Lehman College’s Speech and Hearing Center’s latest additions are meant to make patients feel like they are at home. The six suites the center unveiled Monday are designed to help children and adults with feeding disorders.
Veronica Henry, a first-semester graduate student who was at a ribbon cutting for the suites, believes both the program and the six newly integrated rooms “support children’s overall development, including social and emotional wellbeing.” Henry said the school’s speech-language pathology program, which is grounded in “social justice and healthy equity,” added the rooms to align with this principle.
“As an African American student, I appreciate the acknowledgment and celebration of my culture and the many cultures that reflect our community,” she said.
Lauren Salley, a second-semester graduate student clinician with the program, likes the way the rooms are prepared.
“What we make space for in a home expresses our values and identities,” Salley said. The home-based simulation rooms are designed with this idea in mind and, according to Salley, “both clients and clinicians say these spaces feel just like home.”
Feeding disorders are determined as avoidant or restrictive food habits. Dr. Leslie Grubler, the director of clinical education and clinical services for the center, gives an example of a child who only eats french fries and refuses anything else. Other habits of those with feeding disorders include not eating certain foods per their texture, flavor, or restricting how much food they eat.
“By creating inclusive therapeutic spaces, our new Pediatric Feeding Suite is a revolutionary upgrade to the clinical practice of speech-language pathology
Dr. Peggy Conner, the speech, language, and hearing sciences department chair, believes that these facilities help students acquire skills rarely seen in graduate education. The rooms “open the door to conversations about the varied traditions and home practices of the community.”
Dr. Conner believes this to be the “next logical step in addressing the needs of the community.” She believes Lehman’s program helps to fill a gap for children in the Bronx as services for “pediatric feeding disorders are typically unavailable to families through public funds unless their child also has other communication or physical challenges.”
The suites have each been given a dedicated theme that intends to welcome families and children in, providing a comfortable space for them to be treated. The six selected themes are based on diverse cultural backgrounds that the school felt would resonate with members of the local community. The official title for the rooms are home-based simulation rooms with each intended to celebrate Hispanic, Asian, African, Caribbean, and native Bronx New York cultures.
Each room consists of a seating arrangement of couches, a small table with chairs, a child’s high chair, and a small selection of toys unique to each chosen culture. Baby dolls of different ethnicities are included in each room among the toys. On the door leading inside, there is a plaque and a map of each room’s chosen land area. The plaque gives background on each culture and the population within. The description ends with an anecdote about the details inside the room, why each is chosen, and how they reflect on the depicted culture.
As the assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Early Intervention, Lidia Ledynak first praises Lehman for its academic partnership with the New York State Department of Health’s Early Intervention Program for the past seven years. The school’s clinic in the Speech and Hearing Center is directly affiliated with the Early Intervention Program as they aim to provide services that help in children’s development.
It is free to families. In order to utilize the center’s services families can call or email to learn if they qualify for a diagnostic session.
Ledynak acknowledges the center provides “quality family-centered services” to the surrounding population. She adds that strong academic programs, such as this one, are key.
Clinic Coordinator Blessly Matthews states that the clinic works around the families, who are asked to bring in a variety of foods to discuss and try. The clinic weighs its success on the willingness of its patients to continue through the progress and attempt new foods and textures. The entire process is meant to help them celebrate (themselves).
“Food is a huge part of who we are and we want every child to be fully comfortable engaging with this aspect of family and community life,” Salley said.