Friday, October 31, 2014

Century-Old Christmas Carol Event 'Snowballs' into Grants for Center

Volunteers and staff of the Center for Hearing & Speech carol at Hacienda Mexican Restaurant last year

Singing “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is a great way to usher in the holiday season.

But for low-income children in the St. Louis metropolitan area with speech and communications disorders, it can be a painful reminder of what they can’t do.
The Center for Hearing & Speech, along with the non-profit St. Louis Christmas Carols Association, seeks to change that tune.
In 1911, businessman and philanthropist William H. Danforth and his friends got together around the holidays and sang Christmas carols house-to- house. Their intent was to bring joy and good will to their neighbors. They were unexpectedly showered with money for their efforts. The dollar bills and change they received were donated to the Children’s Aid Society that helped needy St. Louis area youngsters.

The caroling tradition ‘snowballed’ into the non-profit agency now named the St. Louis Christmas Carols Association. Its chairman of the board is Donald Danforth III, great grandson of the original Christmas caroler.

Its mission is two-fold, said executive director Joan Koontz. “It promotes caroling as a way to promote peace and good will, and monies collected from caroling groups that participate throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area are distributed to area agencies that focus on the needs of children,” she said.

The agency celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2011. During that time it’s brought in $3 million, mostly in change and dollar bills, Koontz said. 

Last year, 38 agencies were awarded grants of $750 to $1100. These small allocations serve a nice purpose, Koontz said. “It’s not a lot of money but frees up resources that (a non-profit) can use for something else,” she said.

With its $750 grant from 2013, the Center for Hearing & Speech purchased one iPad, along with Boardmaker, a supportive interactive visual software program.

The iPad and its software allow Center speech/language therapists to customize treatment programs, chart progress, and even create printed materials to assist children and teens in therapy sessions and for practice at home.

The Center’s speech/language pathologists received iPad training in 2011, said Gina Cato, chief, speech/language pathologist.

Although it’s only been in use a few months, the iPad gives clear, immediate feedback to clients and provides a variety of therapy activities, she said.

“J is a three-year-old speech/language client who was absolutely thrilled to hear her voice replayed after she pronounced the word cup correctly.  The remainder of her therapy session was spent on other activities that emphasized correct pronunciation of the letter ’p’.”

“The iPad keeps her motivated in therapy while we’re learning the new sound and during play activities without the iPad,” Cato said.
M is an adolescent practicing social skills.  The iPad records his voice and replays his conversations.  He has an immediate and clear picture of what he’s said, how to take turns during conversations and practice listening skills.

The iPad was introduced by Apple in 2010. One of its first apps was designed to help those who are not easily understood and those without a voice communicate.

Proloquo2Go gives users a grid of buttons that when pressed, can compose a sentence that the app speaks for them. Users who type can type text and the app will speak the text.
“It’s used by people ages two and older with a variety of diagnoses including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and stroke,” said David Niemeijer, Founder & CEO of AssistiveWare, the Netherlands- based company that has worked on and perfected the technology since 2005. 

“It is amazing to be able to work on an app such as Proloquo2Go that can provide people a way to communicate and express themselves,” said Niemeijer.

Since 2012, volunteers and staff for the Center for Hearing & Speech have sung Christmas carols and collected donations for the St. Louis Christmas Carols Association.

So you’re not Adele or Nat King Cole?  It doesn't matter, said Martha Coleman, the Center’s Communications & Volunteer Manager.  “Just bring yourself and a smile.  It’s a lot of fun,” she said.

The Center is expected to carol for about an hour or so sometime in December at a location near its Manchester Road office.  Those interested in suiting up and singing out please call Coleman at 314-968-4710. 

Any group can sing and collect funds for the St. Louis Christmas Carols Association.  Visit the website at  or call 314-863-1225 for more information.

The Center for Hearing & Speech is a 501 3 (c) non-profit organization that in 2013 provided $1.7 million in school screenings, speech therapy and audiology services to residents in metropolitan St. Louis and the surrounding communities.

It is a proud member of the United Way.

The Center can be reached at 314-968-4710 or check it out on the web at    


Friday, October 24, 2014

Center for Hearing & Speech Provides Required "Hands On" Experiences to Area Students

(From left to right) Center Audiologist Dr. Kate Sinks, practicum students Ploy Maroongroge and Uzma Wilson, and Center Chief Audiologist Dr. Rebecca Frazier.
Post Updated November 11, 2014

Working summer jobs or internships in your major during college looks good on a resume. It just may put you at the head of the class when it comes to landing that first 9-5 gig.

For some students it’s a required part of their curriculum.

Since at least 1994, the Center has been a practicum site for speech/language and audiology students from universities throughout Missouri who require clinical hours, or real world experiences, prior to graduation.

