Making Speech-Language Services Accessible for All Children

by Judy Goodman

Opened with an official ribbon-cutting on May 26, 2022, in The Hub community resource center in North St. Louis City, the Walker Scottish Rite Clinic has a new collaborative site for City residents in need of care.

An outreach of the Maryville University-based headquarters, this satellite location at The Hub features a speech therapy room and observation area, as well as a private waiting room. Staffed by certified speech therapists from Maryville University’s Walker Scottish Rite Clinic, all families are welcomed to receive services at no charge regardless of financial situation or insurance.

“This setting provides evaluations and direct therapy in an accessible location for children within the St. Louis Promise Zone,” said Jacob Gutshall, MHS, CCC-SLP, director of the Walker Scottish Rite Clinic. “Families who live in and around the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood now have more opportunities for care.”

The key to effective speech therapy for children aged two to six is early professional intervention. Speech and language development are challenging cognitive skills that set a course for success with peers, in school and in life.

“We want the best possible outcome for every child,” Gutshall said. “Parents and caregivers are essential partners in the communication process, which underscores the significance of reducing barriers and increasing family involvement.”

After a comprehensive assessment, the speech therapist works with a child using personalized play therapy techniques to improve communication based on the type of speech or language disorder. In addition to providing reassurance and modeling, the therapist engages parents and caregivers by demonstrating specific home practice strategies.

The creation of The Hub, where maternal health, banking, legal and social services are also provided, is the result of a visionary leader. Pastor Andre Alexander, president, Tabernacle Community Development Corporation is making things happen for the betterment of the community and our region. More than $1.2 million was invested to transform the old Farragut Elementary Branch School, at 3000 East Prairie Avenue, into this community resource center. The space also features an auditorium, community room and classrooms for community events.

The mission of Tabernacle Community Development Corporation is to assist communities by building people. The objective is to help eliminate poverty as well as social exclusion by improving the social, educational and economic infrastructure which will lead to self-sufficiency.

“We have a passion to see people live in places they call home and where they have hope. This is anchored through equity and accessibility, in areas such as healthcare, affordable housing, learning tools for youth development and job opportunities,” Alexander said. “The Walker Scottish Rite Clinic is a welcome addition to The Hub because it brings needed services while helping people feel part of the process.”

The Walker Scottish Rite Clinic for Childhood Language Disorders of St. Louis, Inc. first opened as a nonprofit in 1988 at 3633 Lindell Blvd. in the City of St Louis. In addition to its home base at Maryville University since 2015, the Walker Clinic expands its reputation as a leading service provider through regional outreach efforts.

“After 34 years in Grand Center we are we are grateful to the Scottish Rite Masons for providing a nurturing environment for thousands of children to reach their communication potential within the walls of the beautiful Scottish Rite Cathedral. We are pleased to have this new collaborative opportunity to serve families who were previously unable to access our care,” Gutshall said.

Since the pandemic started and patients could not be seen in person, a multitude of fun virtual “tricks and tools” have been developed by therapists from around the country for families to practice at home. Gutshall and his team at the Walker Clinic have taken a national leadership role in bringing together professionals to share innovative strategies in a clinic or virtually.

Thank you to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and KMOV for your coverage of this good news!

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