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DePaul School Celebrates 115 Years of Innovation



Dr. Ruth G. Auld
Dr. Ruth G. Auld

DePaul School for Hearing & Speech is celebrating their 115th anniversary this September, a milestone for any organization. To honor this celebration and to learn more about DePaul, we talked to Dr. Ruth G. Auld, Executive Director, about the history, mission and programming at DePaul. Dr. Auld has served as the Director for the past 12 years.


North Hills Monthly (NHM): Can you provide our readers with a bit of history about DePaul?


Dr. Ruth G. Auld (Auld): DePaul School was founded in 1908 by the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. They recognized that children who are deaf, or have significant sensory loss are disenfranchised from the broader community. Over 100 years ago, the children were marginalized and not included in schooling opportunities. As changes have occurred in the educational landscape, DePaul has adapted and modified our programs to address current student needs. At one point, a couple of the Sisters traveled to Belgium to learn the most current techniques for teaching students who are deaf/blind. Two decades later, as public schools began to develop robust technical programs and well-designed sports programs, we determined that our students would benefit tremendously from being in their neighborhood schools where they could participate in these programs. This is why our programs end at eighth grade now.



At DePaul, we have used listening and spoken language methodology to teach children. Long before there were devices that provided access to sound, the Sisters were helping children feel vibrations in their vocal cords and learning to create meaningful sounds, so they could talk with their family members. Today’s technology opens up whole new realms of opportunity for them.


NHM: What makes DePaul unique?


Auld: DePaul School is the only school in the tri-state area that offers intensive educational programs to teach children who are deaf how to speak. We are also one of only two programs in the country who have programs that go beyond kindergarten. The other is in St. Louis, MO. Children who are late identified, or have a progressive hearing loss, as well as those who have additional learning needs, often relocate to Pittsburgh to attend our unique programs. Every child at DePaul School receives intensive one-on-one speech therapy five days per week.



Our students leave us to enter their neighborhood schools where they are often entering at or above grade level. Many of our students go on to participate in school chorus, class plays and band as well as many sports and extracurricular opportunities. We see our role as giving these students a solid foundation from which to launch their future selves.


This year, with the support of a grant from Mitsubishi Electric, we are developing a career awareness curriculum for our students that will help them navigate their time in public schools into meaningful career pathways. Deafness is unique and it is a low-incidence—3 in 1000 children are identified as deaf at birth. Given a solid start, we can close the communication barriers and help them to find a great life of independence.


NHM: Who do you serve?


Auld: Children ages 18 months through 15 years of age who have severe hearing loss or deafness, and children who have language impairments, including Childhood Apraxia of Speech and other severe speech production challenges.


NHM: What are the types of programs that you offer?


Auld: We presently offer a center-based toddler program called Little Listeners for babies 18-36 months of age.


We have two preschools, our hearing support preschool and our new SAILL preschool (Speech and Integrated Language of Literacy) offers an intensive speech-focused program for ages 3-5 who have very limited spoken language.


In our upper-level program, we have kindergarten and first through eighth grade serving both children with hearing loss and speech delays. We provide itinerant services in nine area school districts in person in the western PA region, and online across Pennsylvania.


DePaul School also provides virtual music and movement classes for babies, and also into childcare centers who serve children with hearing loss or speech delays.


NHM: What about support services for families?


Auld: When a child is enrolled at DePaul School, the whole family is enrolled. We work closely with families to coach them, guide them and support them in so many meaningful ways as they journey through the early years of their child’s education. Our staff welcome parents to openly discuss their concerns. For many parents beginning this journey, their child’s hearing loss causes much grief. Our staff help parents to find the resources and connections they need to support their child, and to focus not on what is lost, but on what is possible for their child.


NHM: Can you tell us a bit about the “Reach for the Stars” Gala event?


Auld: We are thrilled to be post-Covid and planning for our next Reach for the Stars Gala, our biggest fundraiser of the year. This year’s event is an adult-only event, black tie optional. We are so pleased to be able to gather at East Club Lounge at Acrisure Stadium to celebrate the successes of our students. We invite anyone who is interested in getting more information or sponsoring this event to reach out to Julianne Bartko at jb@depaulhearingandspeech.org.


NHM: For families interested in DePaul, how do they go about learning more?


Auld: We recommend going to our website to learn more about our program at https://www.depaulhearingandspeech.org. We have videos of our students talking, interviews with parents and many stories of success as well as details about all of our programs.

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