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 the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics Web site.