Rockhurst Partners With Neighboring Catholic Schools to Provide Speech-Language ServicesDecember 2, 2013

Rockhurst student Anna Sullivan, '15, provides speech-language services to nine-year-old Chloe Covell at St. Elizabeth's Catholic School.


Rockhurst University has collaborated with local St. Peter’s and St. Elizabeth’s Catholic schools to bring graduate students within the University’s communication sciences and disorders program together with elementary school students in need of speech-language services.

“We saw a need for this type of program,” said Katherine Ermgodts, interim department chairwoman of communication sciences and disorders. “It provides a unique educational opportunity for our graduate students while also providing effective services within the Catholic school community – a win-win situation for all involved."

The program launched in 2012 at St. Peter’s Catholic School, adding St. Elizabeth’s as a second site in 2013. At that time, they brought on Laura (Rittel) Dwerlkotte, ’07, to assist with supervision and coordination at both sites. Six to eight graduate students provide weekly therapy services and conduct screenings and speech-language evaluations throughout the year.   

Parents are grateful their children have an opportunity to obtain these services during regular school hours.

“My children were always tired and less attentive at after-school sessions,” said Lisa Anielak, parent of one of the children at St. Elizabeth’s. “The program with Rockhurst has been a great improvement because the therapy takes place during the school day when my children are more ready and willing to learn. The weekly sessions with the same graduate student provide consistency, and the goals and homework give me an understanding of expectations and methods.”

Anielak is also pleased with the cost.

“Fees are far less than private speech therapy sessions, and the location is incredibly convenient because no extra driving is required,” she said. “Rockhurst even offers a summer session to keep progress going all year.”

And, most importantly, the partnership is producing results.

“My son has been taking part in the program for a year now, and I have seen growth in his social skills and language skills,” said Nina Troester, another parent of a student at St. Elizabeth’s School. “I have found the staff to be welcoming with questions and concerns, and they have helped me personalize my son’s therapy so that he can get the most out of his sessions. It really is a perfect match.”

In addition to the collaborations with St. Elizabeth’s and St. Peter’s, students within Rockhurst’s communication sciences and disorders program perform nearly 1,000 speech, language or hearing screenings each semester to other charter or Catholic schools in the community. 

"To me, the best part is getting to work one-on-one with students, focus on their individual goals and see their progress week to week," said Anna Sullivan, '15, who works with students in kindergarten through eighth grade. "I graduated from St. Elizabeth's in 2005, so it's great to give back to a place that is so close to my heart."

To learn more about communication sciences and disorders at Rockhurst, visit

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