Wednesday, December 31, 2008

UT Department of Audiology & Speech Department Saved!

When the University of Tennessee announced the pending closure of the Department of Audiology & Speech this past June, I went right to work advocating for the group for several months. There were parallel efforts by many other people in the community and nationwide to help save this nationally recognized program. Much time was spent on my part for several months in 2008 getting several state politicians to weigh in, writing newspaper articles, and a huge letter/email writing campaign. I also worked with Larry Silverstein, whose father was responsible for starting the program 55 years ago. The result was a reversal of the decision by the UT Board of Trustees. One should never underestimate the power of the people, the media & the written word, and grass roots advocacy! Below is an article written by Mr. Silverstien that was in the Knoxville News Sentinel several weeks ago thanking everyone involved for helping to save the department. There are still some challenges ahead for the Department of Audiology & Speech but it is good to know that the reversal of this decision will have a huge impact for thousands of children, adults, and students forever.

Thanks expressed for helping save UT unit

By Larry Silverstein
Sunday, December 14, 2008

On behalf of the thousands of children and adults whose access to essential speech and hearing services has now been preserved, and the UT students who will become professionally trained therapists, I offer thanks to all who played an important role in making this happen.

The Friends of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology are very pleased that the UT Board of Trustees has approved a proposal for a transition plan towards a July 1, 2009, administrative takeover of the department by the UT Health Science Center in Memphis.

This will keep intact the nationally recognized department and its entire clinical program, and it comes four and a half months after a hasty and ill-advised proposal by the UT administration to eliminate it.

The proposal, contemplated to help reduce the UT budget, was initiated by the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and approved by the acting chancellor, acting provost and President John Petersen. This unexpected action was taken without consultation with the department, the UT Faculty Senate or anyone in the community.

The announcement was made public on June 4, just prior to the Board of Trustees Executive Committee meeting in Nashville on June 6 and on a fast track toward approval by the full UT Board of Trustees on June 20.

Thanks to the unanimous support of the local media, word spread quickly throughout the community and a grass-roots campaign was begun to save the program. Letters, phone calls, personal appeals and e-mails by the hundreds poured in to the board of trustees, Petersen and Gov. Phil Bredesen.

A law office conference room in Nashville on June 6 was filled with UT students, faculty and other concerned people who took their case directly to the board of trustees. A large rally of supporters was held at the Scottish Rite Temple on June 9.

On June 11, UT announced that some aspects of the clinical program would be retained, due to the provisions of a 99-year lease agreement from 1958 that required the Hearing and Speech Center be operated by the university.

The administration did not indicate which clinical programs would continue and planned to entirely phase out over a two-year period the department and all teaching, training and research functions. This amended proposal was not acceptable and resulted in a campus protest march on June 13.

Under considerable pressure from the community and the UT Faculty Senate, on June 17, the administration announced that its proposal would be deferred until the Oct. 24 board meeting. This was viewed as only a temporary reprieve, based on statements made at the June 20 board meeting.

After members of the board received well over 1,000 contacts by individuals and professional organizations from all over the country, the administration made an alternative proposal to transfer administration and funding from the UT College of Arts and Sciences to the UT Health Science Center in Memphis.

We owe our sincere gratitude to the incredible community support that made this resolution possible. Because of the 55-year history of excellent service to the East Tennessee community, many people - including students, faculty, clients, alumni, local and state public officials, civic organizations, and members of the audiology and speech pathology profession - came forward to share their personal experiences and grave concerns with the UT administration and board, Bredesen and members of the Tennessee Legislature.

Those voices of concern and outrage were given great support and publicity by the Knoxville media, particularly by the News Sentinel, which reported each and every event, and were heard loud and clear by the board and administration.

Our campaign has demonstrated the media can educate and motivate the public to successfully challenge policies that would have a negative impact on our community.

We are grateful that East Tennesseeans will continue to receive the essential speech and hearing services that they need and deserve and that UT will continue to train and educate the next generation of professionals who will provide these services.

Thanks to the enthusiastic support of the UT Health Science Center, the board of trustees, the local print and television media and all in the community whose support helped make this a reality.

Larry Silverstein, an attorney, is the son of the late Dr. Bernie Silverstein, the founding director of the Hearing and Speech Center in 1953 and a UT professor until l996. His e-mail address is

(Laurie's Note: Copied with permission from Larry Silverstein)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Sleepless and bewildered but gloriously proud, the husband of Mary emerged from the stable and made his way to the census takers booth. For it was the decree of Imperial Rome, ordering a general census that had brought them to Bethlehem.

The angels' song hummed through his heart and timed steps with its rhythm; his fine bronzed face radiated with the wonder of the night. But enrollment blanks and reckonings kept the census taker busy, and all he saw was another peasant standing in line.

"Name?" he demanded in a routine tone.

"Joseph, carpenter, of Nazareth, of the house of David."



"Wife's name?"



The young carpenter drew himself up. . ."One child," he answered proudly. "A son, Jesus, born last night."

Was there any comment? Did the petty government official who wrote for the first time the name that was to be "Above Every Name" - did he wonder as he wrote?

Probably not. It was just one more name on the census roll.

Just another boy.

(written by Bruce Barton)

May this post find you anticipating Christ's birth with HOPE and WONDER!

Christmas blessings, Laurie

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Health Update - Meniere's Disease?

Dear Friends,

I know I am way behind in my blog and will be updating it when I have a good opportunity. My email box is filling up with messages wondering where I've been and I want to thank everyone for their kind words and concern. I am truly blessed to have friends like you, many of whom I haven't met in person yet. I just responded Ethan's mom (see earlier post when I visited with her and E-boy) and thought I would just copy and paste my response here, too.

I have not felt well since I returned home from my trip to Ohio in late September. I had a very bad cold/sinus infection in October and it took me a long time to get over it. At the beginning of November, I went on a 10-day mission trip to Latvia with my husband and a group from our church, the Faithful Men singing group. While we were there I had two very bad vertigo attacks and was completely immobilized in bed in our hotel room for two days. I could not move, open my eyes or do anything without vomiting or having the room spinning on me. At first I thought it was food poisoning but no one else got sick like I did. A friend of mine had some phenergan with her so I was able to take that and survive the long 20-hour trip home.

To make a long story short, after seeing two doctors and going to a therapist, Dr. Merwin, my ENT/CI doctor, has pre-diagnosed me with Meniere’s disease, which is an inner ear disorder that controls balance. If that is the case, it will just be one more obstacle in my life that I will have to deal with. And I'm okay with that.

