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Watching the motion picture The King’s Speech gives viewers a glimpse of the anxiety, frustration, and terror that those who stutter experience. While the film is set in the glamorous world of British royalty and the stakes are high as a king who stutters must deliver a live radio speech to his nation on the verge of war, one doesn’t have to look to the past or cross the ocean to find people dealing with speech problems. UMD’s Robert F. Pierce Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic serves people of all ages with communication problems, and thanks to the generosity of Duluth native Edwin H. Eddy, who knew the pain of stuttering, help is available to many who might otherwise go without it.
Cindy Spillers, associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Children's area within the Robert F. Pierce Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at the Chester Park Building.
Cindy Spillers, associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, said, “We help all ages and all kind of communication disorders.” UMD graduate students and undergraduate seniors in the department facilitate the clinic under the supervision of faculty. They see a number of children with communication disorders, but the clinic actually serves more adults than children. “We have one group for individuals who have had strokes. We have another group for those who have suffered traumatic brain injury,” she said. They also see individuals who are autistic, have severe cerebral palsy, and degenerative communication disorders as a result of ALS, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis.
Because the clinic is a teaching clinic, they don’t charge the market rate, making their services very affordable. “We don’t take insurance,” Spillers explained, “but we give clients all the paperwork they need to submit claims.” And she also notes that financial assistance is available for individuals who fall below U.S. income guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Edwin Eddy's Gift
That’s where Edwin Eddy’s generous spirit comes in. Eddy left $1.6 million in his will to establish the Edwin H. Eddy Charitable Foundation which funds UMD’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. Eddy knew the pain of stuttering first hand. His parents were understandably protective of him as a child and as he grew into adulthood, and didn’t outgrow his severe stutter, it made him increasingly self-conscious. A distant cousin, Elizabeth Simonson, who is a trustee on the board of the Eddy Foundation, remembers him from family gatherings. “Because of his stutter, he was extremely shy and tended to stay close to home. He loved children, but unfortunately never married or had children of his own,” she said.
The Edwin H. Eddy Charitable Foundation also awards scholarships each year to undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Simonson helps to review the applications. “Every time we award scholarships, I think that Edwin would be so proud,” she said. In September 2010, Eddy scholarship monies were awarded to 12 undergraduates, 14 first year graduate students, and 15 second year graduate students majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders.
In addition, the Eddy Foundation funds the Edwin H. Eddy Lectures at UMD. National and international speakers give lectures throughout the year to speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and other related professionals. This spring, two lectures are scheduled: "The University of Michigan Aphasia Program (UMAP): It's All About Intensive Therapy" by Mimi Block, will be held on Sat., April 16 from 8:30 am-4 pm and "Literacy and the SLP" by Barbra Wollak will begin on May 20 from 5-7:45 pm and conclude on Sat. May 21 from 8:30 am to 12:15 pm. For more information, visit the CSD Department website.
Help For All
Anyone who needs help with a speech problem shouldn’t hesitate to contact the clinic. Studies have shown that children with language problems often fall behind in school. “Some parents wait, thinking that their child will grown out of it – some do, many don’t,” Spillers said. Delays in treating language problems can lead to problems learning to read. Also children who have difficulty communicating can also experience problems socially among their peers.
Spillers stresses that adults who have communication problems should also receive the help that they need. In working to improve speech, Spillers and the students at the clinic are “helping people regain their dignity and their quality of life. Being able to communicate gives people a sense of belonging, identity, and lets them know that they matter,” she said.
The Robert F. Pierce Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic is located at 31 West College Street, Duluth, in the Chester Park Building. Contact them at 218-726-8199 or visit them on the web at http://www.d.umn.edu/csd/clinic.html.
Written by Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann, firstname.lastname@example.org
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