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APSU now offering free speech-language and swallowing clinic for local community

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APSU grad student Grace Moore works in the clinic while supporting Experience Austin Peay Strategic Plan Pillar 1: Deliver quality programs that address community and regional needs.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – A new, state-of-the-art medical clinic is now open in Clarksville, serving everyone from infants to senior citizens, and most people are shocked when they learn how much the clinic charges for its services.

“There’s no cost, and we’re not billing insurance at this point,” Jennifer Brandon, the clinic’s coordinator, said.

This fall, Austin Peay State University is inviting the community to use its new Speech-Language and Swallowing Community Clinic, at 255 Marion St., for free. The 2,000-square-foot space will offer treatments for everything from speaking and swallowing issues to memory loss and other cognition problems while providing APSU’s newest graduate students with the training they need to become the next generation of speech-language pathologists.

“We expect that a large portion of our caseload will be pediatric clients,” Dr. Kelly Kleinhans, APSU associate professor of speech-language pathology, said. “Our primary job is to teach people how to talk and communicate, and for adults who are experiencing mild memory loss, we can bring them for group therapy sessions where we do evidence-based practices to improve their memory and functioning in everyday life. Our students will be supervised by professional speech-language pathologists, but they’ll be learning how to practice speech-language pathology.”

‘We have to find a place for them’

Kleinhans arrived at Austin Peay in 2018 with an aggressive plan to build a speech-language pathology program that addressed the growing demand nationwide. In 2019, the APSU Department of Health and Human Performance launched the undergraduate degree concentration in Communication Sciences and Disorders, and the program’s popularity paved the way for the new graduate degree in speech-language pathology that began this year.

Since it first began three years ago, the program has partnered with local providers, such as Advanced Therapy Solutions, to offer students clinical training, but for the graduate program to be successful, Kleinhans knew Austin Peay needed to operate its own clinic. She took her request, which included offering a free service to the community, to Austin Peay’s senior vice president for academic affairs.

“Dr. Maria Cronley, the provost, she said we have to find a place for them,” Kleinhans said. “She did a great job, found a space, supported us to renovate it. It looks like any clinic you would go to.”

That space previously housed several ground-floor apartments on Marion Street. Work crews spent the last year tearing down walls, building a reception area and several themed clinical rooms, and installing cutting-edge technology like eye-tracking glasses and remote video cameras. There are also toys – lots of toys for the children.

“We have plenty of toys and designs that facilitate communication,” Kleinhans said. “Children learn language by playing, so you’ll see the fun stuff in there. We got a grant from the Maynard Fund of Excellence, and it provided us with money to buy toy sets. Every treatment room has its core set of toys.”

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APSU grad student Alyssa Rangel works in the clinic while supporting the Experience Austin Peay Strategic Plan, Pillar 4: Provide and promote experiences that connect our community with Austin Peay.

‘It feels like a real clinic’

This fall, the program’s first graduate students will treat patients in the clinic, under the supervision of professional speech-language pathologists. The idea is for them to train in a setting that mimics where they’ll one day work.

When the students first stepped into the APSU clinic, they were surprised at how professional it looked.

“We were blown away when we saw it,” Grace Moore, an APSU graduate student, said. “I was amazed. We’re a new program, and to be able to have that, all that equipment in there, it’s really crazy.”

Graduate student Alejandra Serrano spent a few minutes walking around, examining the eye-tracking equipment and the shelves filled with toys.

“It feels like a real clinic,” she said. “You walk in and there’s a waiting room and reception area. Everything is very organized and professional.”

The APSU Speech-Language and Swallowing Community Clinic is now open and taking appointments. For information or to schedule an appointment, call 931-221-1622 or email mslp-info@apsu.edu.

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