Meniere's Disease is manageable with a low salt/high protein diet and medicine. I am currently taking a water pill to see if that will drain the extra fluid around my ears. There is no cure for it. I will have two more tests done in the coming weeks to confirm Dr. Merwin's diagnosis (I can't have an MRI because of my cochlear implants so he is using other options). I am starting to have more good days than difficult ones. And will have final results in mid-January.

One of the side effects of Meniere's Disease is hearing loss. Luckily, this has not affected my hearing because of my implants. However, I've gone in the other direction and am EXTREMELY sensitive to sound. I have the sensitivity and volume levels turned way down and it is still too loud at times! Sometimes I just take them off for awhile and work in silence.

So, when I do have my good days, I try not to overdo it and just do the daily tasks that need to be done. With the holidays and year-end business accounting for our business, I have more than I can handle! But, all I can do is just take one day at a time. I used to say that God doesn't give us more than we can handle but over the last few years I've changed my view about that statement. I do think He gives us more than we can handle so we can call out His Name, talk with Him daily and walk with Him. He will be our guide during difficult and stressful times. He is here.

Hope you and your family and friends are enjoying the holidays with anticipation and HOPE. May you have a blessed holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or other tradition!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How A Cochlear Implant Works - *NEW*

Here is a new video on YouTube on how a cochlear implant works. . . by Advanced Bionics. . .a good one to see and pass on to people who want to know more about them.

Click here:
How A Cochlear Implant Works
by Advanced Bionics, LLC.

There is another link in my right sidebar on a different explanation on how cochlear implants work.

I have the Freedom Processors by Cochlear and love my "mini-computers" that allow me to hear and comprehend sound!

Have a great day and enjoy the fall weather, wherever you are!

Monday, October 13, 2008

My "Gilead"

Last month I "escaped" to my aunt Trudy's house in Ohio. I needed to get away for a little while for some peace and quiet. Even though I can hear wonderfully with my cochlear implants, there are still times in my life when I crave the peace for my soul that comes with silence and solitude. . . away from the noisy world with no distractions. I've been going to Trudy's house every year for the last few years and look forward to my time there and spending time with her. She is my mother's younger sister and I'm close to her. She bought this place in the country several years ago to get away from the noise and haste of city life. This, too, is her "Gilead". . .

My prayer partner understood my need to get away and reminded me before I left that "Gilead" means "healing waters." I've always loved the song, "There Is A Balm In Gilead". . .especially the following verse:

"Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit,
Revives my soul again". . .

It takes me almost nine hours to get to my destination. As I was driving, listening to music, praying, and meditating, I was talking to God and thanking Him for taking me to my "Gilead." I heard a still, small voice say, "Dear One, I AM taking you to your Gilead." Then it dawned on me. . . .Trudy lives in Mount Gilead! I love how God works and speaks to me through people, places, and circumstances.

I had a wonderful week in my "Gilead." Slept, ate, read, exercised, sewed (I took my sewing machine, too), visited with family and friends, and just plain rested. It is so peaceful here. I wanted to stay another week. I also took lots of pictures!
Trudy's House
Cornfield Next to Trudy's house
"Healing Waters" in front of Trudy's house across the road
Trudy's front porch swing where I had my morning coffee in solitude. Trudy and I had some good conversations here, too. Her next door neighbor has a rooster that crows at the crack of dawn. We would sit here every morning, waiting for the sunrise and the rooster. But, never heard him.
My Christmas Tree Quilt that I made at Trudy's - I still need to quilt and bind it before I can hang it up for the holidays.
Aunt Trudy and MeEntering Mount GileadJeremiah 46:11 (The Message) "Oh, virgin Daughter Egypt, climb into the mountains of Gilead, get healing balm. . . .

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The People I Meet - Drew & His Family

Last Friday, I had opportunity to meet another CI kid - Drew! His parents both write in "Turn On My Ears" and they live in Columbus, Ohio. When I was planning my trip to Ohio, I emailed them to see if we could possibly meet. Drew's family invited me for lunch and we had a wonderful time visiting and learning about each other's hearing journeys.
Drew & Laurie (we both have bilateral CI's)
Drew was born with a profound hearing loss and is the youngest child in Ohio to receive simultaneous bilateral cochlear implants. He was eight months old when he had his surgery. He just celebrated his second birthday and is a typical two year old child and so cute! Drew's parents shared with me that two years ago they knew nothing about hearing loss. When they were told that their son failed his newborn hearing tests, they had to take a crash course in learning about hearing loss and find a way to help their son hear. Because they spent so much time with doctor appointments, dealing with insurance, and taking care of Drew's hearing health, they felt like they missed the "normal" things of his early life. For example, they don't really remember when he rolled over for the first time, slept through the night, when he started crawling, when he started teething, etc. Drew also has an older sister, Avery, who is a sweet and active three year old! Avery loves to talk and is good therapy for her younger brother. There wasn't a quiet moment in their house until the kids went down for their naps!
Drew playing with his new car
Like Ethan's parents, Drew's parents are constantly dealing with issues relating to Drew's hearing health - with audiologists, health professionals, insurance companies, etc. etc. etc. Over and over again I hear how hard it is just to get the service and information that deaf and hard of hearing persons are entitled to in order to hear and communicate. Drew's Mom and Dad are very active with other parents who have deaf children and have learned a lot in two years. They recently participated in the HLAA Walk for Hearing in Columbus and met a lot of new people. And said that everyone just loved Drew! I hope they will come to the HLAA Convention in Nashville next June.
Drew's Mommy and Drew
Drew's parents had lots of questions for me because they weren't sure how Drew hears, what he hears, what works best and what doesn't. I asked them if they monitored Drew's CI's with the monitor headphones. They looked at each other and then told me that they had never been shown how to use them and that was one of the questions they were going to ask their audiologist at their next appointment. They didn't know if CI's were monitored while the child was wearing them or if they were checked after taking them off. I asked them if they would like me to show them how so Drew's Dad quickly got the monitor headphones. Since Drew was already asleep for his nap, I plugged the monitor headphones into my CI's and let them listen. They both took turns hearing through my "ears" and made different noises for each other. It was interesting to watch the reactions on their faces. I knew they were understanding something and could hear how some noises could be distracting. They had tried for a long time to figure out how to use the monitors and I was happy to show them.

Drew and Avery were so talkative and playful. While they were playing, Drew's coil would fall off his head. Each time that happened, he went to his parents to have them reattach it for him. He doesn't like it when one of his "ears" is "off the air." He hasn't learned how to put it back on himself yet but he knows when it comes off. Drew & Avery have a little game where they like to hide in the front hallway closet! I think every kid likes the game of hide & seek!
Drew Hiding in the Closet
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with Drew's family. This is another family that chooses to remain positive, even in the midst of their trials and frustrations trying to get what is needed for a family member that has a hearing loss. Even when things are not going right, they choose to respond and react in a positive way. I love being with people who are optimistic and encouraging. It is contagious! I hope to meet more CI children and adults with cochlear implants because we all share a special bond. And we choose joy in spite of our circumstances.
Drew's Family (Mommy, Daddy, Drew & Avery)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The People I Meet - Ethan & Heather

Last Saturday I drove to Ohio for a little getaway. . .I take this trip once a year to have some time with family and friends. I also use this time to reflect, ponder, and have some quiet time at my aunt's home in the country in the middle of nowhere. (I'll write about this visit in another post.)

