News

Creuz recognized by her alma mater

Judith A. Creuz, Instructor of Audiology, received the 2015 Salus University Alumni Association’s Special Recognition Award. The honor, awarded only when merited, highlights Creuz’s contributions to her alma mater and the profession of audiology.

Student passes comprehensive exam

Congratulations to Jennifer Davis who passed her comprehensive exams. Jennifer is a doctoral candidate at Penn State University studying autism spectrum disorders (ASD), child language development, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), and family systems. The goal of her research is to improve the communication interventions and quality of life for military families with children with special needs, especially those with ASD. Her candidacy study examined the therapeutic experiences of military families with children with ASD by interviewing 15 military spouses of active duty service members. Results from this study indicated military families with children with ASD experience barriers and supports related to relocation, deployment, Tricare (the military insurance), and military programs. Her comprehensive examination study triangulated the findings of her previous investigation by surveying approximately 300 military spouses with children with special needs, including ASD. Although the data are still being analyzed, preliminary results suggest military families with children with ASD have significant challenges related to the access, availability, quality, and frequency of ASD interventions. Throughout her doctoral program, she has been involved in research projects investigating friendship in children with ASD and their parents, determining effectiveness of AAC interventions for children with ASD, and training pre-service speech-language pathologists (SLPs). She was also a member of the Graduate Student Council for the College of Human Health and Development in 2014–2015 and will serve as the council’s president for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Student successfully defends candidacy

Congratulations to Beth Breakstone who successfully passed her candidacy exam. Beth took on a very ambitious project conducting a systematic review of the research to investigate the effects of interventions that involve parent responsivity training on the language and communication of young children with developmental disabilities. She did a superb job tracking down relevant studies, coding them, analyzing the results, and considering implications for theory and practice. Her paper definitely has the potential to make a significant contribution to advancing understanding and improving outcomes for children with complex communication needs.

Student successfully defends candidacy

Congratulations to Julia Birmingham who successfully defended her candidacy exam. Julia designed, implemented, and analyzed the results of a fascinating study that investigated the perspectives of school teams’ on Augmentative and Alternative Communication assessment of students with complex communication needs. Her results showed that the teams were primarily concerned with challenges related to working on teams and communicating with families. Her study has very important future implications for the field, both pre-service training and future research. Specifically her results suggest that pre-service training programs should educate SLPs on collaborative teaming so that they are prepared to work within multidisciplinary teams with families. Her results also suggest a need not just for evidence-based research, but also for practice-based evidence – that is, research that focuses on real world intervention in schools/homes. This study will definitely make an important contribution to the field.

Student passes comprehensive exam

Congratulations to Holly Koegler, who passed her comprehensive exams. The committee was quite impressed with the ambitious, interdisciplinary nature of her project, “Motor planning across domains: Relationships between speech and object manipulation in children.” Her paper makes a valuable contribution to an under-studies topic – relations between manual and speech motor control.

Student passes comprehensive exam

Congratulations to Jessica Caron who passed her comprehensive exams with flying colors! Jessica designed and executed a very interesting study that will serve to advance our understanding and improve outcomes for beginning communicators with complex communication needs who require Augmentative and Alternative Communication. She did an excellent job integrating research and theory from a variety of domains; her paper will make a significant contribution to the field.

Student awarded graduate fellowship

Congratulations to Molly Lichtenwalner who has been awarded a John W. White Graduate Fellowship. The purpose of this fellowship will be to recognize and support outstanding graduate students enrolled or planning to enroll in any graduate degree program. Consideration for this fellowship is given to all full-time senior students exhibiting academic excellence and graduating with “highest distinction” who have been admitted to The Pennsylvania State University or another university as candidates for a graduate degree no later than the beginning of the next academic year.

Student wins endowment

Jennifer Davis, Ph.D. candidate in Communication Sciences and Disorders, has been awarded a Kligman Graduate Fellowship Endowment. Established by Drs. Albert and Lorraine Kligman, the Kligman Graduate Fellowship Endowment provides funds for outstanding and truly exceptional graduate students from the College of Health and Human Development that enable fellows to focus exclusively on their own research and education.

