Assistant professor receives certification in child language


Dr. Katie Squires, an assistant professor in Central Michigan University's Speech-Language Pathology program, became one of 75 specialists in the nation and the only specialist working in Michigan to receive certification in child language.

Katie Squires, an assistant professor in Central Michigan University's Speech-Language Pathology program, became one of 75 specialists in the nation and the only specialist working in Michigan to receive certification in child language.

Squires received the certification from the American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders, a subset of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.

The certified specialist teaches typical language development and language disorders courses in her fourth year working at Central Michigan University. Moreover, she is a passionate advocate and educator for dyslexia, serving on the Michigan board for the International Dyslexia Association.

Central Michigan Life talked to Squires about her recent certification, her reason for becoming a speech pathologist and the difference between teaching kindergarteners and college students.

CM LIFE: What does the certification mean?

SQUIRES: It means that I’ve gone through this rigorous process and that if you have a child that needs language (therapy), you can be assured that I know what I’m doing and that you’re going to get the best care possible.

Why speech pathology? Why did you choose that?

I started as an elementary teacher, and I taught elementary school for 12 years. I taught everything from preschool, kindergarten, third grade and then sixth, seventh and eighth grade language arts. Most of my time was spent (teaching) kindergarten. I absolutely loved it. 

I won awards for kindergarten teaching, and it was my jam, but I have a child who has a speech disorder. In the process of getting him help I realized it really takes a special person to be able to work with this population, and quite frankly where we were living (in Northwest Indiana), there weren’t a lot of people who could help him. 

I went back to school. I had started getting a masters in reading because it was really an interest of mine, but because of my son’s diagnosis of apraxia of speech, I changed my masters to speech pathology. Ironically, I ended up specializing in dyslexia in my doctoral program after discovering my son had comorbid conditions of apraxia and dyslexia. My Ph.D. in Disabilities Disciplines, specializing in literacy, combines my backgrounds nicely in education and speech-language pathology.

Tell me a little about the certification process. How did you apply? What were the requirements?

I applied over a year ago, and the requirements — besides the application fee — is putting together a portfolio of all your experiences and examples of expertise in the area. You need to have over 100 continuing education hours at the intermediate or advanced levels in child language, so you have to document all the seminars you attended. 

You have to have at least five years’ experience working with kids that have language or literacy needs. You have to write about your theory of typical language acquisition and atypical language disorders and why those things happen, and then you have to submit supporting documentation — like lectures or assignments from class — that show you’re asking students to reflect on their position about language acquisition. I had to submit journal articles I’ve written, presentations I’ve given and then it’s all reviewed by a board. They vote on it, they tell you whether you have this special certification. It’s good for five years and during that time I have to continue taking courses in that area, attending seminars and working with kids, just to keep it current.

What’s the difference in going from teaching kindergarteners to college students?

It was kind of eye opening. When kindergarteners come to school, you’re getting them when they’re completely wet behind the ears, and they don’t know what’s going on. 

Sometimes I have freshmen taking my 300-level class, and I have to remind myself they’re still wet behind the ears. Sometimes I assume they know how to respond when I say, “Well, there’s going to be a discussion board on Blackboard.” But some of them have no idea how to get to the discussion board, and I have to remind myself “Oh, it’s kind of like in kindergarten." I have to teach them all of those prerequisite things. I can’t just assume, because it’s a 300-level class, everybody in there is a junior. A lot of them come in as freshman, especially with dual enrollment. They have taken so many classes as a high school student that when they come (to the university), they’re ready for those 300-level classes, but it’s their first time here on campus. 

Are you still learning, even though you’re a professor?

Yes. (I am a) lifetime learner; and I think that’s what’s really cool about it is you never get stagnant. You’re always learning new things, finding different applications, keeping up on the latest research, and this certification really forces you to do that. 

I think sometimes professors think “I’m done” and then they’re teaching for 20 years, but (some of them) haven’t kept up on the research during that time and they haven’t kept up on the latest trends. This really forces you to do that.