Helping People Communicate

Recall a time when you were at a noisy party. Was it hard to hear what other people were saying?  Did you know that in an environment with background noise, like a party, you unconsciously change many aspects of your speech beyond loudness?  Dr. Doug McColl (Communication Sciences and Disorders) has published research showing that people with communication impairments have difficulty making these adjustments and has developed strategies to teach compensations to maintain speech clarity. His research and teaching is taking Speech-Language Pathology out of the quiet clinic into the real world, and he and his students are bringing these new techniques to the medical community.

Dr. McColl has worked hard to help cancer patients who lose all speech when their larynx (Adam’s apple or voice box) is removed. A study conducted by him and one of his students documented that the vast majority of these patients were not told that they would not be able to speak after the operation. Dr. McColl and his students are working to help the surgical community know that pre-operative counseling with Speech-Language Pathology decreases the post-operative anxiety of patients. Improved recovery and energy to begin the several months of speech therapy are the positive results of this collaboration.

Students studying to become a Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) earn their master’s degree from the Communication Sciences and Disorders Program. The program involves plenty of experience in the lab and internships in a variety of settings. Dr. McColl teaches these new techniques in his classes and the students take these skills into the clinics, hospitals, and schools where they work. Helping someone improve the clarity of his or her speech or helping them learn to speak again after surgery is an incredible gift.