM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

The late actress Shelley Winters probably summed it up best when she spoke of “the best sound a player (or actor) can hear,” describing it as “… the sound of a wonderful, deep silence that means you've hit them where they live.”

While the full quote references being on a stage, explicitly stating that movie and television performers are incapable of achieving quite the same feeling, the latter portion of her quote is what’s relevant: very often, there’s an emphasis in visual productions on making the play, movie, or TV show resonant and (hopefully) relatable — something that hits viewers “where they live.”

When it comes to the portrayal of developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on screen, the results have been mixed. While What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Rain Man and Forest Gump all received positive, even glowing, reviews (as well as award nominations), the public at-large has a natural problem with seeing patients and the spectrum itself in something more than the abstract if they aren’t personally affected by it.

That part of the challenge of hitting people where they live is inherent and unavoidable, because not everyone lives (or has a loved one who lives) with those circumstances, but the second part is more about presentation. The average person has seen the ASD ribbons on the backs of cars, possibly participated in a five kilometer charity run for it, and can quote lines from some (maybe all) of these fictional characters. Regardless of how positive a given portrayal may be, there’s a more pertinent question to be raised: how accurate is it?

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Documentaries almost by definition rely on their ability to arrest attention. Whether or not the viewer began with a capacity to relate to the central issue, a successful documentary will have drawn them in and helped them to be able to understand and/or empathize by the time the credits roll.

Lifehouse, an agency based in California’s Bay Area that assists over 200 individuals with developmental disabilities through life-skills training, community integration, advocacy, referrals and community information, has released a new film bearing its name that coincides with the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It walks viewers through what it means to have a developmental disability, while also debunking myths and misconceptions about developmental disabilities and the people living with them in our respective communities.

“Lifehouse,” a 25-minute film which was produced by the Lifehouse agency in conjunction with independent film producer, PotentialSF, has already received the critical acclaim of singer/songwriter and ASD advocate Huey Lewis, who calls it "a powerful film about lives that matter and the incredible people who work every day to raise the quality of those lives."

The agency, obviously, is no stranger to ASD, as they report that 40% of their new referrals are for adults with autism. For a misunderstood and sometimes misrepresented — at least in film — disability, “Lifehouse” succinctly but powerfully offers viewers a snapshot of what life is like for these patients and what the patient care process involves for the caregivers, doctors, and therapists who treat them.

Those interested would do well to take 25 minutes — about the length of a TV episode on Netflix — and watch the documentary at lifehouseagency.org. There’s a pretty good chance it’ll hit you where you live.

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