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ASU's adult speech and language programs meet critical needs

Millions live with speech and language disorders; ASU programs can help.
May 10, 2017

Imagine going to Starbucks every morning and ordering a drink you don’t want because the one you do want is too hard to say. Imagine interviewing for a job when you can’t remember certain words. Imagine walking out of a summer movie with friends and not being able to express your opinion because you can’t keep up with their conversation.

These are very real situations for millions of Americans who live with speech and language disorders, and they can be even more frustrating for those who don’t have the tools to deal with them.

Kelly Ingram and Karen Gallagher, clinical associate professors in ASU’s Department of Speech and Hearing Science, have heard about such situations from clients at the department’s Speech and Language Clinic. The clinic offers two intensive summer programs for adults with aphasiaAphasia is the loss of ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage. and stuttering: Aphasia Communication Effectiveness (ACE) and Intensive Summer in Stuttering Therapy (InSIST).

Many of the clients they see at the clinic are no longer eligible to receive services through insurance. “So this is an inexpensive way for them to maintain their communication skills and have opportunities to communicate,” Gallagher said.

Another function of the programs is that they serve to train ASU speech and hearing graduate students for careers in the field. The graduate clinicians plan and oversee group sessions under the direction of ASHA-certifiedASHA, or the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, is a professional association for speech-language pathologists, audiologists and speech, language and hearing scientists in the United States and internationally. ASU faculty, including Ingram and Gallagher.

According to Ingram, who also serves as director of the Speech and Language Clinic, social isolation is a real concern for people who have been living with speech and language disorders. It’s something that the aphasia program especially addresses, with a focus on group-based conversation.

ACE is a four-week program wherein clients can attend as many as four or as few as two, three-hour sessions each week. After an initial evaluation of clients’ needs, abilities and interests, topics of discussion are chosen.

In the past, sessions have incorporated book club and movie discussions, and even a classic car show in the parking lot outside the clinic where clients were able to chat with the car owners and ask questions.

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Director of ASU's Speech and Language Clinic Kelly Ingram leads a group discussion with participants of one of the clinic's adult-based programs. Photo courtesy Lucy Wolski

“[The programs are] really driven by the people, the men and women who come here, and their interests,” Gallagher said, “and those can shift from year to year. So we have ideas, materials and resources, but it’s driven by the individuals who come.”

Ryan Calvert has been attending the aphasia clinic for several years since suffering a stroke in September of 2006. He went from not being able to remember simple articles like “he” and “she” to being able to get his thoughts out in a “smooth and succinct” way.

Calvert appreciates that the clinicians take into account his and other clients’ interests.

“What we really like is variety, so we conveyed that to the clinicians, and they took that suggestion and made a lot of changes that helped,” he said. He also appreciates their hands-off approach. “The clinicians kind of step back and let us just talk amongst ourselves, and that’s beautiful. Then, when they see there’s something lacking or there is a disconnect, they intervene accordingly, and that’s really helpful.”

InSIST consists of two, two-hour sessions per week, for four weeks, where clients meet one-on-one with clinicians for focused therapy as well as group interactions. It’s different than some traditional approaches to stuttering therapy, Gallagher said, because it’s condensed, time-wise, and therefore more intensive.

The adult-specific programs are also especially helpful to the ASU grad students who run them. While they get plenty of experience with kids through the several child-based programs offered by the Speech and Language Clinic, such as the Summer Program for Elementary Literacy and Language and the Pediatric Communication Clinic, the aphasia and stuttering clinics help them to get experience with adults.

“Our students need to be trained across the lifespan, from birth to death,” Ingram said.

Speech pathology grad student Taylor Lorengo has led both children’s and adults’ sessions. She said the adult programs have helped her appreciate clients as individuals with specific needs.

“That was something I really had to check in with, remembering they’re not kids,” she said. “The principles are similar but you just have to keep in mind the type of client that you have.”

