Vanderbilt University has started a unique program that will conduct joint training for speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and deaf educators to enhance their work with infants and young children with hearing loss. In core courses, students of these three disciplines will train together in Vanderbilt's Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences (DHHS) while continuing separate courses specific to their disciplines.
"To my knowledge, this will be the only program that educates all three disciplines in the same department," said Anne Marie Tharpe, an associate professor in the department. The program also will offer a master's of science in education of the deaf along with the degrees that have always been offered, including the PhD, the AuD, and the master's in speech-language pathology.
"We already have the specialty tracks started and our first deaf education students will start in fall of 2006," she said. After this year, the SLPs, audiologists, and deaf educators will begin their joint courses.
Tharpe previously had a grant to support a program in multidisciplinary training of speech-language pathology, audiology, and deaf education students in the area of cochlear implants in children. The grant, which ran for eight years, sparked interest by a private foundation to support a similar program in the broader area of identification and management of infants and young children with hearing loss.
The foundation, which wants to remain anonymous, has committed to support the program for five years. However, Tharpe said Vanderbilt intends to run the program indefinitely.
This new master's program in deaf education is one of many new programs that Vanderbilt's DHHS has developed through its new National Center for Childhood Deafness and Family Communication within the Bill Wilkerson Center. Prior to this, undergraduates in the Department of Special Education could pursue an emphasis in deaf education but a master's degree was unavailable.
"We believe that our new master's of science in education of the deaf degree will serve to strengthen the undergraduate program and vice versa," Tharpe said. "I think that those of us who work with young deaf and hard-of-hearing children are aware of the importance of teamwork with this population."
Such training is especially true when working with children who have cochlear implants. All involved in this work need an understanding of implant candidacy issues, as well as cohesive intervention approaches between the teacher and SLP, maintenance and trouble shooting of the device, and consistent support and counseling for the families of these children, she said.