Program concentrates on impairments

Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two part series on NIU’s communicative disorders program. In this part students talk about their major and jobs related to it.

by Amy Julian

They don’t all look or act like William Hurt as the teacher of the deaf in the movie “Children of a Lesser God.”

NIU’s communicative disorders majors are ordinary students who want to learn to make life easier and better for people with speech, language or hearing impairments.

“Most majors like working with people and helping them,” said department chair Earl Seaver.

But those majors have to do more than just like people; they have to work hard. Before they can become specialists in deafness rehabilitation counseling, speech/language pathology or audiology, they must earn master’s degrees and get real-life experience, Seaver said.

At the undergraduate level, those majoring in communicative disorders are encouraged to get a traditional four-year education, he said.

Trish Stoffel, a senior with an emphasis in deafness rehabilitation counseling, said undergraduate classes resemble a starting block for further education.

“NIU has one of the best programs in the country,” Stoffel said. “You get to directly relate with the faculty from freshman year on,” she said.

Although the undergraduate program is a starting block, the graduate program is an intensive program including classes and several hundred hours practicum at NIU’s speech and hearing clinic. Also, students in all three emphases spend their final semester at an off-campus internship in a clinic or school.

After receiving their master’s degrees, NIU graduates have a 100 percent placement in their job field, Seaver said.

“NIU’s program is one of the largest in the state,” he said. After their internships, which they find all over the country, the students easily find jobs at hospitals, schools and private practices, he said.

“It’s a profession where there are so many possibilities, you don’t have to be stuck in one kind of job,” said speech pathology student Rayanne Woodruff.

“I like sharing in someone’s success,” Woodruff said. “We’re trained to notice even the tiniest improvements.”