Ethan and LaurieOn the way up, I stopped in Cincinnati to meet a new CI friend, Ethan (or E-boy) as his parents call him. Ethan is three years old and has bilateral cochlear implants. His mother writes at "Ethan's World" and I've been following Ethan's progress and story for several years. It was wonderful to meet Heather and E-Boy in person! He woke up from his nap right after I got there and cautiously came down the stairs when his mommy signed to him that he had company. He did not have his "ears" on or his glasses on but Heather took care of that right away.

Ethan adjusting his glasses
Ethan is a special little boy with a great personality. He is also a challenge because he has some other developmental issues along with his hearing loss. I got to see and hear first hand the trials and struggles that his parents have to go through just to get the care and services that he needs. He has apraxia, which is a neurological disorder. This includes a missing connection in his brain that keeps him from speaking. But he knows many words in sign language and is a bright and happy kid. He doesn't have any trouble communicating what he needs or wants and I loved watching him sign to Heather. He is doing very well for his age and circumstances. And is such a cutie pie!

Ethan checking out his new carI got right on the floor with him and interacted with him while Heather and I talked and visited. I held some books for him while he looked at the pictures and showed him how to operate the car I got for him. He had to turn the car upside down and check it out first (a future engineer?) It didn't take long for him to take my hand and he started to take me upstairs. I couldn't figure out what he wanted but Heather said that he wanted to show me his tent in his room. He has an Indian teepee in his room and is really proud of it! He also likes to play a game of hide & seek and hides in the kitchen cabinet. He "peeks" out and has a big smile when Heather calls out "Where's Ethan?"

Ethan hiding in kitchen cabinet!
Heather and her husband moved to Cincinnati from Athens, Ohio because they were driving 11 hours a week for all of Ethan's appointment and health needs. She also quit her job as a teacher to take care of him and says that being his "administrative assistant" is a full-time job! He goes to preschool 4 hours a day and as soon as she drops him off, she is on the phone or the computer trying to get the services and help that he should have and is entitled to. She is constantly trying to deal with the school system and insurance company and does this day after day. They also have a deaf babysitter for Ethan, whom they love. After hearing in person the challenges that Heather has regarding his education and insurance needs, I went back and re-read her blog. And saw everything in a new light. Why do we have to fight so hard for the things that are needed just because someone can't hear or has a medical issues? I truly believe that the earlier you help a child, the less help (and expenses) they will need later in life. This is just one example.

Laurie & Heather
I told Heather not to give up. Ethan is her son for a reason and she and Rich are the best parents for him because they are doing whatever is needed so that he can be all that he can be. He has a great future ahead of him because he has a wonderful support system with his family, friends, and people that love him and only want the best for him. And that alone speaks volumes. Go visit "Ethan's World" and give them a word of encouragement!
Heather, Rich, and E-boy (he doesn't stay still for long!)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Taming The China Cabinet

Ever since I got my cochlear implants, I've been more aware of sounds I haven't heard before. Others CI friends have had to oil squeaky hinges on doors or turn down the volume on the TV and other electronic items. In our house, we have a noisy china cabinet in the dining room! Our dining room sits in the middle of the house and is a major walk-through area from the hallway to the kitchen. The china in the cabinet rattled every time someone walked past it. No matter how I divided or arranged the dishes and glasses, they still made noise.

We recently replaced the carpet in our dining room because one of the dogs chewed a hole in it all the way to the sub-floor. (We needed to replace the carpet anyway because it was so dirty and I couldn't clean it anymore.) I had to unload ALL the dishes in the china cabinet and serving cabinet in order to move the furniture out of the room. I have two sets of china, mine and my mother's. And can't part with either set (but will gladly hand them down someday). I also have a few pieces from my Grandma Royer.

Anyway, when we moved the china cabinet back into the dining room, I decided that I had to find a way to eliminate the "rattling" noise. I also wanted to get rid of some items that we didn't need anymore and organize the china a little better. After doing some research on the Internet on how to organize china cabinets, I also found a very helpful hint. And will share it with you.

I put a plain coffee filter between each plate, bowl, and saucer! (And had to run out to the grocery to get more!) They come in different sizes and are supposed to protect the dishes from scratches and breakage. But, the coffee filters also cut down on the rattling noise because the dishes can't "wiggle" as much.

Here is the final result!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Labor Day Fireworks!

Steve and I went to Knoxville on Labor Day to see the Boomsday Fireworks. For those of you who don't know what Boomsday is, it is a huge three day festival held in Knoxville, Tennessee every Labor Day weekend on the waterfront in downtown Knoxville. It is a free event that brings thousands of people to Knoxville’s Volunteer Landing (near the University of Tennessee campus) and Neyland Drive for food, live music, has a play area for kids, and the biggest Labor Day weekend fireworks show on the last night. In addition to watching the wonderful fireworks show, those who attend can also hear the show choreographed to patriotic and contemporary music on radio.

This was my first time hearing and experiencing the fireworks with two CI ears. I could hear the music playing on the radio that the family next to us had with them. I also noticed an "extra" sound during the fireworks show, which I'm assuming that I'm hearing with the little residual hearing that I have left. If I had turned off my CI's, I probably would have heard the fireworks as "clicking" sounds in my ears. And felt them, too.

The fireworks were great! And fun! Enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Three Year CI Anniversary

Three years ago today, the remnants of Hurricane Katrina blew through Knoxville, knocking out the power in our area. Three years ago Steve was trying to get home from a business trip to take me to the hospital for a life-changing surgery (he didn't make it - Marissa had to miss school that day and took me instead. Steve did make it in time to be there when I woke up in recovery.) Three years ago today I received my first cochlear implant in my left ear. These last three years have been an incredible discovery of new sounds and new joys. I know I've said this before but will say it again. . . I am forever grateful for those who made this technology possible to give the gift of sound to the deaf and hard of hearing.

