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University offers option for degree in speech pathology

Local speech pathologists that need to fulfill a recently enforced master's degree requirement now can apply to the University if they want to work at state public schools.

Carol Dudding, part-time program coordinator for the Communication Disorders Program, said the Virginia Department of Education is enforcing a requirement that all public school speech pathologists must have a graduate degree by 2005 or they will lose their jobs.

"The Virginia Department of Education requires that all speech pathologists working in the schools have a master's degree or were grandfathered in," meaning that they received sufficient training and education equivalent to the master's instruction, Dudding said.

"Five percent of speech pathologists currently have a bachelor's degree and a provisional license from the Board of Education - those are the people who need a master's by 2005," she said. "The rest of them have a full license."

Robert Novak, communications disorders professor and principal investigator of the program at the University, said the program accepts "part-time people who qualify by our admissions criteria.

"There was a time when the state relaxed the regulations - not enough people prepared with master's [degrees] wanted to teach in schools," Novak said.

Dudding said the Virginia Department of Education approached the University to start a program because "there were not enough openings for everyone to get in" at other schools' programs.

James Madison, Radford and Hampton University also have graduate speech pathology programs and those universities "share a $200,000 grant," she said.

Novak said the University's program has six part-time students.

"We started this past summer - we were the last one in," Dudding said.

She said the program is not expected to continue at the University after 2005.

"It's temporary - [the part-time] students have to maintain their job in the school system," Novak said.

He said a student's undergraduate education is insufficient in giving pathologists the necessary insight to help children with speech problems.

The undergraduate program "emphasizes normal processes, how we learn language, acoustics of speech," he added.

"It doesn't address disorders extensively - you learn how to treat a child who doesn't talk, who stutters, has hearing loss or abnormal language development," Novak said.


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