Karen Duerk '05

Karen Duerk, MA, CCC-SLP, graduated with a BA from SLHS at CU–Boulder in 2002. To sharpen her skills, she took one year off to be an SLPA in Adams 12 school district, returning to CU-Boulder and graduating in 2005 with her MA-SLP.

Karen shared memories from her experience at SLHS.  “My most passionate interest was preschool/early intervention. I didn’t really have a topic of specific interest, but mostly leaned toward AAC intervention. After graduation the specific disorder I knew I did NOT want to work with was autism, which is just interesting as you will see later, that is my current passion! Funny how things change! I am now currently VERY passionate about intervention for children specifically with autism, early intervention, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), and parent/staff training."

"My change of view around working with children who are on the spectrum came during my clinical fellowship year at Children’s Hospital of Colorado. I co-treated with many amazing occupational therapists who taught me more about the disorder and treatment incorporating sensory aspects into therapy. My interest was piqued, and I have delved more into this area ever since."

"Also, thanks to SLHS faculty Tracy Kovach and Susan Moore, and Jill Tullman of Tullman and Associates, I have continued to gain expertise in the field of AAC. Their initial support of my interest has allowed me to become more competent in the field. I use AAC strategies daily with my students and have stayed connected to Children’s Hospital of Colorado by working PRN as the educational coordinator for the Talking With Technology Camp. I am pleased to say I can now support students interested in AAC gain more experience by being a part of this great program." Karen's gratitude for this course resulted in her writing a letter of gratitude for her AAC course, which was signed by her and fellow classmates. 

Karen filled us in on her current work, “I work for the private, non-profit school The Joshua School in Denver, CO. Please visit the website www.joshuaschool.org . We host events for fundraising, but also for building community and awareness of autism spectrum disorders. In the fall we have a Harvest Festival, winter we have an Open House, spring we have our Spring Event Gala. Our school provides trainings to anyone interested and there is more information on the website.”

Karen reminisced about the benefits of making friends with fellow classmates during her studies, “Socially, I met some of my best girlfriends from my grad school days at CU. There was a group of 6 of us; Bonnie, Kim, Katie, Meredith, Kristin. They remain my best friends to this day. We have attended and been bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. The ones who are still local in the Denver/Boulder area continue to do monthly “girls” dinners. At CU, we shared MANY great memories together in study groups and letting loose on the town when we weren’t studying. Kristin Willey is a member of the Cheery Creek School District Assistive Technology Team. In 2011/2012, she organized the ARRA ECE Assistive Technology project for 67 preschool classrooms in the district (4 Child Find teams). She has provided ongoing staff training and development related to AT software and implementation in the classroom.”

When she isn't full on with her exceptional work as an SLP, Karen can be found “enjoy[ing] time with my friends doing any of the following: being outdoors in any capacity (golfing, skiing, hiking, swimming, biking, etc.), going to dinner, listening to live music, and playing Super Mario Bros.”

Karen's future goals include “supporting and developing a parent training program at my school, continuing to present at conferences and getting involved in research in the field of AAC and ASD. Of course I want to do all this while continuing to work with preschoolers with autism.”


Congratulations on your success Karen, you make us proud to be a fellow alum!