In the Limelight: Learning to Adapt Name:Kim Murza, PhD, CCC-SLP Position:Assistant professor, University of Northern Colorado Hometown:Panama City, Fla. Adapting to a new area can always be a challenge, but Kim Murza says her relocation from central Florida to the mountains of Colorado has been reinvigorating for her and her husband and daughter. “We love ... In the Limelight
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In the Limelight  |   April 01, 2014
In the Limelight: Learning to Adapt
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ASHA News & Member Stories / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   April 01, 2014
In the Limelight: Learning to Adapt
The ASHA Leader, April 2014, Vol. 19, 24-25. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.19042014.24
The ASHA Leader, April 2014, Vol. 19, 24-25. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.19042014.24
Name:Kim Murza, PhD, CCC-SLP
Position:Assistant professor, University of Northern Colorado
Hometown:Panama City, Fla.
Adapting to a new area can always be a challenge, but Kim Murza says her relocation from central Florida to the mountains of Colorado has been reinvigorating for her and her husband and daughter.
“We love it here!” says the newly minted PhD, now into her second year as an assistant professor at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “There’s so much to do, so many events and outdoor activities. I’ve tried snowboarding already, but know I’m not good.”
While Murza is finding her (potential) snow legs, she’s also trying to get her research legs. Murza is in her second semester of a burgeoning research project looking for effective ways to teach pragmatic language skills to adults with autism spectrum disorders. The idea, she says, is to determine what approaches are most effective for these clients and then the type of person most likely to benefit from that approach.
The program, called The Pragmatic Language Intervention Program, is the second version of a similar program Murza developed while conducting her dissertation research at the University of Central Florida. Although the first program indicated some promising results, the design wasn’t substantive enough and Murza knew that she needed more participants and further research before reaching any real conclusions. Like its predecessor, the program is designed for adults with high-functioning ASD; Murza and her graduate assistant assess participants for their conversational and social inferencing ability. The idea is to give the participants a functional goal they can use and to “make it valuable in their eyes.”
The challenge, however, is finding participants. Not only is this population inherently lacking some self-awareness (such to the point that they may not even realize they have communication deficits), but there’s also the obstacle of Murza being new to the Colorado area.
“What I really want this to be is a randomized control trial, but what I’m finding is that because of where I live, which is not a large urban area, we really are working solely with who is available from a smaller pool,” Murza says. “It’s hard, because first you have to find them and then you have to get their buy-in.”
But Murza is confident she will settle in and get the resources she needs. Growing up in a Navy family, Murza was taught from a young age how to dig in. The oldest of three kids, she grew up mostly in Panama City, Fla., where her father was stationed. As an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida, she first wanted to study education, but once she started taking some classes, she found that she wasn’t as interested in the subject as she had thought. Through some forgotten happenstance, a friend suggested that she take a communication sciences and disorders class. Bingo, she was hooked—so much that she stayed at UCF for a master’s degree and, ultimately, a doctoral degree.
Along the way she began working with children with ASD and found that she really enjoyed it because “I could see their potential and that I could really make a difference.”
During her doctoral program, she was working on a supported employment grant for adults with ASD and realized that successful employment for this population hinged on their pragmatic language abilities. As such, she refocused her efforts on adults and launched a preliminary study on social skills training for the over-18 crowd. The results, although limited, were encouraging enough for her to apply for a grant to continue her research in Colorado. Now in its second semester, the project has 13 participants and Murza is hoping that the momentum will continue to grow. “It’s such a need for these individuals and there’s no doubt they are out there, but we just have to find them,” she says.
Meanwhile, Murza is settling into her new role as a professor in this small northern Colorado college town. She enjoys working with students and says that the collaborative atmosphere of the faculty has been “phenomenal.” Also astounding, she says, is the snow and the lack of humidity—things she hadn’t experienced much growing up on the Florida Gulf Coast.
“We just got a foot of snow last night! Not sure if I’m going up on a snowboard again yet, but I’ll try again at some point,” she says. “We are so happy I think I could live my whole life here and not see all of Colorado.”
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April 2014
Volume 19, Issue 4