Communication Disorders is an interesting field in which to work, explains Dr. Sara Meilijson, Chair of Hadassah Academic College’s (HAC) Communication Disorders department, because it allows you to work with different populations, from birth to seniors, with different conditions, from children with developmental disorders to elderly citizens experiencing hearing loss or following a stroke.

As such, future professionals must be well-prepared. At HAC, students experience a rigorous curriculum that includes coursework in various main fields of study including hearing sciences, language and speech sciences, health sciences, social and behavioral sciences, research, clinical education in audiology, and clinical education in language and speech pathology. In addition, students must complete 1,000 clinical hours during the course of the 3½-year program. Once these requirements are satisfied, graduates are eligible to take the Ministry of Health professional licensure exam that allows them to work as a speech-language pathologist or audiologist.

Clinical hours may be satisfied in one of three programs: 1. The Claire and Emanuel G. Rosenblatt Clinic offers a range of assessment services for language disabilities, pediatric language delays, and speech and language disorders. 2. HAC’s Audiology/ENT (ear, nose, and throat) Clinic works in collaboration with the Hadassah Medical Center’s Audiology/ ENT department, where students assist with administering hearing tests, hearing evaluations, and rehabilitation services. 3. The Adler Aphasia Center is a unique program that supports individuals with aphasia whose ability to access words has been impacted following a stroke.

The Center works in collaboration with other HAC departments such as Photographic Communication in order to teach members new skills of self-expression. “Our program is very demanding,” Meilijson notes, as only the top 50 applicants out of more than 250 are accepted to study each year. Despite the rigor, there is a waiting list, in part because of the growing demand for qualified speech and language clinicians and the expanding job market in the field. “Our graduates are doing well, easily getting jobs.”

Last year, the program graduated its first Ethiopian and Bedouin students. As with other disciplines at HAC, multiculturalism and multilingual issues play a large role in a clinician’s daily practice in a society as diverse as Israel. It also takes a holistic approach with multiple courses in psychology so students learn how to interact with all types of people. As an example, new immigrants often encounter issues such as when parents express concern about their child’s difficulty with Hebrew while understanding their native language. This means clinicians must know how to assess bilingual clients.

“This is a complex profession so the program is complex,” Meilijson comments. “Students must be prepared to work in different areas—medical or educational or in private practice. They might be an audiologist and work in a hospital, HMO, or in schools for children with special needs. Or they may work with adults to provide voice therapy, or to address disfluency, stuttering, or aphasia. Working with seniors often involves hearing deterioration or swallowing issues.”