Below is my most recent hearing test (click on test to view it bigger), which I had done a month ago at my last mapping appointment at the UT Audiology and Speech Pathology department. I tested NORMAL across the board with both cochlear implants, which is even better than the last hearing test I had done a year ago. (That is the C1 you see across the top of the test.) My audiologist also tested my residual hearing to see if I had any left because I told her that I can "hear" certain sounds at a certain range. (Those are the X's and O's you see near the side and bottom of the test.) Cochlear implants usually destroy what residual hearing is left but my doctor used the latest technology, which tries to preserve it. And sure enough, I do have a little bit left. But it is not really usable. It is nice to know that it is there and not just my imagination!

Julie also surprised me and wanted to test my word recognition (HINT=hearing in noise test) score. She used her own voice instead of using a recording and repeated sentences to me. She asked me to write them down and told me to write whatever I heard, even if it didn't make sense. My score was 63%, which is just a slight improvement from my score of 60% last September. But, she tested me BEFORE she remapped my processors. I think I would have done better AFTER the mapping session and with a man's voice. But that is okay. 63% is better than 0%, which was my score three years ago. My score is higher (100%) when there is no noise around me, which is why I prefer to talk on the phone in a quiet place with no distractions.

Tonight is the annual fireworks display in Knoxville for the Boomsday festival. I'm hoping to go see and HEAR them with TWO ears! Have a great Labor Day!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sounds of Mystic, Connecticut

The waters are alive with the sounds of Mystic,
With stories they have told for a thousand years.
The river fills my heart with the stillness of Mystic,
My heart wants to tell every story it hears. . .My heart wants to soar like the mist on the water rising like a breath of heaven to the clouds. . .
My soul wants to sail like a ship that glides
from the pier in the wind. . .
To move gracefully through the ripples of the water like a peaceful swan. . .
To flow like the tide when the waves trip and fall over
rocks on their way. . .I go to the sea when my heart is quiet. . .
I know I will hear sounds I haven't heard before. . .

My heart is truly blessed with the sounds of Mystic. . .
And I'll return some day soon!
(by Laurie Pullins 08/27/08)
Steve and I have been traveling for business and pleasure for the last ten days. We spent five wonderful and glorious days in Mystic, Connecticut with the newlyweds, Brad & Caitlyn, and had a great time. I heard the ocean with TWO ears for the first time! It sounds so much better and more complete than just hearing it with one CI or even with hearing aids. I took so many pictures but thought I would post a few here.
The Ocean beneath my feet!Mystic is an old seaport town and has so much history. Brad & Caitlyn have a cute little apartment in an old house in the historical district of Mystic. They are within walking distance to downtown Mystic where one can browse around in the unique shops, eat out in the various restaurants, have coffee or tea in one of the shops, walk along the pier and see the fishermen and boats, and see all the old buildings and bridges. I got up early in the mornings and just walked down to the pier and the water when it was peaceful and quiet without the hustle and bustle of the tourists. One of the highlights for me was seeing and hearing the Mystic drawbridge go up to let the boats pass. It sounds a horn when it is ready to go up and sounds a bell when it is going down. And I can hear it from a distance (about a mile) from Brad & Caitlyn's house!
The Mystic Drawbridge Steve and I used to live in the New London/Groton area, which is just over the main bridge from Mystic so we did some sightseeing and traveled down "memory lane." We went to our old house and neighborhood that we used to live in, visited Ocean Beach, and just drove around. We left CT in 1982. A lot of it has changed but much of it is still the same. And we also had dinner and breakfast with some friends of ours that live in the area. It was a wonderful "mini" vacation for us. Steve and I are so thankful that we can share these memories together after all these years. Where does the time go? I wish I could go back and live in Connecticut again!
Our first house on Lincoln Avenue (the only cobblestone street in New London)The NEWLYWEDS Caitlyn & Brad!Steve & Laurie at S&P Oyster Company

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Letter From My Father - Part 3

My father's letter continues. . .

Laurie's mother should be given the majority of the credit for ensuring Laurie's speech training and for spending hours and hours listening to her and her problems and for encouraging her to "never give up" on being able to "get along" in a hearing world.

She taught Laurie how to be organized and to get tasks done in a timely manner. For example, all through middle school & high school, Laurie would do her homework as soon as she got home from school. It was always done before supper so she could watch television afterwards. She got herself up each morning with a light timer, got dressed for school and was always ready when it was time to catch the bus. (Mom usually stood by the window listening for the bus for me and made sure I got out the door in time.)

The best thing that happened to Laurie was meeting her husband, Steve, when she started her freshman year at Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio) in 1975. They hit it off together! And he understood Laurie's hearing loss and was patient in dealing with it. They became engaged by March 1976 and were married in November 1976.

Dad's Recollections of Laurie:
1. She was always good with her two brothers and sister. (Most of the time. :) Kathy and I had some nasty fights! But we are best friends now!)
2. She listened to my wife & I about doing things.
3. She was always loving & kind.
4. Others liked to be around her. She had lots of friends & cousins who enjoyed being in her company.
5. She was always neat in dress and appearance.
6. She was a good babysitter.
7. She enjoyed watching TV and listening to music with earphones or a headset. (I also listened to LP albums with the volume turned all the way up in my room.)
8. She surprised her mother and I in many ways in being able to hear and communicate with people. (I found other ways to compensate in order to "get the message" or faked it when I didn't really understand.)
9. Her teachers were always impressed on how well she could learn, even with a hearing disability.
10. She promised her mother that she would get her college degree when she became engaged and wanted to be married. (She did!) (After transferring from four different colleges, I finally graduated from the University of Tennessee with my Finance degree in December 2003.)

"The End" by Dad, Edwin J. Royer

Thanks, Dad. I love you. Laurie

Thursday, August 21, 2008

We're Not Done Yet. . .

The following is a press release by Larry Silverstein, who has been working very hard to save the UT Department of Audiology & Speech Pathology. His father, Bernie Silverstein, is the one that started the program in the 1950's when he saw a need for services for the deaf and hard of hearing in Tennessee.
PRESS RELEASE - August 19, 2008

Supporters of the UT Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology have learned some progress is being made to find an alternative to the University Administration’s original proposal to eliminate the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology and all clinical services.

We currently do not have answers to very important questions and therefore, cannot fully evaluate today’s announcement by the University Administration.

It is unclear from the University Administration’s ambiguously worded press release whether it intends to keep all clinical programs intact and operational. The word “clinic,” in the singular, is used in the press release. We need to know if this means all clinical programs currently part of the Hearing & Speech Center and all academic degree programs will continue to be offered to students.

We must have immediate and complete answers to these and other questions even as additional details are being worked out, in order to determine if this apparent progress is a true resolution.

The University Administration has been under great pressure from the concerned community of the UT Faculty, professionals, clients, students, and governmental officials to find a solution to the situation it created. The announcement in early June proposed to eliminate the academic program and the entire clinical program that was established in l953. We are cautiously optimistic that a satisfactory solution can be achieved. We will continue to insist that the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology and its entire clinical program be maintained and adequately funded.

