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Matthew Gillispie serves individuals in the community with speech, language and literacy disorders and mentors student research projects.

Campus closeup: The diversity of communication

Matthew Gillispie, clinical assistant professor in the Schiefelbusch Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic and the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing: Sciences and Disorders

Years at current job: Six years

Job duties: Clinical teaching in the Schiefelbusch Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic; serving the people in our community with speech, language and literacy disorders; classroom teaching; mentoring undergraduate and graduate research projects; advising, among others.

What’s one thing that would surprise people about your work? The diversity of our profession, speech-language pathology, as well as the diversity of my work as a clinical assistant professor. When you think about a speech-language pathologist, many think that we only help people with speech sound or stuttering disorders. We do work with these populations, but it’s more than that. We also work with people who have language and literacy disorders, individuals with hearing loss, people with impaired swallowing abilities and many others. Our professions work across the lifespan and in a variety of settings, such as home-based services, schools, hospitals, long-term care and private practice. Even more diverse are the etiologies or causes of communication disorders. Our profession and our clinic provide services for children with developmental delays, autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and more. We also serve teenagers and adults with developmental disabilities, or communication disorders caused by traumatic brain injury and stroke.

I am only one of five clinical faculty members in the clinic, led by our clinic director, Jane Wegner. We provide clinical instruction to undergraduate and graduate students studying to be speech-language pathologists. We also teach in the classroom, mentor undergraduate and graduate research, advise undergraduate and graduate students, serve department and university committees, advocate for our clients, among many other responsibilities. I could go on and on about diversity of our clinic, department, and discipline.

One of your areas of interest is intervention with children with speech, language and literacy disorders. How important is it to start working with these children early and how effective can it be? There is plenty of evidence for early intervention leading to better outcomes. For this reason, there are state and federal policies, such as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA, requiring local municipalities to serve children with disabilities as early as birth. This starts with early screening and identification of children who are exhibiting delays or at-risk for delays. Before my current role in the Schiefelbusch Clinic, I worked for an infant-toddler program — the state of Kansas term for these programs is Tiny K — providing home-based services to children age birth to three. One of my colleagues in the clinic, Kris Pedersen, serves several counties northeast Kansas, which allows us to provide these clinical experiences to our students. Another example is our “sister” field of audiology. Due to the integral relationship between hearing and speech-language development, audiologists provide hearing screenings to newborns within days of birth. The earlier audiologists can identify hearing loss, the earlier they can provide amplification or other means of hearing habilitation. Our fields are continuously investigating developmental indicators and tools to improve identification accuracy, leading to earlier intervention services.

You also serve Lawrence community members with communication disorders. What sort of services do you provide, and how does this inform your work as a scholar? The Schiefelbusch Clinic comprises five clinical faculty members, one office manager, grant staff and numerous student clinicians. Together, we provide assessment, intervention and consultative services for individuals and families of individuals with communication disorders. We pride ourselves in keeping up with the latest research (often coming from our own faculty) and best practices. This is not only important for the people we serve, but also for the students we teach. Our clinic provides students with a meaningful learning environment, as well as the ability to take what they’ve learned in the classroom or in research experiences and apply it to our clients. With that said, when applying research to clinical services, we are also committed to the philosophy of individualized services. This means that, in addition to the research, we always consider the individual and family’s needs and perspectives in our clinical decision making process. It also means that we are continuously learning from our clients and their families about the true effectiveness of these practices. I think the Schiefelbusch Clinic is a great example of KU’s engaged scholarship mission.

Another area of interest is assessment and intervention when working with Native American children. Why/how did this interest evolve? How does this apply to your work? I am one-fourth blood Muscogee Creek, indigenous peoples originally from the southeastern U.S., but now in Oklahoma. My grandfather was full blood and last of my immediate family to be fluent in our language. When I was a kid, he trained me to say, “I’m a washed-out Creek.” He and his friends used to laugh hysterically about that. In addition, I was fortunate enough to be a part of several training programs for Native Americans, as a student and as a mentor. These programs provided me the opportunities to mentor Native American students from around the U.S. These programs have also allowed me to work on the Tohono O’odham Nation, near Tucson, Az, as well as the Pottawatomie and Kickappo Nations here in Kansas. So my interest in Native American cultures and considerations necessary for appropriate speech-language services comes from my family heritage, as well as some professional experiences.

As I continue to learn about language and communication, I have learned and come to realize the importance of cultural considerations within our field. As best we can, we teach our students about cultural considerations in our field, but it goes beyond race and ethnicity. It also includes the individual and family beliefs and perspectives on the world. This perspective adds to my commitment to providing individualized speech-language services, services that are dictated by theory and research, but also how services support the specific individual meet their goals.

In addition to the philosophical impacts of Native American cultures on my work, I have a long-standing relationship with Little Nations Academic Center, which is a preschool for kids whose parents attend Haskell Indian Nations University. Once a week, we are welcomed into the preschool, and our students get an opportunity to promote speech and language development through an adapted language-focused curriculum. We use activities and stories that include Native American themes. Last, for the past year, I have been a member of the Native American Faculty and Staff Council whose mission is to recruit and provide leadership for the success of Native people at KU.

Campus closeup
Matthew Gillispie, clinical assistant professor in the Schiefelbusch Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic and the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing: Sciences and Disorders
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