WVU lab provides access to free resources for West Virginia public school speech-language pathologists

West Virginia youths with language disorders can continue to benefit from the West Virginia University School of Medicine School-Age Language Acquisition and Disorders Lab, which provides services and research for West Virginia’s speech-language pathologists.

Funded by a grant from the West Virginia Department of Education, the lab, affectionately known by the acronym of SALAD, is home to the resource loan program, providing treatment materials, tests and more for practicing clinicians in West Virginia public schools.

“Language disorders often are an invisible disability that can easily be misdiagnosed or left untreated,” said Jayne Brandel, Ph.D., chair of the Division of Communications and Sciences Disorders. “The lab gives speech-language pathologists access to free resources, providing better service and treatment for children with language disorders, giving them what they need to be successful.”

SALAD researchers spend the bulk of their time transcribing and analyzing language samples sent in by practicing speech-language pathologists in the state. Language samples are key to the diagnostic evaluation process and uncover information that typical standardized assessments cannot.

Practicing speech-language pathologists can collect language samples from their students and send those samples to the SALAD Lab for transcription and analysis.

“The transcription process has streamlined my assessments and has been extremely helpful, allowing me to make the most of my time,” said Tina Hodges, a speech-language pathologist in Jefferson County.

Speech-language pathologists can use the data from language sample analysis to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a student’s language ability, to inform their diagnostic process when deciding whether a student should qualify for services, to develop language goals for students who have qualified for services and to monitor a student’s progress with therapy.

“I use the transcription service about three times a month,” said Marea Platt, a speech-language pathologist in Kanawha County. “I use the information to see how my students are progressing, which is highly useful to me and gives me a good direction for therapy goals.”

Both graduate and undergraduate students in the Division of Communication Sciences and Disorders have the opportunity to be involved in clinical research and gain experience regarding language-based disorders through the SALAD Lab.

“Transcription is a skill that can take time to develop and become proficient in,” said Mikaela Argyrakis, a master’s student in speech-language pathology and graduate research assistant in the lab. “The SALAD Lab gives me the space to learn and utilize this skill to prepare me for my professional career.”

Currently, the lab is working to produce research-based professional development activities for speech-language pathologists looking to improve their knowledge and skills.

“There is a lot of new information on language disorders that speech-language pathologists who graduated years ago may not be aware of,” said Hannah Laugh, a master’s student in speech-language pathology and graduate research assistant in the SALAD Lab. “I am grateful I joined the lab because it has been a valuable learning experience and has provided me with many opportunities to practice the valuable skills necessary in the field.”

All speech-language pathologists working in West Virginia public schools can access the resources provided through the SALAD Lab by visiting medicine.hsc.wvu.edu/communications-sciences-and-disorders.

If you know someone who struggles with reading and writing and may or may not be already diagnosed with a language disorder, they might benefit from a language evaluation. Please contact Dr. Brandel for more information at jayne.brandel@hsc.wvu.edu.

For more information about the Division of Communication Sciences and Disorders and the School of Medicine, visit medicine.wvu.edu.