State impact: Speech-language pathology graduate’s training program inspires legislative change

A lot of the research that occurs within universities remains confined to the domain of academic specialists. Sometimes, however, through design, serendipity and a combination of the two, investigations carried out at universities break through to the wider public sphere and have a measurable social impact.

From university project to state legislation

In winter 2019, speech-language pathology master’s student Natalie Mayberry (MS ’19) developed and delivered a training program aimed at expanding police officers’ understanding of acquired communication disorders and strategies for interacting with people experiencing these issues. At the time, several media outlets reported on Mayberry’s pilot project, helping to expand public awareness of her work and the problem she was endeavoring to address.

As a result of that media attention, Shelley Kelley – a volunteer coordinator for Apraxia Kids and the mother of a son with apraxia – heard about Mayberry’s work. (Apraxia is a motor speech disorder that makes it difficult for children to speak.)

“When I saw the Channel 6 story about Natalie’s research and training program,” Kelley said, “I immediately recognized the potential benefit for people with communication disorders as well as law enforcement personnel.”

Natalie Mayberry at the 2019 American Speech-Language Hearing Association convention
Natalie Mayberry (MS ’19) at the 2019 American Speech-Language Hearing Association convention

Kelley took inspiration from Mayberry’s work, which spurred her on to research legislative changes passed in Ohio and to advocate with her local state representatives in Oklahoma to add similar language pertaining to communication disorders to proposed legislation. “The timing of Natalie’s research and training program was perfect,” noted Kelley. “I was able to leverage her work in my discussions with Oklahoma representatives and senators, and the result was the inclusion of the words ‘apraxia or other communication disorders’ to House Bill 2516.” Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the bill into law on May 9, 2019, and it went into effect on Nov. 1, 2019.

For a more detailed look at the need for law enforcement training in communication disorders and the place of Mayberry’s work within the journey to the final draft of House Bill 2516, read Kelley’s post on the Apraxia Kids site.

Further knowledge-sharing

Since first going public with her project and findings, Mayberry has continued to make revisions to the training program, including the production of professionally filmed videos. Mayberry is enhancing the program with an eye on delivering it to more law enforcement groups as well as on gaining certification for it from the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET). In another fortunate twist to this tale of connections and influences, Kelley’s husband, who is a police officer and a CLEET instructor, is now helping Mayberry gain that certification.

Assistant Professor Laura Wilson and Natalie Mayberry at the 2019 American Speech-Language Hearing Association convention
Assistant Professor Laura Wilson and Natalie Mayberry (MS ’19)

Mayberry is also sharing her work with the speech-language pathology scholarly and professional community. Most recently, in late November Mayberry and her former supervisor, Assistant Professor Laura Wilson, co-presented on the program at the annual American Speech-Language Hearing Association convention in Orlando, FL.


If you want to prepare to evaluate, treat and conduct research with persons with communication and swallowing disorders, consider The University of Tulsa’s master of science in speech-language pathology. We have one of the best speech-language pathology graduate programs in the United States, with our graduates achieving excellent Praxis exam pass rates and 100% employment.