In receiving this honor, Ms. Davis joins a prestigious and select group of researchers and scientists throughout the nation and around the world who have benefitted from the funding since the endowment's establishment in 1998. Competition for this honor is extremely significant.

Ms. Davis received her Bachelor's degree at Michigan State University and then completed her master's degree in CSD at Penn State. She decided to pursue her doctoral degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders with her major adviser, Dr. Erinn Finke.

The Kligman Fellowship award not only recognizes the important research she is conducting, her superior scholarship, her unlimited promise/potential but also the overall impact her scholarly research will have on our discipline.

CSD Student Marshal

Congratulations to Molly Lichtenwalner, a Schreyer Scholar, who has been selected as the Student Marshal for the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Dr. Krista Wilkinson will serve as the Faculty Marshal.

Student awards

Congratulations to Lindsay Butler-Trump, graduate student in Communication Sciences and Disorders, who has been awarded a 2015 M. G. Whiting Student Indigenous Knowledge Research Award to support her research on Yucatec Maya. Lindsay works with speakers of Yucatec Maya in Mexico to investigate what different languages can tell us about the human ability to acquire and process language. She will use this information to develop ways to teach language skills to people with communication differences.

Congratulations to Nicole Radlow, undergraduate student in Communication Sciences and Disorders, who has received the Edith Chace Award. The award recognizes an outstanding student leader and scholar in the College of Health and Human Development.

Congratulations to Nicole Broderick, Emily Curtin, Margaret Featherstone, Jacqueline Katsev, Stephanie May, and Jalyn Taylor who have been selected to participate in the 2015–2016 class of the Women’s Leadership Initiative. The Women’s Leadership Initiative was conceptualized and is supported by alumnae of the College of Health and Human Development and women leaders throughout the nation. The Women’s Leadership Initiative will provide opportunities for emerging women leaders to develop the core values, attitudes and competencies that are the foundation of quality leadership. Participants will emerge from the initiative with an enhanced knowledge of their own leadership capacity, an ability to identify and develop the leadership capacity of others, an understanding of the key dimensions of leadership in diverse cultures and contexts, and expanded networks with alumnae leaders.

Health and Human Development recognizes teaching excellence in CSD

The College of Health and Human Development (HHD) values excellence in teaching. Through a review of Student Rating of Teaching Effectiveness scores, student comments and input from others in HHD, the Teaching Excellence Award recognizes some of our best faculty for their hard work and dedication to undergraduate teaching and learning. Read more.

Student successfully defends dissertation

Congratulations to Nimisha Muttiah, who successfully defended her dissertation on Thursday, December 11, 2014. Her project, titled "Evaluating an AAC Training for Special Education Teachers Based in a Low-Resource Developing Country," demonstrated the power of a group training with special educators in Sri Lanka to change the types of communication opportunities they present to children with significant communication disabilities. After the teacher training, the children took more communication turns and were more active communicators. This study is a significant contribution to the literature on AAC partner training and service delivery in developing countries, and indeed in many environments around the world.

Sandberg receives grant to further brain injury research

Chaleece Sandberg

Chaleece Sandberg

Chaleece Sandberg, assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders, received the 2014 New Century Scholars Research Grant from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation to further her research in language therapy for people who have suffered brain injuries.

Sandberg, who joined Penn State in August after completing her dissertation at Boston University, intends to use the $10,000 grant to compare healthy adults' brain activity to that of persons with aphasia.

Aphasia is the result of a brain injury that impacts a person's language skills, both verbal and written, similar to the damage former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords suffered due to a gunshot wound. Afterward, Giffords had to relearn how to speak with the assistance of speech pathologists.

Sandberg's research goal is to create a baseline of brain activity using typical adult brains and then compare that baseline to changes in brain activity in persons with aphasia who underwent a 10-week treatment program to improve their language skills. She suspects that the healthy volunteers will show little change in their brains over 10 weeks, and hopes the contrast will better show how the treatment promotes brain changes in persons with aphasia.

"By comparing brain changes that occur in patients after treatment to brain changes that normally occur over time, we are better able to pinpoint the changes that are important for language rehabilitation, giving us a sort of biomarker for successful treatment," Sandberg said. "Our end goal is to use this information to develop more effective and more efficient language therapy." Read more about the research.

Studies underway to help children, adults overcome communications obstacles

Earlier this year Penn State’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) was awarded a grant by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to enhance communication and improve outcomes for children and adults who rely on augmentative and alternative communication. In collaboration with Oregon Health and Science University, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, and InvoTek, the grant will be used for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (RERC on AAC). Throughout the next few years, the funds will fuel a variety of research projects both on University Park’s campus and across the country.

Now, seven of the research and development projects are underway.

Oct. 1 was the kickoff for these projects, Light explained, and while they all have been initiated, researchers are in the very beginning stages.

“We have five years of work (ahead),” she said.

The first of the projects, Light explained, examines brain computer interface, and focuses primarily on individuals who have minimal movement, whether from a brain stem stroke or ALS. The goal of this particular project, which is being led by Melanie Fried-Oken at Oregon Health and Science University, is to develop improved ways for these individuals to access and control computers to talk, work and conduct other activities.

Essentially, brain computer interfaces function by placing electrodes on the user’s head, and letting the brain response guide and control the computer.

“That kind of technology is in early development stages, but it offers exciting possibilities for individuals who are ‘locked in’ and are unable to communicate” Light said.

Read more about the research projects CSD is conducting, in collaboration with other health systems, as part of the grant for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (RERC on AAC) from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

CSD receives grant to improve quality of life for those with unique communication needs

Penn State's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), in collaboration with Oregon Health and Science University, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and InvoTek, has been awarded a grant for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (RERC on AAC) from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

The grant, which provides approximately $5 million of funding over a five-year period, consists of four components: research, development, training and dissemination, said principal investigator Janice Light, who holds the Hintz Family Endowed Chair in Children’s Communicative Competence. David McNaughton, professor of special education, will lead the training and dissemination activities.

“We were the only Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center funded on Rehabilitation Strategies, Techniques and Interventions,” Light said. “We are really excited about the research, development, training and dissemination activities that we have planned and the new collaborations that we will be building, both in house at Penn State with the College of Engineering and the College of Information Sciences and Technology, as well as nationwide with other leading research centers. This is an incredible opportunity to advance the field and improve outcomes for children and adults with the most complex communication needs.”

Read more about the grant for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

Group recognizes professor for work on House bill

Ingrid Blood advocated for Medicare coverage of telehealth services provided by audiologists, speech-language pathologists

Ingrid Blood, professor of communication sciences and disorders (CSD) at Penn State, has been recognized by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Political Action (ASHA) Committee for her advocacy on the Telehealth Bill.

ASHA's Federal and Political Affairs department organizes meetings with members of Congress and their staffs for special interest groups and committee members visiting the national office while they are in the greater Washington, D.C., area. The purpose is for ASHA members to lobby on behalf of ASHA's legislative priorities and to build relationships with those offices. Blood, who visited in June, advocated for Medicare coverage of telehealth services provided by audiologists and speech-language pathologists.

Recently, Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) introduced the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2014 (H.R. 5380) which would allow audiologists and speech-language pathologists to get reimbursed by Medicare for providing telehealth services to beneficiaries. ASHA staff were informed by Congressional staff that Blood's advocacy on the subject is why the piece was added to the legislation. Read more about Ingrid Blood's advocacy on the Telehealth Bill.

CSD Team Poster Award Recipients

Congratulations to Jennifer Thistle, Ji Young Na, CSD Professor Krista Wilkinson, Lisa Catanoso, Rebecca Keyes, Hilary Lee, and Melissa Wenzel for their award winning poster submission. The team submitted a poster titled “Preferential Attention Patterns to Humans vs. Animals: Implications for Photograph-Based AAC Displays” which was designated a Meritorious Poster Submission for the 2014 ASHA Convention to be held in November. The Meritorious Poster Submission recognition is for proposals judged by the Convention Program Committee to show extraordinary, exceptional, and innovative work. Each Topic Committee has the option of recommending one or two top-rated posters for this special distinction. The committee received 1611 total poster submissions in 2014, and only 55 were selected for meritorious recognition. This poster is among those posters that received the highest ratings from Topic Committee reviewers across both submission categories of professional education and research.

New Laboratory Facilities

A sound-attenuated booth has been installed in the basement of Ford Building. The booth will house equipment for electroencephalography (EEG) and auditory evoked potentials (AEP), allowing researchers and clinicians to measure brain responses to sounds and other stimuli. EEG and AEP methods provide insight into the brain activity underlying speech, language, and hearing processes. For more information, please contact Dr. Carol Miller.

The Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic helps people face communication challenges

Trip. Fall. Crash. Smash.

When Terri Foster's face slammed into the dresser at the nursing home where she worked, her life changed forever. The blow injured the frontal lobe of her brain, leaving her forgetful, depressed and barely able to communicate.

A year later, Foster still could not function. She lost her job as a nurse's aide, she was unable to do simple chores at home and her stuttering prevented her from having meaningful conversations. Her family suffered too. Her husband mourned the loss of the woman he had married, and her 10-year-old son couldn't understand why his mom never wanted to get out of bed.

Foster knew she needed help, but she wasn't getting it from doctors. It wasn't until she began therapy at the Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic within the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders that she truly began to heal.

According to Gordon Blood, professor and head of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, the clinic provides assessments and interventions for people with delays or disorders in hearing, language, fluency, voice, articulation and phonology, including those with severe speech impairments requiring augmentative and alternative communication. Such communication impairments, he said, may result from developmental delays, congenital disabilities such as mental retardation, hearing impairment, autism, cerebral palsy or acquired disabilities such as traumatic brain injury, strokes or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The clinic also provides an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to get hands-on experience as well as a laboratory for faculty members to conduct research.

Read more about the Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic.

ASH Foundation New Century Doctoral Scholarship Awarded

Congratulations to CSD Ph.D. candidate Jessica Caron who has been awarded an American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation New Century Doctoral Scholarship. The awards are competitive awards provided to outstanding students in research doctoral programs who are committed to pursuing teacher-investigator careers in communication sciences and disorders.

Students Pass Candidacy Exams

Congratulations to Jessica Caron and Michelle Therrien who have both passed their candidacy exams. Jessica conducted three studies to advance the understanding of the role of social media to enhance communication f or individuals who require Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Michelle studied conducted a systematic review of the research on peer interaction for children who use aided AAC, considered implications for practice and determined suggested directions for future research.

Department News from Penn State News

The goal of the off-campus externship for graduate students in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is to immerse students in daily routines that allow them the opportunity to work with highly skilled professionals in the field.


In an effort to create a speech intervention program for patients with dysarthria secondary to ALS and other neurological conditions, communication sciences and disorders assistant professor Jimin Lee is using a rare instrument to analyze patients’ speech disorders.


A facilitator of new support groups for people with dementia and their caregivers is seeking potential participants from State College and surrounding areas as well as a co-facilitator for the caregiver support group.


Ten students will represent the College of Health and Human Development as student marshals during at the May 9, 2015, commencement ceremony at Penn State.


A common frustration among many parents is wondering how to get their kids to ‘disconnect’ from devices—computers, phones, and gaming consoles—in order to maintain healthy lifestyles and develop meaningful relationships. In the case of parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), however, Penn State researchers have found that parents actually embrace their child’s use of video games.


Penn State's College of Health and Human Development Alumni Society recently recognized several faculty members, staff members and students for their accomplishments.


Penn State's College of Health and Human Development Alumni Society presented eight students with the Alumni Recognition for Student Excellence Award during an awards luncheon Friday, April 24.


Nicole M. Etter, one of the newest researchers and faculty members at the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the College of Health and Human Development, is continuing her research in the area of speech disorders at Penn State.


For one day, Introduction to Audiology students wear an earplug in their dominant ear, which is the same as their dominant writing hand, and then document their experiences. Students are encouraged to wear the earplug on a day with activities, such as classes, dinner with friends and extracurricular activities.


Anne Marie “Kitty” Kubat, one of the newest faculty members of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State, will spearhead support groups for adults with dementia and their caregivers.