New research empowers Ferdinand nativeApril 16, 2019
By LEANN BURKE
MUNCIE — Ferdinand native Sydney Lange got a confidence boost from a research project at Ball State University this semester.
The college senior and daughter of David and Joan Lange is studying speech pathology, and completed a semester-long research project that worked to develop beverages for people with dysphagia, or trouble swallowing. Although not the most well-known part of speech pathology, treating dysphagia is part of the field. It’s also the part of the field Lange was most nervous about.
“Swallowing therapy is the only part of speech pathology that could really hurt someone,” Lange said. “You are the person standing between them being able to eat food and maybe being on tube feed.”
Lange figures she was nervous about dysphagia therapy simply because she hasn’t studied it much yet. Swallowing therapy is typically covered in the speech pathology master’s program, which Lange will start after she graduates this spring. She plans to continue studying at Ball State.
Through the research project, however, Lange realized she could handle swallowing therapy. For the project, Lange’s team partnered with Meridian Health Pediatrics of Muncie and St. Vincent Hospital of Indianapolis to develop thickened liquids that follow the International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative (IDDSI) thickness standards. The IDDSI standards and the test that measures them are fairly new, Lange said.
“The reality is we’re doing research that hasn’t been done before,” she said.
To create the liquids, Lange and her team used baby formula and baby cereals to make liquids of different thicknesses. They tested the thickness using the IDDSI flow test, a process that uses a 10-milliliter syringe and a drip test that quickly tells liquid thickness. Before the IDDSI test was developed, swallowing therapists used viscometers to measure liquid thickness. The costly machines take 23 minutes to measure the thickness of a cup of liquid. Although effective, viscometers aren’t practical for patients to use in their homes.
Lange’s goal in the research was to create liquids that matched the thickness of the substances used in swallowing tests and to measure those liquids using the IDDSI flow test that patients can use at home.
“We know they can handle this thickness, so what can they eat at home?” Lange said.
Although the work was tedious, Lange said, it was rewarding to know that the two hospitals her team collaborated with would benefit from the work. And it solidified her knowledge that she’s on the right career path.
“It helped me see that this is work I can do to further my field now,” Lange said. “I don’t need 15 years of experience to do it.”
Still, Lange doesn’t see herself working in a lab after she completes her masters program. Her plan right now is to work in schools. But, she admits, that plan could change.
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