The University of British Columbia will be educating more speech-language therapists, thanks to a boost in provincial funding.
The number of first-year slots for a Master’s of Science in Speech-Language Pathology will grow from 23 to 36 – a 56 per cent increase – by 2016, an expansion intended to help the one in 10 people in British Columbia who have a speech or language disorder.
The expansion of the program is expected to increase the number of speech-language therapists in northern and rural B.C., where there is currently a shortage of such specialists. The average wait time in B.C. for infants or children to be assessed by a health authority-based speech-language therapist is four to eight months.
UBC’s speech-language pathology program, which is part of the Faculty of Medicine, is the only one in the province and one of only two in western Canada.
The government of B.C. is providing $2.475 million in one-time funding, and another $932,000 in annual operating funds.
“Most of us take the ability to communicate for granted, but for the thousands of British Columbians who have problems with speech, language or swallowing, speech therapists provide a bridge to the rest of the world,” said Amrik Virk, Minister of Advanced Education. “Adding 13 spaces to the training program at UBC will help meet growing demand for qualified speech-language pathologists.”
Speech-language pathologists diagnose and help treat a variety of disorders, including:
- Articulation problems (omitting, substituting or distorting speech sounds)
- Voice problems (loudness, pitch, hoarseness)
- Language delays and disorders, including difficulty expressing and comprehending in oral and non-verbal contexts
- Swallowing and feeding disorders, sometimes resulting from neurological impairments or traumatic brain injury.
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BACKGROUND | Speech-language pathology at UBC
Quote from Dr. Gavin Stuart, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and UBC’s Vice Provost Health: “This funding addresses the province’s urgent need for professionals with the skills and experience to diagnose communications disorders, provide treatment, and collaborate with educators, health-care providers, social workers, families and caregivers. UBC is eager to expand its capacity to respond to this very pressing public need.”
High demand for seats: Each year, the speech-language pathology program receives about 150 applications for the 23 currently available seats.
Road to a degree: Students complete the program in 21 to 36 months, depending on their undergraduate preparation and the students’ choice of graduating requirements. The program involves graduate courses, five clinical externships in community settings and a final thesis, project or comprehensive exam.
Employment prospects: Graduates primarily work for B.C.’s school systems and health authorities, although many also work in non-governmental organizations and in private practice.