San Diego, California - For many throughout the San Diego region, San Diego State University’s Speech-Language Clinic and Audiology Clinic are lifelines, offering free and low-cost speech and language therapy and hearing evaluation and improvement services to children and adults that otherwise might not be able to afford such care.

Students benefit, too, as they gain practical experience that helps them find good jobs after graduation. The majority of grads wind up working in San Diego or Southern California—carrying their skills into schools, hospitals and private practices as audiologists, speech-language pathologists and therapists.

“We’re making a huge difference in the community,” said Charlotte Lopes, who has served as the Speech-Language Clinic’s director since 1993. “Very few insurances cover services for speech delays in children, and we are basically the only place in San Diego where adults who’ve had strokes or traumatic brain injuries or other brain insults can come to get these speech and language services.”

Each year, dozens of master’s students within SDSU’s School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences gain experience by working with 75-80 children and adults with a variety of speech-language difficulties, ranging from developmental delays in children to complications brought on by brain injuries in adults. A special bilingual training program within the Speech-Language Clinic prepares some students to work with the many bilingual residents of the region.

Founded in 1941

Speech-Language Clinic clients are seen on a semester basis and fall into four broad service categories: adult neurogenic disorders services; adult speech and language services; pediatric speech and language services; and accent and communication training. Clients usually attend two 50-minute sessions per week, though clinic staff do what they can accommodate clients’ schedules.

Within the Audiology Clinic, dozens more students—including those working toward their Doctor of Audiology degree, a joint doctoral program offered with the University of California, San Diego—conduct free hearing assessments and low-cost hearing aid evaluations and consultations, as well as tuning, maintenance and repair of assisted listening devices and hearing aids. The SDSU-UCSD collaboration was the first institution in California to offer the Doctor of Audiology degree.

The Speech-Language and Audiology Clinics were founded in 1941, and since January 2017, they have worked under a donation-based model, requiring no payments of any kind from families or individuals who seek treatment for most services.

New clinics in Mission Valley

For those dozens of families who receive therapy at the clinics, it can be life-changing, Lopes said, yet the demand for these services outpaces the clinics’ current capacity.

SDSU’s aspiration to build a satellite campus in Mission Valley—with the expansion of its clinical services being a significant prong of that development—would help the clinics serve an even larger portion of the population, as well as offer a more central meeting place for many residents.

Graduate students in the highly competitive programs split their time between working at the on-campus clinic and at off-campus sites in schools, hospitals and private practices.

"There’s nothing like a motivated graduate student to provide enthusiastic, heartfelt service to a client," Lopes said.

That combination of on-campus, community-based service and off-campus site work gives students the kind of real-world experience that virtually guarantees them a good job after they graduate, Lopes said.

Leah Mizrahi, a Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences master’s student who works in the Speech-Language Clinic and will graduate in May, said she’s grateful for the opportunity to serve her community. She has enjoyed working with children and plans to work in a school, most likely somewhere in Southern California.

"This field is so big and you can do so much with it,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing where this career takes me.”

About San Diego State University

San Diego State University is a major public research institution that provides transformative experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom, for its more than 36,000 students. The university offers bachelor's degrees in 95 areas, master's degrees in 78 areas and doctorates in 22 areas. Students participate in research, international experiences, sustainability and entrepreneurship initiatives, internships and mentoring, and a broad range of student life and leadership opportunities. The university’s rich campus life features opportunities for students to participate in, and engage with, the creative and performing arts, a Division I athletics program and the vibrant cultural life of the San Diego region.