Featured Alumni Profiles

Susan Lederer

BS '79, MA '81, PhD '96, Speech Pathology

In 1979, Susan Lederer received a BS in speech language pathology and audiology at NYU. She continued her graduate work in the same department and received her MA in 1981. When it came time for her doctoral studies, Lederer knew she wanted to remain at NYU, and in 1996 she received a PhD in speech-language pathology. While a doctoral student, Lederer worked as a speech-language pathologist at SteppingStone Day School in Queens, an infant and pre-school program for children with and without disabilities. Since leaving SteppingStone in 1997, Lederer has been a member of the faculty in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Adelphi University on Long Island, New York.

Your research and writing has led you to develop your own programs for children slow to talk. How did these programs – TOTALK, KIDTALK and PREREAD – come about and how do they work?

Soon after I received my PhD, I came to Adelphi and began to develop the programs. I modeled them after "Mommy and Me" or "Gymboree" or any neighborhood program a parent might take their children to, but specialized them for kids who have trouble learning language. TOTALK is a playgroup for children and their caregivers. It incorporates parent training and state-of-the-art research in terms of how to help children begin to talk. KIDTALK is the next step and it's for kids only. In this program I teach parents about multiple intelligences theory so they can focus on their child's strengths and not just on their language-learning problems. PREREAD follows. This group prepares kids for the transition from speech acquisition to reading. I am conducting research with the children in each of these programs, and I am thrilled with the progress each child has made.

When did you know you wanted to go into speech pathology?

I'd started my undergraduate work at SUNY Binghamton in linguistics, not knowing what I would do with the major. One of my professors suggested I visit a nearby rehabilitation center, and I did, observing children who were delayed in learning language. What I saw really intrigued me. I had always been interested in kids, and I'd always imagined myself in education, working with young children. Once I put all these interests together, I looked into NYU's Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and I knew I had to transfer to NYU.

Why NYU?

The department offered a baccalaureate degree program leading to teacher certification (now called Teaching Students with Speech and Language Disorders), which gave people who didn't yet have their master’s a chance to practice immediately in a school setting. I stayed at NYU for my M.A. because there were a number of excellent professors I wanted to study further with, who have since retired. I also really wanted to continue working with Professor Harriet Klein, who had become my mentor. After I received my master’s and was working in the public school system in Dix Hills, New York, I returned to NYU for my doctorate. The department offered me a graduate assistantship to help reinstitute the Speech and Hearing Center on campus under Professor Klein’s directorship. I also taught undergraduate classes. I loved NYU. It was my pleasure and my passion to be a student there.