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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU celebrates Better Hearing and Speech Month

The boy looks at the pretty young woman who is holding his hand. He wants to tell the woman that he loves her, but he just can't seem to get the words out.

Christine De Lette, a teacher in the New Mexico State University Myrna's Children's Village, assists Isaac Hutchison with a hearing screening. Hutchison is one of several children who were screened by the NMSU Speech and Hearing Center in May to celebrate Better Hearing and Speech Month. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

The boy is four years old, and the young woman is his mother. It isn't nerves that prevent the child from telling his mother "I love you," it is his communication disorder. Every time he tries to talk, his words come out sounding garbled and are difficult to understand, even for his mother.

Communication disorders affect people of all ages and can be inherited or acquired. Although a number of medical conditions, such as stroke or brain injury, can result in a communication disorder, the cause often is unknown.

"Communication is the key to success as an adult. Problems with speaking or reception don't just affect communication; they can impact every part of a person's life," said Charlotte Mason, coordinator of clinical services at New Mexico State University's Speech and Hearing Center.

The Speech and Hearing Center is a full-service audiology and speech-language pathology clinic that serves New Mexicans of all ages who are coping with communication disorders.

The center serves as a training facility for NMSU students in the fields of speech-language pathology and audiology in addition to providing an important service for the community.

"I want to pursue a public service career, and working at the clinic has been a great opportunity. I've seen a lot of progress with clients I've been able to work with, and am becoming a better clinician," said Jake Martinez, a student pursuing a master's in communication disorders. Martinez is one of a handful of male students involved in the program.

"Although we have some very successful male students, the field is primarily dominated by females. About 10 percent of our students are men," Mason said.

Students like Martinez, male or female, can look forward to a successful and enjoyable career in speech-language pathology or audiology. The U.S. News & World Report magazine recently included both careers in its list of the best careers for 2007. According to the magazine, the job market is expected to remain especially strong for Spanish-speakers.

The importance of bilingualism in the field is demonstrated to NMSU students training as clinicians in the NMSU Speech and Hearing Center, where many clients receive services in Spanish.

In its 43rd year, the clinic serves New Mexicans from all walks of life and with many different conditions.

"We serve clientele from the entire region. Not only do members of the campus and Las Cruces community use the clinic, we get clients from Deming, Hatch and surrounding areas," Mason said.

The clinic's efforts do not end at its walls; in fact, the members of the clinic regularly do hearing and speech and language screenings in the area. Recently, they have done screenings for Gadsden Public Schools, Dona Ana County Head Start and the NMSU Myrna's Children's Village.

Self-supporting, the clinic does not receive any funding from the university. The clinic charges minimal fees and relies largely on donations to support clinical services.

The Las Cruces Sertoma Club, part of an international civic organization that supports the field of communication disorders, recently donated $25,000 to the clinic for infant hearing testing equipment.

"This equipment is essential and the money to purchase it wouldn't have come from anywhere else," said Connie Stout, associate professor of special education and communication disorders.

Used for hearing screenings within and outside the clinic, the equipment was part of a "wish list" of needs that the clinic presented to the Sertoma club, said Charles Wagner, who serves as a liaison between the Sertoma club and NMSU.

In May, the clinic will join other members of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) in celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month.

Jan Martin, wife of NMSU President Michael Martin, is serving as Honorary Chair for Better Hearing and Speech Month events planned by NMSU.

"Better Hearing and Speech Month has two primary purposes - education and awareness. We want to educate people about communication problems and make them aware of services that are available," Stout said.

If you have a concern that you or your child might have a communication disorder, you should contact your doctor or a certified audiologist or speech-language pathologist right away, Stout said.

Located on the university's main campus in the speech building, near the intersection of University and Jordan avenues, the Speech and Hearing Center is open during business hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Services are offered in English and Spanish. For more information, call (505) 646-3906 or TDD (505) 646-6191.

The Speech and Hearing Center is one of NMSU's continuing outreach efforts to help educate and improve the lives of members of the community and state.