SHU’s interprofessional team receives grant

The Seton Hall interprofessional team has received a five-year personnel development grant from the U.S. Department of Education totaling in over $1.2 million which is currently being used to benefit graduate students in the Speech Language and Pathology program and Occupational therapy students.

The School of Health and Medical Sciences (SHMS) developed a program that will begin targeting one of the largest problems facing school-aged kids. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 35 percent of kids aged three to 21 received some kind of special education services for Specific Learning Disabilities. These services include, but are not limited to, help with dyslexia, dysgraphia and language disorders.

Several students were selected to join the “Write to Learn” program, which will help students who struggle with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and language disorders.
Photo courtesy of Laurie Pine

The program entitled “Write to Learn: Preparation of Occupational Therapists and Speech-Language Pathologists to Improve Written Expression in Children with Specific Learning Disabilities” will be a community oriented learning experience for the eight scholars who were selected to pilot the program.

The program is co-directed by, Ruth Segal, Professor and Chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy, and Dr. Vikram N. Dayalu, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Speech-Language Pathology, along with key personnel, Associate Dr. Anthony D. Koutsoftas, and Assistant Professor Karen Hoover.

In a statement made via email, Dean Brian Shulman said, “The fact that this collaboration is being funded at the federal level underscores the real impact that we see when professionals come together for a common purpose. In the School of Health and Medical Sciences, our ongoing emphasis on interprofessional education and community outreach allows our faculty and students to be leaders when it comes to innovation, advocacy and educational outcomes.”

Over the next five years, 40 scholars will be selected to participate in “Write to Learn.” According to Dayalu, scholars must first submit an application, and an essay outlining work or related experiences in the educational arena. It was followed by a group interview and a live writing sample. Then the eight best students, four from each discipline, will have the opportunity “to use their expertise in providing high-quality evidence-based services to children diagnosed with Specific Learning Disability.”

Students and faculty agree that class and community-based learning is important for all professional clinical programs in SHMS.

“The OT and SLP department’s clinical education programs rely heavily on our community partners for training graduate students. Further, this presents a big opportunity for the school and the programs to make a difference in the lives of individuals who live in our community,” Dayalu said.

First year SLP graduate cohort Leslie Ann Dessources said, “Experience is such an important factor to learning, especially in this program. It enhances what we are learning greatly. For example, we have just completed a unit on the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and will soon go out into the community to sit-in on an IEP meeting for students with a Learning Disability. So, I will be able to pair what I’ve learned through a real-life experience. That is so important.”

Scholars, like Dessources, consider the “Write to Learn” to be another course on their schedule rather than an alternative track. They do not necessarily meet every week but they are required to conduct additional research. She said, “It doesn’t feel like too much because it is something that I am very interested in.”

SHMS has clinical affiliations with a wide range of school districts, including East Orange, Bergen County Special Services, Bridgewater, Paterson and Irvington, which is a key partner for the SLP Department.

Brynne Connolly can be reached at

Author: Brynne Connolly

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