The Youngerman Center for Communication Disorders, founded by Dr. Henry C. Youngerman had a rather modest beginning utilizing the radio studios in Fenton Hall. Dr. Youngerman saw the tremendous potential of the emerging professions of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology diagnosis and rehabilitation after his appointment to the Fredonia faculty in September, 1953. He realized that individuals with communicative disorders were unable to receive services at local schools and hospitals.
In 1955 the Youngerman Center for Communication Disorders became the first functioning regional center in New York State serving the five counties in Western New York. Another interesting fact is that Dr. Robert Grenell and Dr. Ralph Goldner of the Department of Psychology served as advisors for clinical tests, as it was Dr. Youngerman’s belief that the nature of any professional training had to be field based. He foresaw that the academic program at Fredonia certainly would grow, but required an additional clinical component. And so in the summer of 1955, as a part of the Department of Speech Education, Dr. Youngerman organized the Speech and Hearing Clinic. The clinic was held during the summer of 1956; and then, when the following fall semester began, clinical services were provided on a full-time year round basis.
The first clinic facilities were located in Fenton Hall until a roof problem occurred. The clinic was moved briefly to the third floor of Old Main, and then returned to Fenton Hall. In 1956, the academic offices and clinic were relocated again to the basement of Old Main, but this time two offices and clinic facilities were specifically designated to provide outpatient services. The “Old Main” building on Temple Street was the original Fredonia Normal School. In later years, it housed the Speech and Hearing Department, as well as the Education Department. The clinic services stayed at that location until 1973 upon the opening of Thompson Hall. Dr. Youngerman was instrumental in designing the clinic in Thompson Hall with its individual therapy rooms, large therapy classroom, waiting room, offices and observation facilities. The clinic was named “The Youngerman Center for Communication Disorders” in 1983.
In those early days, the clinic provided both on campus services in the Fenton Hall radio studios and off campus at the various schools and hospitals across WNY. Dr. Youngerman would take his team of students to schools in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara Counties. The student clinicians would provide screenings to the school population followed by a report to the administration regarding the number and type of speech/language or hearing problems and the need for services.
Among the disorders treated at the clinic were articulation disorders, voice disorders, stuttering, cleft palate, hearing loss, the speech of children with cerebral palsy, and other neurological deficits. The Rubella epidemic created a sudden increase in the incidence of deafness and hearing impairments among children. Dr. Youngerman realized that there was a need for services for deaf and hearing impaired children. Integrated classes were organized and conducted, becoming the first classes of their kind in WNY and the cornerstone of the college clinic. They set the standard by providing classes for children three years of age to high school level. The classes integrated children diagnosed with profound deafness or hearing impairment and normal hearing children with speech-language delays. Services included support programs for parents that provided information to parents and helped to coordinate services. One graduate of the program wrote the following for the 50th anniversary of the center in 2005:
"My brothers, sister and I are hearing challenged. During the fifties and early sixties, there was little understanding or knowledge regarding children with disabilities. This must have been a trying period for both of our parents, Susan and Esau. My mother wanted us to attend public school rather than a special school for the hearing impaired. Dr. Henry Youngerman provided my parents with the support and belief that we could succeed in the public school. Dr. Youngerman made in possible for us to be mainstreamed and attend public school. I feel fortunate that I was given the opportunity to know Dr. Youngerman. The community is very fortunate to have his dreams, passion and commitment continue through the work being done at the Youngerman Center."
Over the past 55 years, the Youngerman Center for Communication Disorders has expanded its services by developing many relationships with community and state agencies and establishing state-of-the-art instrumentation laboratories for the evaluation and treatment of communication and hearing disorders. Development and refinement of the center’s services to the campus and community continues with the same commitment and dedication that was exemplified by its founder, Dr. Henry C. Youngerman.
Written by SUNY Fredonia Emeritus Faculty, Department of Communication Disorders/Sciences:
Robert A. Manzella, Emeritus Professor and former Chairperson