“The Center has been around for a long time, and we know the importance of a good education for the speech/language pathologists that we will employ and work with in the local area someday,” said Gina Cato, chief, speech/language pathologist.
Practicums, or internships, provide a variety of real-life experiences for audiology and speech/language students. Working beside professionals with years of experience, students learn to apply concepts and techniques discussed by a professor, how to relate to clients in a variety of settings and how to quell the jitters when trading a classroom seat for a lab coat.

Washington University and Missouri State University send students pursuing doctorate degrees in audiology to the Center to work with Center audiologists.
Speech/language students from Fontbonne University, St. Louis University (SLU) and Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville spend semesters working beside Center speech/language pathologists
Beginning next year Maryville University will send its speech/language pathology students to train with Center staff as well.

“We have been working with the Center for more than 20 years,” said Barbara Meyer, associate professor and director of clinical education at Fontbonne University. “The therapists at the Center are professional and provide excellent training for our students. The students also gain experience with a variety of clients and disorders.”

Jean Evans, director of clinical education in the department of communication sciences and disorders at SLU, agrees with Meyer. "The Center provides valuable learning experiences for our students in a number of critical areas. The supervisors provide varying styles of supervision which create different avenues of learning," she said. 

Individuals communicate differently, and there’s no one treatment spelled out in a textbook that works for everyone, Cato said.

“Internships teach graduate students to evaluate individuals, implement therapy programs, analyze progress and make changes to that plan so clients continue to improve communication skills over time.”

Like anyone learning a new skill set, time, patience and practice make for better outcomes for both client and clinician.

“Practicum experiences allow students to develop strengths and recognize and modify weaknesses,” said Alyssa Pursley, a doctorate of audiology student, class of 2016, Washington University. “We are not able to truly master a technique or understand a particularly difficult testing method until we are placed directly in an environment that allows us to practice it hands-on.”

Learning in an encouraging and supportive practicum environment gives students confidence, Pursley added. "The most influential aspect of my practicum experience at the Center was being able to work alongside a variety of audiologists in an environment that radiates support and encouragement for every member of the team. I was also incredibly motivated by the methods and processes that the audiologists follow in order to provide the highest quality of care to their patients.”

Tayler Beal is a second year audiology student at Washington University currently working at the Center.  The Cape Girardeau native experienced hearing issues as a child and helping others with similar challenges always intrigued her to help others.
“The experience at the Center is great,” Beal said. “I love to see a large variety of patients across the lifespan.” 

“Clinical practicum sites like the Center can provide a lot of hands-on learning experiences to students through direct patient encounters,” said Uzma Wilson, an audiology student at Missouri State University who worked a semester at the Center last year.

Fontbonne University’s Meyer agrees. “Participating in practicum placements allows students to both apply what they have learned and also have a better understanding of the types of things they will be doing when they graduate.”

SLU's Evans points out additional benefits of practicums. "Students become actively engaged in back-to-back cases, problem solving, counseling, referrals, and internal and external advocacy of services." 

You never know where you’re going to end up, according to Cato. “One of our current speech/language pathologists observed therapy sessions at the Center when she was a student. This was more than 15 years ago, and we’re so glad she came back to work with us in 2012.”
The Center is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization that last year provided $1.75 million in audiology, speech/language therapy and school screening services to residents in metropolitan St. Louis and surrounding communities.
It is a proud member of the United Way.

The Center can be reached at 314-968-4170 or check it out on the web at  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

School Screenings Battle Hearing Loss in Children and Adults

Judy Boles was a hard-charging sales representative when she was ready to slow down a little in 2001.

Turns out lots of people are happy she ‘changed it up.’
Boles is industrial service director for the Center for Hearing & Speech (CHS).  It was not exactly a position she intended to fill. “I came in off the streets to do data processing,” she said. “I’d never worked for a non-profit.”

Soon after she sat down at a desk, Boles, who also has extensive management experience, was asked to take over the Center’s Hearing Conservation Services Program. Founded in 1972, its goal is to prevent noise induced hearing loss in employees working for companies in high noise environments 85 dB (decibels) or higher.

The for-profit arm of CHS pumps its net revenues into the Center’s other programs. When Boles took over it needed a hard-charging booster club. What it got was a 5’ tall enthusiastic cheerleader with laser-like focus who got the program up and running at full speed. Today it serves more than 300 businesses within a 300-mile radius of St. Louis that are mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to check their employee’s hearing once a year.
“I am sold on our mission,” Boles said. “We have a purpose. We’re helping people who would never have been able to get hearing aids (get them).”

Boles credits her tightly-knit staff for much of the program’s success. They include McKenna Bellamy, M.A., CCC-A, industrial audiologist, and technicians Barbara Bristol; JoAnne Nathan; Alyssa Pursley; Rodney Nathan; Douglas Teel; Steve Ford and Larry Waltermann.

The Hearing Conservation Services Program has two large trucks in which it tests the hearing of approximately 25,000 industrial workers. Test results are provided immediately to workers and Bellamy follows-up to ensure all questions and concerns are addressed.

