Joanne P. Smith-Darden, Ph.D., MSW, CCC-SLP
Dr. Joanne Smith-Darden holds degrees in education, speech and language pathology, social work and developmental psychology. She obtained an interdisciplinary doctorate in Social Work and Developmental Psychology at the University of Michigan. She has trained, practiced, consulted and evaluated service delivery in a variety of settings including schools, educational cooperatives serving low-incidence handicaps, non-profit community agencies, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals and the Michigan Bureau of Juvenile Justice. When she joined the Wayne State University School of Social Work in 2009, she became the school’s first assistant professor of research. She teaches graduate level social work courses, is the faculty advisor for two learning communities and is a member of the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute’s Children’s Bridge Child Maltreatment group (a highly skilled group of academics interested in child development and maltreatment). In addition, she holds an adjunct faculty appointment in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan.
Dr. Smith-Darden is an applied researcher and interdisciplinary scholar. Her research examines the interface between early relational maltreatment, attachment and cognitive processing, particularly auditory and language processing. Current work explores the interplay of family contextual risk and children’s self-regulation and auditory processing skills as predictors of academic achievement. She has published articles and abstracts in the field of psychology and social work, and has presented at national and international conferences. She has co-authored several book chapters and has presented at local organizations, including schools, universities and professional associations on topics related to learning disabilities, pervasive developmental disorders, executive functioning skills and the importance of creating a safe therapeutic environment to enhance intervention efficacy. She was and continues to be involved in the training and supervision of social work and speech and language pathology students and interns.
Dr. Smith-Darden has performed assessments on toddlers, children, adolescents and adults, covering a wide variety of developmental and acquired neurological disorders (e.g., pervasive developmental disorders, traumatic brain injuries, speech and language disorders and oral motor disorders, including swallowing). Her assessments focus on providing diagnostic information and include individualized recommendations to optimize each client’s learning strengths and weaknesses. She has participated in and directed hundreds of school meetings (e.g., Student Study Team meetings, IEPs, Section 504 Plan meetings) that help parents, students, teachers and administrators incorporate assessment results to strategize meaningful educational as well as therapeutic objectives for the client.
As the parent of a special needs child and a special educator for over 30 years, Dr. Smith-Darden’s exceptional understanding of diverse special education needs is born from sitting at both sides of the table. Her experience in multiple domains is a valuable asset to the comprehensive service array we provide our clients. In particular, her ability to take the recommendations from our assessments into the educational environment and construct meaningful and helpful goals and plans is invaluable for everyone – client, family and schools alike.