The public meeting of Supporters of the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, scheduled for Thursday, August 21, at 5:30 pm at the Scottish Rite Temple, l6th St. and White Ave. will be held as scheduled to discuss the latest developments.

Larry Silverstein

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Letter From My Father - Part 2

Dad went on and talked about my early "school" years. . . my notes/comments are in red. . . just reading my father's letter brought back many memories for me.

(Dad's letter continues. . . )
At age 3, Laurie was enrolled in Pre-school for 3-5 days a week at our church, North Broadway Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio.

At age 5, she started kindergarten at a "special school" where she had a earphone headset with a specially trained teacher for 1/2 day in the morning. A taxi picked her up from our house and took her to the school and returned her home after 12:00 noon each day. (I remember the taxi picking me up every day and thought everyone went to school that way! There was a black boy named Donald who rode in the taxi with me. I thought he was black because he was burned in a fire. I found out later that he really was in a fire but that wasn't the reason he was black! And he was my friend, until he hit me on the head with his metal lunchbox!)

Laurie thrived in kindergarten (there were only nine in the class, all with hearing problems) with a wonderful teacher. (The name of the school was Kingswood. I don't know if it was an elementary school or special school. My teacher's name was Mrs. Card. I can remember sitting on her lap every day in front of a mirror with headphones, using my hands on her throat & lips to mimic the words and sounds she was teaching me. Kindergarten was a fun time for me and I still recall many details. I've tried to find Mrs. Card to thank her but don't even know where to start or if she is still around today. I'm guessing she would be in her 70's or 80's now. . .)

By January, her teacher told us that Laurie was ready for 1st grade and she was sure she could "mainstream" through elementary school. (I was reading at 3rd or 4th grade level by the time I entered first grade because I had to learn to read in order to learn to talk.)

Her prognosis was correct and Laurie became as "normal" as a 6, 7, 8, & 9 year old could be as she went through 4th grade and part of 5th grade at Oakland Park Elementary School in North Columbus, Ohio. (My 2nd & 3rd grade teacher's name was Mrs. Gump. I called her Mrs. Grump because she was so strict and firm with me. She even paddled me in 3rd grade in the hallway because I talked too much! No one walked home from school with me that day and that hurt worse than the paddling.)

We lived on a street with other young families with children and only 1/2 block from a city park. she and her friends played together all the time. The park had summer programs for crafts, games, and other activities for kids. (I loved going to the park. I loved playing on the playground, swimming in the pool, and learned to play softball. There was also a craft time and I tried everything. That is where I developed my love for knitting and needlework. One time I came home late after dark because I lost track of time. Mom turned me over her knee and spanked my bare bottom. I didn't do that again because I knew I disappointed her.)

In 1967, we moved to Dayton, Ohio in the middle of Laurie's 5th grade year. She attended an "open classroom" school environment for middle school. She did well in school wherever she went. After middle school she attended Centerville High School and graduated in 1975 near the top of her class with over 550 students. (I have mixed feelings about my high school years. . . there were over 2000 students in the high school and I felt "lost" because the school was so large. It was a "college-like" atmosphere where classes were held in four different buildings and we had to change rooms between each class. My high school years were difficult for me because I "didn't fit in" and never felt like I "belonged." I always sat in front of the class so that I wouldn't miss a thing. When I wasn't in school, I was either working or studying. I did have some very good friends and still keep in touch with them to this day. The same people who made fun of me and/or ignored me in high school "grew up" and later became my friends in college and adult life. To this day I still cringe when I hear the words "peer pressure" because it deeply affects many persons in negative ways.)

She worked as a babysitter, a coat-check girl at a restaurant and was able to do all the normal things a teenager could do. Some people wondered when she worked as a coat checker if she was from the "South" because her way of saying words wasn't as distinctive as most local Ohioans. (I got so tired of telling people that I was "hearing impaired" when they asked me where I was from when they heard my "accent." One time I decided to tell a customer that I was Spanish and was from Spain. He immediately started talking to me in Spanish and I couldn't understand a thing he said! I never did that again!)

The reason Laurie was so successful in school was due to her ability to "lip-read" people who would look directly at her and speak slowly so she could see the "word form." (To this day, I still like to lip read and prefer to look at people when they talk to me, even though I can hear and comprehend pretty good with with my cochlear implants. I think it is polite and courteous to look at someone when you are conversing with them.)

She got her Driver's permit at age 16 and learned to drive soon afterwards through Driver's Education training, etc. (Daddy was very nervous in the car while I was learning to drive! I think it was hard for him to teach me because I couldn't drive and look at him at the same time when he tried to tell me something. Mom just let me drive.)

The reason Laurie was able to do so well in getting along with people was due to her ability to observe her surroundings. When at age 2, she would point up into the sky at an airplane so high that neither my wife or I could hear or see. But, Laurie was highly observant, which helped her recognize if someone was nearby and were trying to get her attention. (This comment by my father was interesting because to this day I depend on my "eyes" to be my "ears" for me. I can "see" things before normal hearing people can hear them. But I didn't realize that was something I did when I was two years old.)

To be continued (and completed) in Part 3. . .

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NEWS FLASH! UT Audiology & Speech Program Update

I just received word that the University of Tennessee Department of Audiology & Speech Pathology program has been saved! This is WONDERFUL and GREAT news! So many people have responded and worked very hard to save this department that makes a difference in so many lives. I don't know all of the details yet but it was announced this afternoon.

This news comes just before a public rally was planned on Thursday afternoon for the supporters and persons who were opposed to the UT proposal to eliminate the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology. I think there should be a BIG party instead to celebrate! (I cannot attend this rally because I am currently out of town traveling for business.)

Never underestimate the power of the written and spoken word. The people who spoke out on this issue made a difference, one person at a time. . . one letter, email, article, speech, etc. at a time. The voice of the "silent people" has been heard!

The following is an excerpt of the announcement: (I'm leaving names out for privacy reasons)

"Today UT Knoxville and our partners in the UT system announced significant progress toward a solution that will allow the UT Knoxville Audiology and Speech Pathology department to continue operations through UT and remain in Knoxville.

The university is committed to keeping the clinic open, and in Knoxville. Details are still being worked out, but UT will continue to operate the clinic and the academic program.

A group representing myself (UT Interim Chancellor), the president, the College of Arts and Sciences, the audiology and speech pathology department, the UT Health Science Center and others has sought alternatives that will allow the program to continue to meet the educational and clinical needs of Tennesseans.

Our discussion remains focused on the economic realities facing all of our campuses and institutes. We think a new approach will provide shared efficiencies and new opportunities for strategic partnerships. Under the plan, the department will no longer be affiliated with the College of Arts and Sciences, allowing for the needed reductions in the campus budget.