Boles would like a third truck to expand the Center’s reach to more area employers. “At about $100,000 fully equipped, they’re expensive,” she said.
Approximately 5.2 million Americans are exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace every year, according to OSHA.

 “I highly recommend this program to employers that are required by OSHA to test their employee’s hearing,” said Lynn Canada, RN, BSN, worker’s compensation coordinator for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “The staff’s knowledge is exceptional.  I have complete confidence in their method of testing and verification.”  Canada also likes the program’s customer focus. “CHS’s customer service is foremost in any company I have used prior,” she said. 
Boles will attend the St. Louis Safety & Health Conference Tuesday, October 21 at St. Louis University (SLU) Busch Student Center.

“We partner with OSHA and SLU to sponsor this premier safety and health conference,” said Chris Merli, CIH, CHP, CHMM, executive director, Safety Council of Greater St. Louis.

Merli expects 300-plus attendees and 70 exhibitor booths. The conference offers five different presentation tracks and covers the most up-to-date information on worker safety issues, she said.

The Center for Hearing & Speech is a 501 c (3) non-profit that last year provided $1.7 million in speech, audiology and school screening services to residents in metropolitan St. Louis and surrounding communities.

For more information about the Center’s Industrial Services Program, call Judy Boles at 314-968-4710 or check it out on the web at


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Center for Hearing & Speech Receives TORCH Award from Better Business Bureau

The Center for Hearing & Speech has received a TORCH Award from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) that serves consumers in Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois.  It is the first time the Center has received the award.

“Everyone working at the Center is mission-focused,” said the Center’s Executive Director Rita Tintera. “Our drive is to improve life quality and when we see the difference we make, it fuels our passion to help even more individuals.” 

“That the BBB has presented this award to the Center is fantastic,” said Jeff Tarr, the Center’s director of development.  “Receiving this award signifies to the community that we conduct our operations as ethically as possible.  Those who come to us know that we’ll take care of their individual needs with the utmost concern. We’re here to help people who need our services, and we’ll do it right with their best interests in mind.”

TORCH awards are given to businesses and charities that “demonstrate a commitment to customer service through exceptional standards for ethical business practices,” said the BBB in a press release.   A committee of previous winners chooses current recipients. TORCH Awards have been given to area businesses and charities since 1976, and the number of winners selected varies year to year, said BBB Vice President-Communications Chris Thetford.

This year 10 businesses and two charities will be honored for their commitments to the communities they serve at a noon luncheon on Tuesday, October 14 at the Chase Park Plaza.

Tintera, Tarr, Shaun Nordgaarden, member of the Center’s board of directors, and Michael Arendes, treasurer of the Center’s board of directors, will accept the award on behalf of the agency.

Founded in 1920, the Center for Hearing & Speech is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization that last year provided approximately $1.7 million in audiology, speech therapy and school screening services to residents in the greater metropolitan St. Louis area and surrounding communities.  Since its inception, its goal is to provide quality of life to children and adults with hearing and speech deficits, regardless of one’s ability to pay.

The Center is a proud member of the United Way, and receives a major portion of its funding from the agency.

For more information about the Center, call 314-968-4710 or log on to

CHS reaches out to Most Holy Trinity Catholic School and Academy

As of Friday, October 3, the Center for Hearing & Speech is providing speech therapy services to children in kindergarten through eighth grade at Most Holy Trinity (MHT) Catholic School and Academy.

MHT is located in North St. Louis City on Mallinckrodt Street.  It is a “Catholic elementary, Christ-centered urban school helping prepare its students to proclaim the Good News and to translate Gospel values into action,” according to its website.

MHT teachers and parents concerned about a student’s speech and/or language delays and disorders can refer them for evaluation to Kimberly Hufstedler, M.S., CCC-SLP.  If therapy is recommended, an individual treatment plan will be developed, said Gina Cato, M.A., CCC-SLP, Chief Speech-Language Pathologist at the Center for Hearing & Speech.

“The Center for Hearing & Speech strives to address a greater portion of unmet need relating to speech and audiology in the St. Louis region,” said Cato.  “By providing skilled speech-language services at the child’s school, the Center helps children improve their communication skills in their own learning environment.”

Costs and lack of access to transportation prohibits some families from obtaining speech-language services for their children.  The center removes these barriers by going to the school, Cato said.

MHT is the 12th off-site partner at which the Center provides speech-language services. Others include  Agape Academy; Grace Hill Head Start; Grace Hill Child Development Center (two locations); City Academy; Hilltop Child Development Center; Lemay Child and Family Center; St. Cecelia School and Academy; Stella Maris Child Center; Tower Grove Christian Preschool; and Blossom Wood Day School. 

The Center for Hearing & Speech is a 501(c) 3 non-profit that last year provided $1.7 million in audiology, speech and school screening services to residents of metropolitan St. Louis and surrounding communities.

It is a proud member of the United Way.

The Center can be reached at 314-968-4710, or on the web at