Speeding Progress Complementing the back-to-school focus in this issue of the Leader, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation features grant recipient John Heilmann, whose work exemplifies how research translates into practice for school-based clinicians. As a doctoral student working with Jon Miller at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, John Heilmann was learning to refine best ... ASHA News
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ASHA News  |   September 01, 2015
Speeding Progress
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Development / School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Language Disorders / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   September 01, 2015
Speeding Progress
The ASHA Leader, September 2015, Vol. 20, 64. doi:10.1044/leader.AN11.20092015.64
The ASHA Leader, September 2015, Vol. 20, 64. doi:10.1044/leader.AN11.20092015.64
Complementing the back-to-school focus in this issue of the Leader, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation features grant recipient John Heilmann, whose work exemplifies how research translates into practice for school-based clinicians.
As a doctoral student working with Jon Miller at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, John Heilmann was learning to refine best practices for collecting and analyzing children’s language samples. After graduating, Heilmann accepted a tenure-track faculty position and started developing his own line of research expanding on this work. And meetings with school psychology researchers introduced him to the idea of curriculum-based measurement—developing and testing quick probes for assessing children’s academic achievements.
Heilmann knew that the development of quick and easy assessment probes could complement the comprehensive language sampling that is the gold standard for oral language assessment, allowing clinicians to screen and monitor progress.
The ASHFoundation agreed, and in 2009 awarded Heilmann a New Investigators Research Grant to pursue his work on the development of general outcome measures for children’s oral language.
Heilmann needed to develop a new methodology and new strategies. His training in developing reliable and valid assessments could be adapted into the development of quick probes. He and his team developed several tasks for children to complete, including retelling short stories, describing pictures, and describing complex scenes. He collected data from a group of 4- to 6-year-old children to identify which tasks and measures had the strongest reliability and validity.
Even with his research and successful outcomes, it was the act of applying for the ASHFoundation grant, Heilmann says, that was a “significant part of my professional development. Not only did it allow me to get an important project done—I also learned what makes a fundable idea. The whole process was a great experience. It helped me to develop confidence and move forward.”
ASHFoundation funding also helped support Heilmann’s successful application for tenure—he’s now an associate professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee—and created the opportunity for his current interdisciplinary work with education professionals and educational psychologists.
That work includes the authentic assessment of children experiencing language-learning difficulties—assessment that is needed to accurately identify language impairment and to describe children’s language skills. Heilmann hopes to make language-sample analysis more clinically feasible so that it can be used as part of initial assessment and as a curriculum-based progress-monitoring tool. His work also involves documenting multiple dimensions of language that may be captured using language-sample analysis and using these dimensions to describe subgroups of children with language impairment.
So how does Heilmann assess his own progress at this point? “My research has brought me to a better understanding of the clinical side of what we do,” he says, “and is helping me reach my dream of having an impact on the lives of children.”
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September 2015
Volume 20, Issue 9