We expect to be able to announce the plan in early September, and we will work closely with the Faculty Senate, the department and other university leaders to ensure that alternatives consider the program's mission and service, current faculty and staff as well as patients and their families."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Letter From My Father

A few weeks ago my father sent me a letter answering some questions about my early years when my hearing loss was discovered. I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for this early intervention in my hearing journey by my parents. Through their determination, strength, & perseverance they made sure I had every option available to me. I still had some questions about my early "deaf" history and since Mom isn't here to answer them for me (she lost her battle to pancreatic cancer in 1992) I sent my father an email with six questions for him to answer. I had planned to call him on the phone that evening to get his answers but by that afternoon he had written six pages and faxed them to me! (Dad doesn't use the computer but his wife does.) Mom was the biggest cheerleader for me and my brother (he has a severe hearing loss, too, but still wears hearing aids) and spent much time and research looking for the best options for us. She was also a teacher so it was only natural for her to "teach" us to talk and communicate and show us the world.

I spent many years in denial about my hearing loss and didn't want people to know about it. So, I did not want to talk about it and did not ask many questions. Now that I can hear with my cochlear implants and have so many connections with the deaf world, I realized that I had some "blanks" regarding my early years. I wanted to know what Mom and Dad felt and experienced when my hearing loss was discovered. I wanted to know what made them realize I couldn't hear. What clues did they have? How many times a week did I go to therapy before I started kindergarten? Etc, etc, etc. I will share some excerpts from Dad's letter. . .

My Recollections of Our Daughter's Early Hearing Problems
by Edwin Royer

We thought Laurie was normal until she was about 2 years old in April 1959. Our friends had a child who was also 2 years old and had started talking and saying words. Laurie didn't verbalize at all. So, her mother took her to the family doctor and asked him "why Laurie wasn't talking."

He didn't know, but advised us to take her to the Children's Hospital in Buffalo, New York and have her tested for hearing loss.

The result by the hearing specialist was that Laurie had a severe hearing loss up to 85%. But, she could hear loud sounds, and had 10%-15% residual hearing. We were advised to have her begin hearing therapy immediately in May 1959 at age 25 months.

My wife took her to Buffalo Children's Hospital three times a week (M-W-F) for 30 minute sessions. It was determined that she could vocalize with instruction.

In June 1959 the State of New York purchased a chest type (body worn) bilateral hearing aid for Laurie and she made excellent progress through September 1959 when we moved to Columbus, Ohio for her Dad's new job and graduate school at Ohio State University. (My note: this was news to me. . . I did not know that the State of New York provided me with my first hearing aid. Mom & Dad were newlyweds in their mid-20's living on a small budget while my father was working on his master's and doctorate degrees. I'm sure they appreciated this service. My parents made many sacrifices over the years to afford the hearing needs for me and my brother and never once complained.)

In October 1959 we enrolled her in speech therapy at the Ohio State University Speech & Hearing Center on campus. My wife took her there three times a week for individual sessions.

(Re: How her mother and I felt when we found out in April-May 1959 that Laurie was "deaf.")

We were devastated and wondered how it could be that our daughter couldn't hear. There was no hereditary deafness on either side of the family that we knew of.

We were told that Laurie could go to a "deaf school" similar to Gallaudet where she could learn "sign language" and learn to communciate that way. But, given this choice usually meant that children sent there NEVER learned to talk and communicate normally. Given that Laurie had some residual hearing and responded to training and voice stimuli and was learning to "lip read" and speak words in a somewhat normal manner, we were told that with extensive effort and training that she could "possibly" learn to "hear" and "listen" and "speak" like normal children who weren't "deaf."

We decided to give the latter choice a try and that we would encourage her to "mainstream" in pre-school, kindergarten, & and regular school. (*It was the correct decision as we would later find out.*)

To be continued. . .

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Audiology Clinic Allows Locals to Live & Work

I am still working hard and advocating for the UT Audiology & Speech Department and recently had another article published in the Knoxville News Sentinel on Monday. You can access it HERE. It was originally supposed to be published a few weeks ago but the gentleman who wrote it had to deal with the loss of his mother to cancer right after he interviewed me. I had hoped that the article would be longer but we felt that it was important to publish something to increase deaf awareness in the community, especially for the UT Board members that live in the Knoxville area.

I'm not finished with this issue yet! I hope to write another article later this month and also have a state government meeting this week with the TN Council for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing. The UT Audiology and Speech department is on the agenda and will be in my report as well.

My father wrote a six page letter to me a few weeks ago and filled in the "blanks" that I had regarding my early hearing loss history since my mother isn't here to answer those questions for me. I hope to post some excerpts from it in the very near future. It was so sweet and tender and made me miss my mother all over again, bringing tears to my eyes.

My dear readers, if you are connected in any way to the UT Audiology & Speech Pathology program, they would really appreciate it if you would write one letter or email to Lisa Hertz, the UT secretary at Your letter or email will be passed on to the UT Board of Trustees. Even a short letter or email that states where you live and how your audiology department helps you or your family would be wonderful. Just tell the Trustees who you are, where you live, why the UT ASP programs are important, and ask the Trustees to continue the programs. Just one or two points would be perfect. Also, please pass on information regarding this important issue to your friends and family members.

Also, check the most recent additions to the SAVE UTASP website, including the Editiorial in the Sunday Knoxville News Sentinel and Letter to the Editor. Stay tuned for future updates!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Testing. . .

Testing to see if my blog is unlocked by Blogger.......

Note on Blogger....

Some blogs have been mistakenly marked as spam. Affected users are not able to post to their blog and received an email indicating Blogger classified their blog as spam. We are actively working to correct the issue.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wedding Pictures!

Wedding PartyCaitlyn & BradFamily Picture (minus Jackson - he was asleep!)Mother and Daughters!Jackson in his tux!
Mother & Son

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Guess Who Is Coming to Tennessee?

Jackson! (And his mommy and daddy, too!) They will arrive tonight from Texas. And we are all ready for him with a clean car, car seat, & stroller. I love having a "Granny Car" complete with all the "accessories!" I never dreamed that being a grandma would be so much fun! I also borrowed a port-a-crib/playpen, and swing and all this stuff fills up my vehicle. There is hardly any room for the rest of us! In addition, I have formula, bottles, diapers and even a mini tuxedo for Jackson to wear this weekend. Steve and I can't wait to see our grandson again and have the rest of the family meet him! Brad (#3 son) is getting married on Saturday to his lovely fiancee, Caitlyn, and we are all headed to Kentucky for the wedding and celebration.

