Stony Brook Southampton adds speech pathology program unique to Suffolk County

Stony Brook University Southampton celebrated the expansion of facilities for its speech-language pathology program with a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Friday. The program — introduced in 2020 and the first of its kind in Suffolk County — is designed to meet rising demand for professionals in the field. 

Speech-language pathologists treat people of all ages, “assessing and treating speech, language, cognition disorders [and] swallowing disorders,” said Dr. Renee Fabus, the program’s founder and chair. They might work in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation centers, public and private schools and university clinics, among other places. 

“There’s a shortage of speech-language pathologists,” Dr. Fabus said, pointing out that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field will experience job growth of 21% through 2024. 

She said graduates of the program will help meet the need for bilingual providers to serve a growing population of Spanish-speakers on Long Island. Census data from 2020 has indicated that 6.4% of households in Southold speak Spanish at home. That number rises to 12.5% in Riverhead. Census data similarly indicates that 22.8% of households in Suffolk County speak a language other than English. 

More speech-language pathologists are also needed to meet the demands of an aging population. According to census data, 23.6% of Riverhead Town residents are 65 and older. That number rises to 31.9% in Southold Town. 

“A lot of the geriatric population may have difficulty communicating after a stroke, a neuromuscular disease such as ALS, Parkinson’s disease, or they may have difficulty or deficits in their swallowing as these neuromuscular diseases progress,” Dr. Fabus said. She emphasized that students in the program work “in teams and [work] together in collaborative practice to optimize patient health care and increased person-centered care.”

The new facilities at Stony Brook University Southampton include classrooms, a control room, simulation training and video-conferencing capacities. The two-year program encompasses speech, fluency, receptive and expressive language skills, cognition, development and reading and writing at all ages. 

The department will graduate its inaugural class in May 2022.