Lorengo will graduate in May of 2018 and hopes to eventually work in acute care.

“You can see how beneficial these programs are to the people who are in them,” she said. “A lot of times out in the world, they don’t have people trained like we are to help them communicate. The time they get to come in and get someone like us to help them be successful is huge.”

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'Beneath' turns scientific, artistic focus to below Earth's surface.
Show hits irony of vast knowledge of space vs. limited understanding of interior
May 11, 2017

Herberger Institute, School of Earth and Space Exploration collaborate on multimedia production that features performing researchers

Let’s say you have a complex, scientific story to tell, like you want to point out the irony that while researchers have determined the weight of the moon, the composition of stars and even a theory of what the center of our galaxy smells like, they know very little about what lies just a few dozen miles beneath your feet. 

You could write a few long, complicated sentences. Or you could turn to a ballet-dancing geologist, a bass-playing geophysicist and a belly-dancing theoretical astrophysicist.

“When you learn a scientist is also a belly dancer,” said Lance Gharavi, a professor in ASU's School of Film, Dance and TheatreAn academic unit inside the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts., “when the universe hands you a gift like that, you say, ‘thank you’ and leverage that.”

Gharavi’s new play, “Beneath: A Journey Within,” is billed as a 3-D, multimedia experience that fuses cutting-edge scientific research and performance art, using scientists as performers, to “peer into the mysteries of what lies deep below the Earth’s surface.”    

The collaboration between the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE), is an attempt to make science both compelling and approachable, and it provides a model for transdisciplinary collaboration and public outreach.

“Scientists and artists are great storytellers, but sometimes we use different language to tell the story,” Gharavi said.

The project showcases an approach that ASU has become known for, combining disparate disciplines to foster new understanding. Gharavi said it’s the second such effort involving the Herberger Institute and SESE. In 2013, the schools got together to produce a version of Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time.”

The show also gives a chance for researchers to strut their stuff while getting their geek on.

It started with Ed Garnero, a science professor in SESE, who wanted to try a different approach to reach his Geology 101 class. He wanted something that “combined the narrative of a TED Talk and the light, sound and movement of a Cirque du Soleil.”

He turned to Gharavi, an actor, director, performance artist and writer who links interdisciplinary teams to explore difficult subjects through multimedia performances.

Over a three-year span, they developed their story, co-teaching a class called “Devising: Imaging the Earth’s Body,” to see how the combination went over with students.

Over time, Gharavi started to see Garnero’s fun and creative side. When the artist discovered the geophysicist played bass, a narrative began taking shape.

Gharavi also learned of other scientists with hidden talents, like Patrick Young, a theoretical astrophysicist and better than novice belly dancer and Christy Till, a former professional ballet dancer turned geologist.

“Going back and getting in touch with my former dancer self and repurposing it as a scientist has been fun,” said Till, a professor in SESE, who will plan her movements according to planetary cycles in the show.

Even though Till hasn’t performed since 2001, it didn’t take long for the blisters to develop on both of her toes. She used duct tape to cover them up. “Old theater trick,” she quipped.

Aside from watching performances, audiences will also virtually visit the lab of a mineral physicist who uses diamonds in startling experiments and talk with the first woman to lead a NASA mission beyond the Earth’s orbit.

The one-hour show also has a few tricks to make current scientific research artful, accessible, and consumable to the public; to create new visualization tools that aid scientists in research, communication and education; and to engage and explore new models of collaboration between artists and scientists.

To that end, director Erika HughesHughes is an assistant professor in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. said “Beneath” succeeds.

“One of the things we’re working on is pushing against this divide between science and the arts,” Hughes said. “We can use performance to unlock understanding.”



Top photo: Lead scientist Ed Garnero plays his guitar, which lights up certain spots of a virtual Earth during the rehearsal of "Beneath: A Journey Within" at the Marston Exploration Theater on Thursday  in Tempe. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASUNow