Foundational Questions: A Researcher’s ASHF-Launched Quest for Answers ASHFoundation Awards: The long-term goal of my research program is to advance evidence-based practice in the area of language intervention for young children with developmental disabilities who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Specifically, my research aims to develop and evaluate language interventions that are both effective and efficient ... Foundational Questions
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Foundational Questions  |   January 01, 2017
Foundational Questions: A Researcher’s ASHF-Launched Quest for Answers
Author Notes
  • Jennifer Kent Walsh, PhD, CCC-SLP, University of Central Florida professor of communication sciences and disorders and director of the Atlantic Region Demonstration Center of the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology
    Jennifer Kent Walsh, PhD, CCC-SLP, University of Central Florida professor of communication sciences and disorders and director of the Atlantic Region Demonstration Center of the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology×
Article Information
ASHA News & Member Stories / Foundational Questions
Foundational Questions   |   January 01, 2017
Foundational Questions: A Researcher’s ASHF-Launched Quest for Answers
The ASHA Leader, January 2017, Vol. 22, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FQ.22012017.np
The ASHA Leader, January 2017, Vol. 22, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FQ.22012017.np
ASHFoundation Awards:
  • 2010 Clinical Research Grant

  • 2003 New Investigators Research Grant

  • 2001 Graduate Student Scholarship

What is the focus of your research?
The long-term goal of my research program is to advance evidence-based practice in the area of language intervention for young children with developmental disabilities who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Specifically, my research aims to develop and evaluate language interventions that are both effective and efficient in fostering language development for children using AAC.
How did your award from the ASHFoundation lead to your current work?
I have received several awards from the ASHFoundation, including a Graduate Student Scholarship when I was a doctoral student at Penn State and a New Investigator Grant in my first year as an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida (which I can hardly believe was already 13 years ago!). My most recent ASHFoundation award—a Clinical Research Grant—allowed me to collect the pilot data for a project that is now funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health.
What do you hope to demonstrate through your research—or what has it already demonstrated?
There is still much to be learned about how we can best support the functional communication and language skills of children who require AAC. However, we have learned a lot over the past 15 years about how we can increase children’s functional AAC use through indirect and direct interventions. The meaningful language and communication gains demonstrated by children using AAC when we implement communication-partner interventions has been eye-opening and encouraging. We have seen that even a couple of hours spent coaching parents, educators and peers to support the communication of children using AAC can pay huge dividends. Similarly, we are learning a lot about which intervention approaches can readily yield improvements in children’s multi-modal expressive communication.
Why did you choose this particular research focus?
My original interest in AAC actually stemmed from a brief encounter with a young adult client who experienced a brain-stem stroke. Seeing the devastation involved in completely losing the ability to communicate independently motivated me to learn more about communication options and interventions for people who cannot use natural speech to communicate but who clearly have the ability, need and right to communicate independently. This interest evolved over time into a focus on children with developmental disabilities who grow up using AAC.
How has ASHFoundation funding affected your professional life?
The two most important factors that have influenced the course of my research career have been opportunities to conduct research and opportunities to collaborate with other researchers. These opportunities have come in various forms including: (a) invaluable mentoring and support provided by an array of researchers and administrators when I was a doctoral student and as I moved through the academic ranks, (b) collaborations with other student and faculty researchers, including my main research collaborator, Cathy Binger, who has also received ASHFoundation support, and (c) funding that gave me both the confidence and means to advance my research agenda.
My ASHFoundation funding has been central within these opportunities as a student, new faculty investigator and, more recently, as a mid-career researcher expanding my research agenda. Without the funding to collect pilot data, I would not have been able to be as competitive in securing larger state and federal funding at all stages of my career. The impact of ASHFoundation funding goes well beyond the actual dollars awarded and individual research projects completed; my research agenda is an ongoing example of the extended scientific advances that can grow from the seeds of pilot ASHFoundation funding across career stages. In fact, ASHFoundation funding continues to play a central role for me as I am now mentoring junior investigators who are securing ASHFoundation funding as they launch their research careers!
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FROM THIS ISSUE
January 2017
Volume 22, Issue 1