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Fort Wayne Residents Formulate Drinks To Nourish People Who Have Trouble Swallowing

Through an immersive learning course at Ball State University, seniors Julia Waters and Abigail Pranger of Fort Wayne are working to develop thickened beverages to help people who have difficulty swallowing.

The goal of the class is to find the best recipes for thickened liquids to help people with the condition called dysphagia get nutrition and not risk inhaling food or drink. The students’ work is in collaboration with their community partners, Meridian Health Pediatrics of Muncie and St. Vincent Hospital of Indianapolis.

“We have been mixing liquids with different thickeners,” said Waters, a graduate of Concordia Lutheran High School. Then students use a standard international drip test and an instrument that measures a liquid’s density “to determine if the recipe is mixing to the desired thickness. …
Our goal is to pinpoint inconsistencies and create consistent recipes for speech-language pathologists to use to treat dysphagia.”

Led by Mary Ewing, a clinical lecturer of speech pathology and audiology, 16 students are using various stirring methods and recipes while collecting data that they will present at the end of the semester. The students are gaining hands-on experience while obtaining essential knowledge.

“I think this opportunity has truly equipped us to become better speech-language pathologists,” said Pranger, also a graduate of Concordia Lutheran. “This is a more serious area of our future careers that can be intimidating because these thickened liquids are mandatory for some individuals, and this class has really put us ahead in terms of knowledge and experience.”

Pranger and Waters are both studying speech pathology with a minor in autism spectrum disorders. Pranger aspires to become a speech-language pathologist working with individuals on the autism spectrum in an applied behavioral analysis setting.

Waters plans to get her master’s degree at Ball State and eventually hopes to work in a hospital or outpatient clinical setting with people who have had a stroke or traumatic brain injuries.

“Ball State has empowered me to learn and grow throughout my time here,” Waters said. “I have been given many opportunities to learn in a hands-on way through immersive experiences like this course, and the professors and faculty here have prepared me to succeed as I move on to the next step of graduate school and in my future career.”

About Ball State
Founded in 1918 and located in Muncie, Ball State is one of Indiana’s signature universities and an economic driver for the state. Ball State’s nearly 22,000 students come from all over Indiana, the nation, and the world, and its 780-acre campus is large enough to accommodate premier facilities and 19 NCAA Division I sports but small enough to ensure the friendliness, personal attention, and access that are the hallmarks of the university.