Janice C. Light, Ph.D

photo of Janice Light

The Hintz Family Endowed Chair in Children's Communicative Competence

Contact Information

401H Ford Building
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park PA 16802


(fax) 814-863-3759





Ph.D., University of Toronto, 1990

Research Interests

My research is focused on improving communication outcomes and enhancing quality of life for individuals who have significant speech and language impairments and require augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) (e.g., signs, communication boards, voice output assistive technologies). Specifically, I am involved in a series of multidisciplinary collaborative research projects designed to:

  1. Enhance language development for beginning communicators who require AAC
  2. Improve literacy outcomes with individuals who require AAC
  3. Enhance the communicative competence of people who require AAC
  4. Improve employment outcomes for people who require AAC
  5. Improve the design of AAC technologies for individuals with significant speech and motor impairments

Examples of Collaborative Projects

Improving AAC technologies for beginning communicators with significant disabilities, Improving literacy outcomes for individuals who require AAC, and Enhancing employment outcomes for individuals who use AAC. (J. Light, Principal Investigator; D. McNaughton and K. Drager, Co-Investigators). These three research projects are funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) and the AAC-RERC II: The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Communication Enhancement (2003–2008). The AAC-RERC II is a virtual multicenter collaborative research center. The mission of the AAC-RERC is to improve outcomes for people who require AAC across the life span. For further information, visit the AAC-RERC Web site.

Partnerships in AAC: A graduate training program for special education teachers and speech-language pathologists to improve services and results for children from diverse backgrounds who use augmentative and alternative communication. (J. Light, Principal Investigator; D. McNaughton, K. Drager, B. Roberts, and K. Wilson, Co-Investigators). This project is designed to address the urgent need for qualified professionals who have expertise in the delivery of high quality AAC services within the school system to children who require AAC and their families. The project is a multidisciplinary grant involving collaborations between speech-language pathologists and special education teachers. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (2003–2008).

Personalized multimodal interface platform for people with severe communication disabilities. (R. Sharma, Principal Investigator; J. Light, D. McNaughton, K. Drager, Co-Investigators). This project investigates techniques to use computer vision software to recognize the movements (e.g., gestures, head movements, vocalizations) of individuals with disabilities and to use these movement patterns to control assistive technologies to improve access to communication. Funded by the Life Sciences Greenhouse of Pennsylvania (LSGPA), 2004-2005.

Enabling personalized multimodal access for people with severe communication/motor disabilities. (R. Sharma, Principal Investigator; J. Light, D. McNaughton, Co-Investigators). This project will develop, implement, and evaluate a personalized multimodal recognition system to improve access to assistive technology for people with significant speech and motor impairments. The proposed system will use multiple sensors to capture head movements, hand movements, vocalizations, and so forth, as well as adaptive software control to permit the user to use the system from a variety of positions. Adaptive software will allow the system to "learn" the user's specific behavior patterns and motions, filtering out involuntary gestures and sounds. The project is funded by the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the U.S. Department of Commerce (2004–2007).

Selected Publications

Holyfield, C., Drager, K., Light, J., & Caron, J.G. (in press). Typical toddlers’ participation in “just in time” programming of vocabulary for visual scene display AAC apps on mobile technology. American Journal of Speech Language Pathology

Therrien, M. & Light, J. (in press). Teaching communicative turn-taking using the iPad to support social interaction for children who use AAC. Augmentative and Alternative Communication. doi: 10.1080/07434618.2016.1205133.

Caron, J. & Light, J. (2016/ early online). “Social media is a way of communication”: A preliminary study of adolescents and young adults with cerebral palsy who use augmentative and alternative communication and social media. International Journal of Speech Language Pathology doi: 10.3109/17549507.2016.1143970

Caron, J., Light, J., & Drager, K. (2016). Operational demands of AAC mobile technology applications on programming vocabulary and engagement during professional and child interactions. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 32, 12-24.

Caron, J. & Light, J. (2016). “Social media has opened a world of ‘open communication:’” Experiences of adults with cerebral palsy who use augmentative and alternative communication and social media. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 32, 25-40.

Benedek-Wood, E., McNaughton, D., & Light, J. (2016). Instruction in letter sound correspondences for children with autism spectrum disorder and limited speech. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 36, 43-54.

Sennott, S., Light, J., & McNaughton, D. (2016). AAC modeling intervention research review. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 41,101-115. doi: 10.1177/1540796916638822

Therrien, M., Light, J., & Pope, L. (2016). Systematic review of the effects of interventions to promote peer interactions for children who use aided AAC. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 32, 81-93. doi: 10.3109/07434618.2016.1146331

Caron, J. & Light, J. (2015). “My world has expanded even though I'm stuck at home”: Experiences of individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis who use augmentative and alternative communication and social media. American Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 24, 680-695.

McNaughton, D. & Light, J. (2015). What we write about when we write about AAC: The past 30 years of research and future directions. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 31, 261-270.

Courses Taught

CSD 451 Introduction to Augmentative and Alternative Communication

CSD 462 Clinical Bases of Language Disorders

CSD 497C Transdisciplinary Experience with People Who Use Augmentative Communication

CSD 500 Research Methods in Communication Disorders

CSD 547 Language Disorders in Children

CSD 550 Doctoral Seminar in Grant Writing

CSD 551 Assessment and Intervention in Augmentative and Alternative Communication

CSD 597A Special Topics in AAC: Research and Clinical Issues

CSD 597B Lab on Augmentative and Alternative Communication Technology

CSD 597C Perspectives of Consumers Who Use AAC and their Families

CSD 597D AAC Research and Clinical Issues

Strategic Themes

  • Populations of Special Interest