COE Communication Sciences and Disorders’ 60th Anniversary Alumni Highlight: Catherine Crowley

A photo of Cate Crowley.
 Cate Crowley
A photo of Cate Crowley.

 Cate Crowley

By Rachel Renou, COE Grad Assistant | Published February 15, 2021

YPSILANTI - In 2009 Cate Crowley was living in Santiago, Chile teaching English to adults in different medical and business professions. Just one year prior Crowley, originally from Milford, Michigan, first moved to South America to study abroad in her last year of undergrad. She studied Spanish and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan and decided to continue living in Chile after she graduated, where teaching English would be her priority for years to come.

However, on her first day of class, Crowley met an individual with the title "fonoaudiólogo” (the term for Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) in Chile). Unaware of what SLPs did, she asked him questions in hopes of learning more.

“He answered many questions for me about language development, phonology (which at the time I simply referred to as pronunciation), and I realized then and there that this was what I wanted to study. It was my "light-bulb" moment! This student allowed me to observe him as he worked with adolescents with hearing impairments. It was absolutely amazing and I began to research what an SLP was, and I realized that the field has so much variety and that there was a significant need for SLPs for all ages and all around the world.”

Upon arriving back in the U.S., Crowley was eager to research her options for grad school. Her intentions were to move out of state in search of bilingual SLP programs. Her plans changed when she was told by someone in the Communication Sciences Disorders field that demand for SLPs is so high that receiving a degree in a specifically bilingual SLP program would not be necessary in order to work with bilingual populations.

Crowley wanted to be part of a high quality program that would provide excellent professional development. After looking into programs, Crowley decided on Eastern Michigan’s College of Education Communication Sciences & Disorders Master’s program. This option was best for Crowley because of two reasons.

First, she was excited to not pay for out of state tuition.

Second, EMU’s program did not require an undergraduate degree in Speech Language Pathology or Communication Science Disorders, which is not typical of other grad programs in the U.S.. At the COE, she was able to make up classes needed from undergrad to remediate her understanding while in her master’s program.

Through her education at Eastern, and as she dove deeper into the study of bilingual speech language pathology, a flame was ignited in Crowley. She knew she was in the right field and had many ambitions to help people whose first language is not English.

Specifically, after working with Detroit Public Schools in elementary schools within the Mexican Town neighborhood, and after working for three years in Ypsilanti at the famous Perry Early Learning Center with multicultural and diverse preschool aged children, she had another “ah-ha” moment. Crowley originally wanted to work with adults, but from then on she knew she wanted to work with Spanish speaking children and their families. She hoped to advocate for their rights and help them knock down barriers faced through traditional school systems.

After being in the field now for over five years, Crowley has seen how often bilingual children are recommended for speech therapy by teachers who don’t recognize that the child’s English pronunciations are influenced by their native language or dialect spoken at home and are not the result of a speech impediment.

Additionally, Crowley hopes to help SLPs address bilingual childrens’ lack of access to medical resources and the too common absence of interpreters when talking to non-English speaking parents, both in school and medical settings. Clinicians need to be prepared so that they themselves or interpreters can provide information so that the non-English speaking parents understand the observations being shared about their child and his or her language expressions and experiences.

Also, in her practice Crowley has found many non-English speaking parents rely on turning on English TV shows in order to teach their children English. This is an easy and inexpensive practice but which can lead to the children and adults developing bad TV habits. Too much TV can also produce overexposure to blue light and does not provide sufficient or comprehensive and meaningful language modeling.

Crowley graduated from EMU in 2015 ready to positively impact those around her. In 2019 she found an amazing way to do just that in Las Vegas, Nevada. There is a large bilingual population there. Unfortunately the city and state does not have enough professional providers in the medical field nor at the school level to meet the speech therapy needs of the children.

Crowley’s current workplace, Let’s Talk Therapy, in Las Vegas, Nevada has given her many rich experiences to help bilingual children and their families. She continues to learn about ways to help them navigate their children’s speech-language difficulties and how to work with insurance/medical providers and their schools.

Looking back, Crowley couldn’t be happier she found her purpose and pursued a career that allowed her to serve this community. She is grateful to the student in Chile who introduced her to Speech Language Pathology and for the program at EMU that helped her reach her goals.

About The College of Education at Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, The College of Education (COE) at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) continues to be one of the largest producers of educational personnel in the nation. The COE includes a comprehensive variety of programs at the bachelor, master and doctoral program level. Non-degree and certifications are also offered through the COE as well. The COE includes departments for teacher education, special education, and leadership & counseling. All of the professional education programs offered by EMU’s COE are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and are also approved by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). The graduates the EMU produces are highly desired in the field, due to the strong reputation the COE has earned throughout their many established years. The COE has been recognized for its strong success rate by U.S. News and World Report’s: America’s Best Colleges.