Baylor University Gives Life-changing Therapy to Youths with Language Disorders

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July 1, 2011

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More than 80 young people, participants in an extensive four-week therapy program at Baylor University to improve their language and reading skills, received recognition in a completion celebration July 1 at Lee Lockwood Scottish Rite Library and Museum.

The students attended Camp Success, a free summer intensive language and reading program supported by the Waco Scottish Rite philanthropic fraternity and staffed by faculty and students in Baylor University's department of communication sciences and disorders. The department is ranked by Newsweek magazine as among the top 50 programs in the country in speech-language pathology, and the camp has a waiting list of more than 250, said Dr. Michaela Ritter, associate chair of the department of communication sciences and disorders.

Department faculty, as well as community speech pathologists, worked alongside graduate and undergraduate students to provide evaluation, therapy and post-testing for students ages 5 to 17. Without therapy, the young people are at risk of educational failure because of language disorders which affect vocabulary, word relationships, sentence structure and sound structure.

"Language is so important to reading comprehension and writing," Ritter said.

"We used research-based treatment, and within a week of therapy and individual instruction, many of the young people are totally changed," Ritter said. Baylor students who work with the youths are "totally shocked" by the progress, she said.

The campers receive 50 hours of one-on-one therapy in four weeks, which is equivalent to a full year's worth of therapy in some school districts, Ritter said. Such therapy normally would cost a client $7,500 to $10,000.

Children who attend the camp are delighted as they trace their progress. In one post-therapy session, a group played a take-off on Wheel of Fortune, answering questions to win points as other students applauded.

At the graduation, Scottish Rite presented Camp Success with an $89,650 check, used to hire additional faculty from the community for the camp, therapy materials for language and reading, books and T-shirts for the children, Ritter said.

The program began in 2003 with 24 children. Since then, "Scottish Rite has given more than half a million dollars for Camp Success, and it's very much appreciated," Ritter said. "We're thrilled they have confidence in this and are working hard to raise money to support this intensive language and literacy program."

With the completion of this year's camp, "580-plus young people have come through the program," said Claude Ervin, Waco Scottish Rite chairman, and originator of the idea for the camp. "I'm just as excited about the 275 graduate students through the years that we have exposed to the methodology. It's been a good ride, and those are very significant accomplishments.

"It's tragic to be stamped as dumb" because of language disorders, he said. "I truly believe reading is the bridge to the world, and it impacts you socially and academically."

Dr. Lee Nordt, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Baylor, said that "10 years ago, Camp Success was a good idea. Today, it's a great idea."

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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