July 12, 2005 Features

Ohio Clinicians To Launch a National Web Resource for Genetics Education

The Ohio site's expansion is being supported by an $18,000 grant from the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG)-a coalition of more than 150 organizations, including ASHA-which has selected SLPs and audiologists as the target provider audience for 2006. NCHPEG, ASHA, the University of Cincinnati, and the National Society of Genetic Counselors are collaborating on development of a Web-based resource with targeted genetics instruction and resources that can be integrated into communication disorders curricula.

Genetics and ASHA Certification

The Ohio resource was developed in response to research indicating that students and professionals feel inadequate about their genetics knowledge. A survey of 147 SLPs and audiologists conducted in 1993 showed that they lacked general knowledge about genetics, genetic-based conditions, and genetic counseling (Chermak & Wagner-Bitz, 1993). Similarly, in a survey of recent graduates from allied health programs, including SLPs and audiologists, 79% of respondents rated their genetics knowledge and skills training as "marginal" or absent (Christianson, McWalter, & Warren, in press).

At the same time, however, the Praxis Series specialty area tests in speech-language pathology and audiology includes genetics-related topics. In the area of speech-language pathology, approximately 19% of questions relate to "Clinical Management," including understanding of "Syndromes and Genetics." Questions may include "basic principles of genetics, syndromic and nonsyndromic inherited and developmental conditions, and influence of syndromic and nonsyndromic conditions on hearing, speech, and language development, production, and processing."

In audiology, 31% of questions relate to "Basic Human Communication Processes," which include "Syndromes and Genetics." In this area, questions may include "basic principles of genetics, conditions associated with various syndromes, genetic influences on speech and language production, reception, and processing (ASHA, 2004)." Although the Praxis specialty tests reflect the importance of genetics knowledge, based on surveys of practicing professionals, training programs have not yet fully incorporated genetics content into the curricula.

Genetics in Literature

A growing number of articles in the professional literature about genetics-related research corroborates the increasingly prominent role of genetics in the practice of speech-language pathology and audiology. In stuttering research, Yairi for example, and Ambrose (The ASHA Leader, Oct. 5, 2004) reported that "conceptions regarding etiology have shifted from learning perspectives to those of multiple etiologies grounded in genetics (p. 4)." Genetic links to speech and language delays have also been explored (Flax, et al., 2003; Rice, Haney, & Wexler, 1998; Shriberg, Tomblin, & McSweeny, 1999).

In 2000, the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing released a position statement on Early Hearing Detection and Intervention, recommending that professionals offer families the option of a genetic evaluation and counseling by a genetics professional when infant hearing loss is diagnosed.


With the current explosion of genetics information, it is important for clinicians to be aware of the implications for clinical practice. In addition to gaining knowledge about genetics, SLPs and audiologists will need resources to learn how to share this information with clients and when to refer them to other professionals, such as genetic counselors. The Ohio Web site and the NCHPEG projects are initial steps in addressing clinical applications of genetically based findings. These interdisciplinary collaborations are expected to result in an important and timely electronic resource for speech-language pathology and audiology training program curricula.

For more information, visit theĀ National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics Web site.

Jennifer Garrett, is a full-time doctoral student at University of Cincinnati. She worked as an SLP in Missouri public schools for five years before moving to Ohio to pursue her PhD. Contact her at garretj0@email.uc.edu.

Jean Neils-Strunjas, is a professor of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Cincinnati. She has conducted research on language processing in the elderly and persons who have neurological impairments. In addition, she has been involved in several genetics-related projects.

Nancy Steinberg Warren, a board-certified genetic counselor with more than 25 years of experience, directs the genetic counseling graduate program at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. She also is associate clinical professor at the Colleges of Allied Health Sciences and Medicines, University of Cincinnati.

Charles P Kishman Jr, has been an information services librarian at the health sciences library of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine since 1997. He previously worked as a respiratory therapist for more than 20 years.

cite as: Garrett, J. , Neils-Strunjas, J. , Steinberg Warren, N.  & Kishman Jr, C. P. (2005, July 12). Ohio Clinicians To Launch a National Web Resource for Genetics Education. The ASHA Leader.

State Network

The Ohio site, called "Teaching Genetics: Information For Undergraduate Communication Disorders Students" (TGIFs) features instructional materials in genetics for use by faculty who teach communication sciences and disorders. The site's development was funded by an Ohio Information Literacy Grant.

The instructional materials include:

  • A genetics pre/post test
  • Downloadable lectures on the basic principles of human genetics and clinical applications to speech-language pathology and audiology
  • Three brief case scenarios
  • An extended clinical genetics case history with supporting medical reports and a list of questions
  • Book and journal article references
  • A guide to evaluating genetics Web sites
  • Current Web links

Faculty and students in Ohio are encouraged to access the information through the "OhioLink" system.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2004). Praxis exam content. Retrieved December 7, 2004, from

Chermak, G. D., & Wagner-Bitz, C. J. (1993). Survey of speech-language pathologists' and audiologists' knowledge of clinical genetics. ASHA, 5, 39-45.

Christianson, C., McWalter, K. M., & Warren, N. S. (In Press). Assessment of allied health graduates' preparation to integrate genetic knowledge and skills into clinical practice. Journal of Allied Health.

Flax, J. F., Realpe-Bonilla, T., Brzustowicz, L. M., Bartlett, C. W., & Tallal, P. (2003). Specific language impairment in families: Evidence for co-occurrence with reading impairments. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 46, 530-543.

Rice, M. L., Haney, K. R., & Wexler, K. (1998). Family histories of children with SLI who show extended optional infinitives. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41, 419-432.

Shriberg, L. D., Tomblin, J. B., & McSweeny, J. L. (1999). Prevalence of speech delay in 6-year-old children and comorbidity with language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42, 1461-1481.

Yairi, E., & Ambrose, N. (2004, October 5). Stuttering: Recent developments and future directions. The ASHA Leader, 4-5, 14-15.


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