Krista Wilkinson, Ph.D.

photo of Krista Wilkinson


Contact Information

404H Ford Building
Pennsylvania State University
University Park PA 16802


(fax) 814-863-3759


Ph.D., Georgia State University, 1993

Research Interests

Dr. Wilkinson studies early communication and language in learners with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Her main interests include vocabulary learning as well as the use of visual supports in communication and education. Dr. Wilkinson serves as associate editor for American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology and Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

Examples of Collaborative Projects

Interdisciplinary exploration of visual-perceptual processes in the design of aided AAC symbol displays (Principal Investigator; co-investigator: Michael Carlin; program project PI: William J. McIlvane). Run in collaboration with the Shriver Center of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, this project seeks to initiate study of the application of visual cognitive neuroscience to applied communication outcomes. We examine how basic perceptual cues (such as color or shape) may be exploited to guide attention to certain aspects of a visual communication aid, potentially facilitating use of the aid for communication and learning. This project makes use of both behavioral measures (speed and accuracy of search) as well as measures of learners’ observation of the display through eye-tracking technology. The project has received funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development as well as the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation.

Vocabulary expansion in severe mental retardation (Principal Investigator). In this project, early vocabulary learning processes are examined from the perspective of typical language learners as well as learners with intellectual disabilities who find learning words challenging. Various aspects of rapid word learning have been explored, from learning that occurs after a single exposure to the ways in which learning can be applied to acquisition of multiple words. One goal is to develop a set of evidence-based practices for the instruction of new vocabulary, for learners who use visual communication aids (AAC systems). This project was funded through the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Status and gender influences on perceptions of young women with intellectual disability (Principal Investigator; co-investigators: Marianne Schmid Mast and Nora Murphy). This project examines the role of adherence to gender-typical communication patterns in influencing perceptions of young women who have intellectual disabilities. In collaboration with colleagues in Social Psychology, we examine whether perceptions of young women varies depending on how strongly they demonstrate communication patterns stereotypically associated with women. This project was funded through the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Selected Publications

Wilkinson, K. M., & Snell, J. (in press). Facilitating children’s ability to distinguish symbols for emotions: The effects of background color cues and spatial arrangement of symbols on accuracy and speed of search. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.

Wilkinson, K. M., & Light, J. (in press). Observation of humans in naturalistic visual scenes: Implications for the design of symbols and displays for use in aided AAC interventions.  Journal of Speech-Language-Hearing Research (Language).

Mackay, H., Wilkinson, K. M., & Farrell, C., & Serna, R. (2011). Evaluating merger and intersection of equivalence classes with one member in common. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 96, 87-105.

McFadd, E., & Wilkinson, K. M. (2010). Qualitative analysis of decision making by clinicians during design of aided visual displays. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 26, 136-147.

Wilkinson, K. M., & Coombs, B. (2010). Preliminary exploration of the effect of background color on the speed and accuracy of search for an aided symbol target by typically developing preschoolers.  Early Childhood Services; Special Issue on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 4, 33-47.

Haimson, B., Wilkinson, K. M., Rosenquist, C., Ouimet, C., & McIlvane, W. J. (2009). Electrophysiological correlates of stimulus equivalence processes. The Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 92, 245-256.

Wilkinson, K. M., & Hennig, S. (2009). Consideration of cognitive, attentional, and motivational demands in the construction of aided AAC systems. In G. Soto & C. Zangari (Eds.), Practically Speaking: Language, Literacy, and Academic Development for Students with Special Needs (pp. 313-334). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Wilkinson, K. M., Rosenquist, C., & McIlvane, W. J. (2009). Exclusion learning and emergent symbolic category formation in individuals with severe language impairments and intellectual disabilities. The Psychological Record, 59, 187-206.

Wilkinson, K. M., & Reichle, J. (2009). The role of aided AAC in replacing unconventional communicative acts with more conventional ones. In P. Mirenda, T. Iacono, & J. Light (Eds.), Autism spectrum disorders and AAC (chapter 13). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Thistle, J., & Wilkinson, K. M. (2009). The effects of color cues on typically developing preschoolers’ speed of locating a target line drawing: Implications for AAC display design. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 18, 231-240.

Courses Taught

CSD 547 Language Disorders in Children

Strategic Themes

  • Human Development
  • Populations of Special Interest