Right now the house is quiet with the dogs at the kennel and everyone gone. But we will soon hear the wonderful & precious sounds of laughter, babies, family, & friends at the wedding. And Brad & Caitlyn's wedding vows, the music that they've chosen, and the words of Pastor Jeff, who was Brad's youth pastor at our church.

On another note, my cell phone DIED yesterday. I just about DIED (pun intended) when it wouldn't power up or do anything. I never thought I would be so dependent on a phone after not being able to use it for years with my hearing loss. My replacement won't come for at least 5 days so I will be without a phone for the wedding weekend! I am using my old cell phone that I got two phones ago but it is so ancient compared to what I'm used to. I don't even want to carry it with me. I tried to call Brad last night with it and could barely hear with it. It does not have the M/T rating for my cochlear implants and it doesn't have speaker phone. But, I'll survive. Maybe this was supposed to happen for a reason so that I can concentrate on more important things.

I have several CI friends and bloggers who got cochlear implants this week and they are all doing well! (Five at last count.) One even went bilateral and got two at the same time and counted 30 staples in her head! I went to Knoxville this past Tuesday to sit with Karen's husband while she had her surgery and she did great. Am still waiting to hear updates from the others! I read a report recently that there are 130,000 cochlear implants WORLDWIDE today compared to 100,000 a few years ago. . . the number of patients has grown tremendously in the last few years. I've said this before and will say it again. . . "the time to hear is NOW." Life is too short and too precious to go without hearing the sounds and people around us. I hear the mourning doves, birds, and crickets outside all the time and smile. . .and am improving on the phone and in understanding what is being said on the radio. And I love listening to my iPod!

Blogging is a full time job and as you can see, I'm having a hard time doing updates. But I will write when I can. . . and will certainly post next week with wedding and baby pictures!

Friday, July 18, 2008

UT's Ear Pain

Note: This was published in the Knoxville (Tennessee) Metro Pulse publication on Wednesday, July 16th. . . very interesting.

UT's Ear Pain

The university's claimed savings from ASP program cuts are a charade

by: Joe Sullivan

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One need only visit the quarters of the University of Tennessee’s Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology (ASP) in the bowels of Neyland Stadium to realize it’s a stepchild in the UT College of Arts and Sciences. Despite the fact the department is highly regarded in its field and also provides much-needed clinical services, it doesn’t really fit or sit well in the college’s academic scheme of things.

Thus, it should have come as no surprise that, when faced with having to make cutbacks due to an $11.5 million cut in UT-Knoxville state funding, Arts and Sciences Dean Bruce Bursten should single out the ASP department for termination. What’s utterly astounding, though, is Bursten’s inept handling of the matter.

There are so many flaws in Bursten’s ill-informed and ill-advised decision, it’s hard to know where to start in listing them.

Probably the most flagrant was his unawareness of a long-standing contract with the Tennessee Hearing and Speech Foundation that commits the university to continue operating hearing and speech clinics that are an integral part of the department. This commitment binds the university until 2057 “to continue to operate the Hearing and Speech Center at the same or greater level of services to the public.”

If Bursten had consulted with the department’s head, Ilsa Schwarz, before making his termination decision, as he certainly should have, his blunder would have been avoided. But the first Schwarz learned of the decision was 20 minutes before Bursten announced it. This peremptory announcement stands in sharp contrast to the way in which programs proposed for termination have been afforded hearings in the past.

It’s true that UT was under pressure to act quickly to make cuts after Gov. Phil Bredesen imposed reductions in higher education funding for the coming year in May. UT President John Petersen had stipulated that these cuts be made “strategically” in the narrow rather than spreading them across the board in a way that would weaken the university as a whole.

But when faced with the commitment to the clinics and waves of protest from its users as well as other ASP stakeholders, Petersen backed off. On June 17, he announced postponement of programmatic cuts until October “to allow campus and system leadership additional time to seek faculty input and involvement.”

Clinic commitments aside, if Bursten’s claimed savings of $1,374,818 from termination of these programs were for real, they might be more telling at a time for hard decisions. But in fact, his claims are mostly a charade. In order to allow presently enrolled students to complete their degrees, only $182,431 in reductions would be realized in the first two years. The balance of the $1,374,818 would come from leaving 25 presently vacant faculty positions unfilled across the broad expanse of the Arts and Sciences Department—the very sort of across-the-board reductions that Petersen is seeking to avoid.

Even when the ASP programs are eliminated in subsequent years, the net savings to the university wouldn’t amount to much. According to Schwarz, annual tuitions paid by ASP students totaling nearly $1.6 million exceed the claimed savings.

Interim Chancellor Jan Simek contends, “The tuition issue is disingenuous because all students pay tuitions, and the tuitions fund the whole operation, not specific departments.” However, the ASP program is virtually self-contained; its 114 undergraduates and 111 graduate students take almost all of their courses and get their clinical training in the program and wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. Moreover, university bean counters claim that $2 million of the $11.5 million budget cut will come from tuition derived from increased student retention rates and enrollment, which is to say they count tuition revenues when it serves their purposes and disregard them when it doesn’t.

The workings of the department and the clinics are intertwined. About half of the department’s 25 faculty members are primarily engaged in running the clinics and supervising the graduate students who staff them as an important part of their training. “Keeping the clinics without the department would be like keeping a chemistry lab without any chemists,” says Schwarz.

The cruelest cut of all is the deprivation that loss of the ASP programs would mean for East Tennesseans with hearing and speech impairments. The program’s graduates staff hospitals, stroke-rehabilitation centers, and school systems in meeting the requirements of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Ironically, the proposed cuts come just as the state Legislature has enacted what’s known as Claire’s Law, which requires hearing-loss screening for every newborn in the state. This promises to add to one of the audiology clinic’s most important roles, which is fitting infants with hearing aids and also counseling their parents and otherwise nurturing their development.

Simek says he would like to see the ASP program continued—just not as part of UT-Knoxville. And it may well be that the program could find a better and more valued home under the aegis of the university’s Health Science Center. But it certainly needs to be sustained one way or another.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Showdown Over A Shutdown

Note: I have the author's permission to publish this wonderful and well written article here. This was in the July 15, 2008 edition of the ASHA Leader, the national publication of ASHA (American Speech-Hearing-Language Association) which has 130,000 members according to the website. I continue to stay busy advocating for this issue and am doing all I can to support this department. . . .

Showdown Over A Shutdown

Advocacy Gains Delay of CSD Program Closure at University of Tennessee

cite as: Moore, M. (2008, July 15). Showdown Over A Shutdown.
The ASHA Leader, 13(9), 1, 7.

by Marat Moore

Faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology (ASP) at the University of Tennessee (UT) galvanized community support to oppose a sudden threat to the department's survival and have—at least temporarily—succeeded.

