WMU's Language, Speech and Hearing Clinic has big impact on preschoolers

In collaboration with the Kalamazoo County Ready 4s program, the Charles Van Riper Language, Speech and Hearing Clinic and its graduate students from the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences have made a significant impact on children in Kalamazoo county. The collaboration started in January 2012 and has grown significantly each year. To date, more than 500 pre-kindergarten children have participated in the screenings.

Kalamazoo County Ready 4s is a countywide organization focused on increasing the quality of local public and private pre-kindergarten programs, offering tuition assistance to qualifying families, and building a sustainable pre-kindergarten program for all 4-year-olds in Kalamazoo County. Their goal is to ensure that 4-year-olds, without exception, have the opportunity to attend a high quality pre-kindergarten program.

Each fall and spring semester, faculty supervisors and students in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Services are involved in screening the speech, language and hearing of hundreds of children enrolled in pre-kindergarten program associated with Kalamazoo County Ready 4s. Graduate students screen at least three children in community preschools. CHHS faculty members and clinical supervisors supervise students on-site.

After screenings are completed, students complete a screening form for each child, indicating the results (pass/fail). If a child fails any portion of the screening, follow-up recommendations are provided. Each child’s parent/guardian receives a copy of the screening form.

Kalamazoo County Ready 4s has hired speech-language pathologists to follow up with centers for those children needing interventions, making referrals as appropriate. The speech pathologists also provide ongoing professional development to assist the pre-kindergarten teachers in expanding and improving literacy instruction. 

This collaboration is a win-win for all involved as the graduate students have the opportunity to conduct screenings on children from very diverse populations, and for the children being screened, if concerns are identified, they then receive the interventions and supports needed prior to entering K-12.

Jillian Walcott, WMU graduate student in speech-language pathology commented on her experience with Kalamazoo County Ready 4s. “The most beneficial part of the experience was learning to be flexible," she said. "I learned a lot about how to administer tests in a way that wasn't overtly test-like. I had to disguise some activities so the children would be willing to participate but still maintain the integrity of the test.”

For more information about high-quality pre-kindergarten and the work of Kalamazoo County Ready 4s, please visit their website or contact them at (269) 366-9140 or sstandish@kcready4s.org.

For more information about speech-language services at the Unified Clinics, call (269) 387-8047.