The Montana Council for Exceptional Children will honor The University of Montana RiteCare Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic with its Public Service Award during the MCEC Conference of Diverse Abilities in Missoula.
The award will be given during a reception from 4:40 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the Missoula Hilton Garden Inn Convention Center Salon Rooms A-C, located at 3720 N Reserve St.
RiteCare, a clinic within the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Services Department of Communicative Science and Disorders, provides speech, language and hearing screenings and consultations, along with diagnostic and therapy services to individuals, focusing on client needs and family priorities. The clinic also serves as a demonstration and observation site for UM undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students, professionals and families.
According to Lucy Hart Paulson, associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication Science and Disorders, the clinic has served hundreds of families since it opened in 1998. Originally, the clinic was a philanthropic project of the Western Montana Scottish Rite, a fraternal arm of the Freemasons that focuses on helping children overcome speech, communication and literacy difficulties.
The clinic can support up to 80 active clients and serves both children and adults. Services provided through RiteCare include communication recovery following a stroke or brain injury; accent correction for people with strong dialects; voice and swallowing treatment; hearing and hearing-aid evaluations; help with fluency or stuttering disorders; a support group to help students with traumatic brain injuries learn coping and study strategies; and toddler, preschool and school-age interventions to enhance both oral communication and literacy.
RiteCare now is run entirely through the CSD department, but with continued support from the Scottish Rite, including scholarships so no family ever is turned away.
"Receiving this award is quite an honor and speaks to the service that has been provided to western Montana,” Hart Paulson said.
The MCEC is a nonprofit association which supports special education professionals and others working on behalf of individuals with exceptionalities. The organization focuses mostly on children and adolescents with special needs.
“RiteCare serves the kids and families in our community, and what struck me as a vital public service is that they operate on a scholarship basis in order to see families with limited financial means to provide speech services for kids who had no other way to receive those,” said Kathleen Nerison, MCEC Board of Governors member.
Nerison added that the collaboration between RiteCare and Missoula’s public schools and private therapists, their emphasis on early childhood literacy and the research and educational functions of the clinic contribute to the service provided to Missoula and western Montana.
MCEC also will grant the Special Education Research Award to UM Associate Professor Ann Garfinkle, who recently published the Montana Children’s Autism Waiver Report, which documents the results of an intensive early-intervention autism program launched in 2009.