On June 2, with no warning, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences informed department chair Ilsa Schwarz that the entire department—and the university's Speech and Hearing Center and its four associated community clinics—were targeted for closure as part of Gov. Phil Bredesen's 2009 state budget cuts.

"It was a complete shock," said Schwarz, who oversees the largest audiology and speech-language pathology program in the state, with 225 undergraduate and graduate students and 41 faculty and staff. The department awards six degrees—BAs in audiology and speech pathology, MAs in speech-language pathology and audiology, the AuD in audiology, and a PhD in speech and hearing science. The employment rates for master's, AuD, and PhD graduates continues to be 100%.

Closing UT's program would deepen the existing crisis of clinical and doctoral shortages in Knoxville, a city of 180,000—plus 26,000 UT students—and the region, Schwarz said. The department contracts with nine public school districts, and its network of clinics serves more than 2,000 clients each year from more than two dozen counties in East Tennessee and surrounding states.

"If this goes through, we will have less supply to meet the growing demand for speech-language pathology and audiology services," she said.

Overall the university faces $11.1 million in cuts, with nearly $1.4 million coming from the College of Arts and Sciences, which includes the ASP department. ASP is the biggest program on the university's chopping block; also targeted for closure are a dance program and a small graduate business program.

The university proposed a gradual phase-out of the ASP department. Tenured faculty would be retained and reassigned. Non-tenured faculty and staff would be allowed to work two more years, and the program would close in four years. Students who are entering or currently enrolled would be allowed to complete their studies before the program closes in four years.

"Our primary student concern is that, although the university has committed to seeing everyone through the program, they have not addressed the need to retain our accreditation, and the phase-out does not take into account the number of courses that need to be taught in years three and four," Schwarz said.

"The university also has not considered the need to keep our clinics open with a diverse client base past the second year," she said. "AuD students entering this year will be particularly disadvantaged because they will need an active clinic in their third year to get the hours in specific clinical areas."

Rationale and Rebuttal

Bruce Bursten, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences—the largest college on the Knoxville campus—proposed the closure of the ASP program. In a statement he gave three reasons: ASP's lack of impact on other programs and majors; UT's desire to preserve "regional strategic alliances" with entities such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and the state's three other CSD programs (Memphis, Nashville, and Johnson City). These programs, however, have stated that they are unable to accommodate all the UT program's students and likely could not expand to meet the future deficit created by the UT closure.

The Council of Academic Programs in Communication Science and Disorders (CAPCSD), in a June 8 letter to Gov. Breseden, the UT president, chancellor, Board of Trustees, and Dean Bursten, offered compelling reasons to preserve the program:

  • Audiology and speech-language pathology are listed on every regional and national list of critical workforce needs. A critical shortage also exists of research scientists.
  • CSD programs sit "at the intersection of the social, behavioral and physical sciences" and can be found in schools of education, allied health, health and human performance, and arts and sciences.
  • The services provided by the speech and hearing clinics enable many clients to maintain employment and success in schools and workplaces—and save millions in state costs. UT scientists also contribute to the region in the areas of health and wellness research.

ASHA President Kate Gottfred also wrote to UT leaders in support of the ASP program, and noted that UT offers the only specialty training in aural rehabilitation in the state.

"The department is a referral source for many physicians and public schools in the region and its closure would create gaps in the quality and quantity of service," Gottfred said.

Grassroots Momentum

After the initial shock, the ASP department rallied. Organizers sent out a quick broadcast e-mail, and current and former clients, physicians, school districts, parents, local merchants, civic leaders, and alumni in the Knoxville area joined forces with faculty, students, and staff to speak up about the value of audiology and speech-language pathology services and training.

Parents wrote checks to support the effort and started online blogs. Students who had just graduated showed up to volunteer and spread the word about the growing controversy through Facebook and other social media outlets. An undergraduate's petition gathered 500 names.

Supporters began a Web site as an information clearinghouse. Letters poured in to UT's Board of Trustees, the chancellor, dean, and university president from physicians, current and former clients, school districts, hospital CEOs, and others to document the negative impact of shutting down the program.

"I am amazed at the number of people—who I had never heard of or known—who have come forward to support the department," said James Thelin, an assistant professor of audiology with 18 years' experience in the ASP program.

"The school districts were very worried about the impact on their workforce," Schwarz added. "Cochlear-implant surgeons were concerned that they would lose our aural rehabilitation services and mapping resources. I think the university grossly underestimated the impact of this move."

Local media ran frequent stories about the controversy, and letters to the editor and op-ed articles appeared almost daily. Students played a key role in energizing the community and getting the word out.

"The biggest student concern was our professors. We can't expect them to remain at UT and not pursue other job options while we finish our degrees," said Erin Carini, president of UT's chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association and a second-year master's student in speech-language pathology.

Carini and other students, who have been interviewed by news outlets, painted the huge "rock" that acts as a campus message board and organized events like a "Chalk Walk," in which chalk messages are drawn in heavy traffic areas. "We believe that if we can educate people about who we are and what we do, the facts will speak for themselves," she said.

A Stay of Execution

On June 17 the UT president announced that the decision on "strategic cuts" will be delayed until October.

"We're relieved, but we know the battle isn't over," Schwarz said. "We will use this much-needed time to get our facts to the public and demonstrate our financial efficiency and value to the state. And we encourage our supporters to keep up their contacts with decision-makers at the university."

Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader and a Tennessee native, can be reached at

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Please visit this website often to read updates and important information regarding the proposed shutdown of the UT Audiology and Speech Pathology program. (I have also provided a link in my sidebar on your right.)

SAVE UT Audiology & Speech Pathology Program

I am working hard on this issue and have made some wonderful contacts. And will continue to do so. I am passionate (along with many others) about saving this department and am doing all I can to help. The public outcry has been phenomenal and we hope it continues. What is interesting is that this department is being closed for economic reasons. But it will have a negative effect for many patients, students, professionals, and others in the community. It will also cause irreparable damage for the University and would not result in any long term savings. It will also affect their long standing reputation that they have in East Tennessee regarding the Arts and Sciences program. In fact, this department made a PROFIT of over $635,000 last year after all expenses, etc!!! I truly believe that it is possible that there is a way to compromise and have the result end in a win-win solution for everyone involved.

The UT Board of Trustees have postponed their decision until October while they can gather more information and get more facts. They will meet again on October 23rd and 24th. I and other supporters would really appreciate it if you would contact the UT Board of Trustees Office at 719 Andy Holt Tower, Knoxville, TN 37996. You may also write an email to the University's Secretary, Lisa Hertz at She will forward any emails and letters to the UT President and Board of Trustee members.