Foundational Questions: A Researcher’s ASHF-Launched Quest for Answers McKay Moore Sohlberg, PhD, CCC-SLP Director, Communication Disorders and Sciences Program, University of Oregon ASHFoundation awards: 2009 New Century Scholars Research Grant, 2014 Clinical Research Grant I conduct research in the development and evaluation of assessment and treatment protocols to assist people with acquired brain injury (ABI) and associated ... Foundational Questions
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Foundational Questions  |   November 01, 2016
Foundational Questions: A Researcher’s ASHF-Launched Quest for Answers
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ASHA News & Member Stories / Foundational Questions
Foundational Questions   |   November 01, 2016
Foundational Questions: A Researcher’s ASHF-Launched Quest for Answers
The ASHA Leader, November 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FQ.21112016.np
The ASHA Leader, November 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FQ.21112016.np
McKay Moore Sohlberg, PhD, CCC-SLP Director, Communication Disorders and Sciences Program, University of Oregon
ASHFoundation awards: 2009 New Century Scholars Research Grant, 2014 Clinical Research Grant
What is the focus of your research?
I conduct research in the development and evaluation of assessment and treatment protocols to assist people with acquired brain injury (ABI) and associated cognitive impairments. With a focus on the post-acute and community reintegration phases of recovery, I am looking at methods and processes to help people with ABI define—and work collaboratively on—achieving personally meaningful goals to improve functioning in school, vocational, home and community contexts.
One strand of this research that has been supported by ASHFoundation funding is to develop assessment and treatment methods to address high-level reading comprehension impairments that prevent people from pursuing (or returning to) post-secondary education or vocational training following brain injury.
A second strand of my research is to develop ecological, patient-centered outcome measures that are reliable and valid for measuring cognitive rehabilitation.
How did your award from the ASHFoundation lead to your current work?
I am very appreciative of the ASHFoundation clinical research mechanisms that have supported my work. I was the principal investigator on a 2009 New Century Scholars award, “Strategies to Improve Reading.” The findings from this project led to a key publication on reading comprehension intervention for adult learners with acquired cognitive impairments.
The results from this study allowed my colleagues and me to successfully apply for further project support from the National Science Foundation (NSF). With my co-principal investigator, Steve Fickas, I was awarded a $2.78 million NSF grant in 2011 to research personalized reading strategies for people with cognitive impairments in postsecondary settings. This project supported research showing the efficacy of training reading comprehension strategies in struggling readers with acquired cognitive impairments and supported the initial development of an electronic reading strategy training program.
The next step is to develop an assessment and training program that can be implemented by practitioners in real-world settings—and we recently received an award from the National Science Foundation for Accelerating Innovation Technology Translation to do so. Hence, the ASHFoundation initial award supported a seed project that then led to securing a large, five-year NSF grant to run further studies and develop reading assessment and intervention protocols. This, in turn, led to support for an implementation science project to evaluate how to translate the science and methods into clinical tools usable by clinicians.
I also received an ASHFoundation clinical research grant in 2014, with my colleague Don MacLennan, to support the development of an app that helps clinicians create patient-centered goal hierarchies that were reliable to measure cognitive rehabilitation treatment outcomes. A feasibility study showed positive results, which we have used to apply for further funding from the National Institutes of Health.
What do you hope to demonstrate through your research—or what has it already demonstrated?
In the reading arena, I hope our work will ultimately address a critical gap in our clinical practice. Readers with high-level reading comprehension deficits have been largely ignored. We can fill this gap by developing an ecological assessment of reading comprehension and retention that dynamically assesses and treats these deficits common in secondary and postsecondary students with cognitive impairments. The funding from the ASHFoundation allowed us to develop and test the efficacy of a reading comprehension training approach. Our new funding supports using these findings to develop a clinical tool. We hope at the end of the newly funded project to have an automated evaluation of (a) immediate and delayed (24-hour) reading comprehension and (b) reading strategy use and study skills using text appropriate for struggling readers in late high school and college.
I am also hopeful that our goal attainment work will address a measurement gap in cognitive-communicative rehabilitation by providing an efficient measurement tool that allows clinicians to implement goal-attainment scaling with clients who have cognitive impairments. We will have the eGAS app in the app store on a pilot site this fall to continue to receive feedback and refine the tool.
Why did you choose this particular research focus?
I am interested in helping people with brain injury optimize their functioning. I had been concerned about the number of veterans attempting to return to four-year and community college who were challenged by high-level reading issues following brain injury and the lack of evidence-based interventions to address their needs. I also began to see more concussion patients with persistent cognitive effects who were having trouble with the reading demands in high school and college. These clinical populations made me aware of the gap in our practices and led me to initiate this line of research.
I am also very interested in the movement in our field toward patient-centered measurement that can quantify changes in meaningful activities in a way that is reliable and valid.
How has ASHFoundation funding affected your professional life?
Without the support of the initial ASHFoundation grant, we would not have been eligible to apply for further research funding to test and then develop clinical tools. This work has supported PhD students as well as made a big impact in the field.
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November 2016
Volume 21, Issue 11