Kathryn D. R. Drager, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

photo of Kathryn Drager

Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Contact Information

329 Health and Human Development Building
Pennsylvania State University
University Park PA 16802


(fax) 814-865-3282





Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1999

Research Interests

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for individuals with severe expressive communication disorders, autism, listeners' comprehension of synthetic speech, and assessment and intervention for individuals with severe disabilities or challenging behaviors.

Examples of Collaborative Projects

Designing AAC Systems that Provide Dynamic Shared Interactive Contexts to Support the Communication and Language Development of Children with Complex Communication Needs (Co-investigator with Janice Light, Principal Investigator). The purpose of this project is to investigate the effects of innovative designs for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies that provide a truly dynamic shared context to support communication and language development for children with complex communication needs (e.g., children with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities). This project is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) and the AAC-RERC III: The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Communication Enhancement (2008ˆ2013). 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.

The Penn State AAC Project: Improving Language and Literacy Services and Results for Children with Severe Communication Disabilities Who Require Augmentative and Alternative Communication. (Co-investigator with Janice Light, Principal Investigator and Barb Roberts, Co-investigator). This project is designed to address the urgent need for highly qualified speech language pathologists (SLPs) to provide research-based services in the schools to improve the language and literacy skills and enhance the academic achievement of children with severe disabilities who require Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) /assistive technologies (e.g., children with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, etc). Funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (2008-2012).

Selected Publications

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

Muttiah, N., Drager, K., & O’Connor, L. (2016). Special education in Sri Lanka: A snapshot of three provinces. Disability Studies Quarterly, 36(2).

Caron, Jessica, Janice Light, and Kathryn Drager. "Operational Demands of AAC Mobile Technology Applications on Programming Vocabulary and Engagement During Professional and Child Interactions." Augmentative and Alternative Communication 32.1 (2016): 12-24.

Drager, Kathryn DR, and Christine Holyfield. "Scoping review of interventions for children who require augmentative and alternative communication is limited by focus on randomized controlled trials." Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention (2016): 1-7

Muttiah, Nimisha A., David McNaughton, and Kathryn DR Drager. "Providing instructional support for AAC service delivery in low-and middle-income (LAMI) countries." International journal of speech-language pathology (2015): 1-13.

Tobin, M. C., Drager, K. D., & Richardson, L. F. (2014). A systematic review of social participation for adults with autism spectrum disorders: Support, social functioning, and quality of life. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8(3), 214-229.

Drager, K.D.R., & Finke, E.H. (2012). Intelligibility of children’s speech in digitized speech. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 28, 181-189.

Serpentine, E.C., Tarnai, B., Drager, K.D.R., & Finke, E. (2011). Decision making of parents of children with autism spectrum disorder regarding AAC in Hungary. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 32, 221-231.

Drager, K., Light, J., & McNaughton, D. (2010). Effects of AAC interventions on communication and language for young children with complex communication needs. Journal of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine, 3, 303-310.

Drager, K.D.R., & Reichle, J. (2010). Synthesized speech output and children: A scoping review. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 19, 259-273.

Courses Taught

CSD 597G Communication in Individuals with Autism

CSD 597D Multicultural Foundations of Services for Children Who Use AAC and Their Families

CSD 548 Dysphagia

CSD 451 Introduction to Augmentative and Alternative Communication

PSU 014 First Year Seminar in Communication Sciences and Disorders

Strategic Themes

  • Populations of Special Interest