for the Gazette
IOWA CITY, IA – Plover’s Karah Kluck is leaving a legacy behind.
Kluck was hired by the Iowa Center for Reading Research, shortly after she began studying at the University of Iowa, to launch a statewide program that provides free assistive technology consultations for families of children with dyslexia and other disabilities. Reading.
Three and a half years later and about to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders, Kluck has worked with more than 100 families from Iowa and beyond to find assistive technology to help with the unique needs of their children.
“Talk about an incredible opportunity,” says Kluck. “I always say that I would not have had the opportunity to do that anywhere else.”
The University of Iowa wasn’t even on Kluck’s radar until his older sister became Hawkeye. But even then, she wasn’t very interested in moving to Iowa.
“He just loved it and was always telling me I should go to Iowa,” says Kluck, who grew up in Plover, Wisconsin. “And I was like, ‘No, I’m never going to Iowa.’ No one from my high school went to Iowa. Growing up, I didn’t even know what the Hawkeyes were.”
But as Kluck learned about his sister’s school and the town, he began to change his mind. The fact that the Iowa Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders has one of the best speech-language pathology programs in the country also helped.
“My mom is a speech-language pathologist, and I felt like that might be a good fit for me,” Kluck says. “I like helping people, and this field is very flexible, with many different ways you can do it.”
Shortly after moving to campus, Kluck attended a student job fair. She was thinking that she could find a job in food service or parking and transportation. But after stopping by the table at the Iowa Reading Research Center and having a conversation with Sean Thompson, the center’s communications specialist, she learned about a new program they were looking to launch.
“His enthusiasm for our work as assistive technology coordinator impressed me,” says Thompson. “When it came time to hire, we knew Karah had the intelligence, maturity, and desire to make an impact on families of children with reading disabilities. Starting out, I would not have thought that we would choose a freshman for this very important position, but after interviewing Karah, it was an easy decision to hire her.”
Kluck was hired as one of two student assistive technology coordinators. She and another student researched and tested dozens of assistive technology options, developed demos, and created brochures explaining the specific features of each technology for families to take home.
“I always think about, what if I hadn’t gone to that job fair?” Kluck says. “I am very grateful that they took a risk with me, because I was very young and did not have a lot of experience. It is very important that families trust me with their information and their children’s stories. Assistive technology can have such a huge impact on students’ academic and social lives, and just overall quality of life, so the fact that it can play a small role in that is very gratifying.”
Now, as the lead student assistive technology coordinator, Kluck is training two students to continue the work she started three years ago.
“Karah is always thinking of ways we can improve, and she doesn’t stay down for long. Just as he was setting it up in March 2020, the pandemic totally derailed the assistive technology consultation service,” says Thompson. “When we were able to return to campus in the fall, Karah helped us put health and safety protocols in place so we could resume in-person appointments. So he had the idea to find a way to make virtual dates. Thanks to his initiative, we now offer in-person and virtual appointments and are able to help families from across the state and beyond who would not have been able to travel to Iowa City. That’s just one of the many ways the service has continually improved, all for the benefit of children and teens and their families.
“The service will continue to grow and help more people. That is quite a legacy to leave behind,” she adds. “I am very proud of everything he has achieved. I can’t wait to see what great things he will do in the future.”
Kluck says her work with assistive technology practices has given her an edge in her profession.
“Making more than 100 assistive technology appointments has absolutely strengthened my ability to communicate with families, talk about their children’s needs, and help them find additional resources,” says Kluck. “This reflects what I will do as a speech-language pathologist during individualized education program meetings. This part-time job on campus has really brought me to a high level of professionalism that sets me up for future success.
“Thanks to this opportunity, more doors will open for me.”
Their work has also had an impact in the classroom.
“I feel like because I have that professional mindset going into the classroom, I’m a little more focused,” Kluck says. “It has helped motivate me to do well in school because all of this will better prepare me for graduate school and my career.”
As an honors student in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Kluck also wrote an honors thesis, which he presented at the Fall Undergraduate Research Festival (FURF). The thesis explores individual differences in reading ability using data collected from a research study conducted by her advisor, Stewart McCauley, assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies.
Kluck hopes to make Iowa his home for a little while longer. He is in the process of applying to graduate school and Iowa is the best fit for him.