The Making of a Speech Scientist Intrigued by an apraxia study, a 13-year-old seeks a researcher’s help for a middle school science fair project. First Person/Last Page
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First Person/Last Page  |   November 01, 2018
The Making of a Speech Scientist
Author Notes
  • Kathy J. Jakielski, PhD, CCC-SLP, is the Florence C. and Dr. John E. Wertz Chair in Liberal Arts and Sciences at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, where she serves as professor and chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 10, Issues in Higher Education, and 17, Global Issues in Communication Sciences and Related Disorders. kathyjakielski@augustana.edu
    Kathy J. Jakielski, PhD, CCC-SLP, is the Florence C. and Dr. John E. Wertz Chair in Liberal Arts and Sciences at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, where she serves as professor and chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 10, Issues in Higher Education, and 17, Global Issues in Communication Sciences and Related Disorders. kathyjakielski@augustana.edu×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   November 01, 2018
The Making of a Speech Scientist
The ASHA Leader, November 2018, Vol. 23, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.23112018.72
The ASHA Leader, November 2018, Vol. 23, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.23112018.72
Among the deluge of daily emails that arrived in my inbox one fall day, I saw one with a unique subject line: “Speech Disorder Science Fair Question From a Fan.”
Well, I’d never received an email from a fan before, so I immediately clicked it open. I was introduced to an eighth-grade student from Philadelphia. She described reading about my pilot study investigating subclinical speech characteristics in teens with resolved speech sound disorders. The study was summarized in “Anything But Silent,” a book written by a family with two children with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS).
The student had read the book because her younger brother has severe CAS. She said she’d become intrigued by speech production and the study I’d conducted when learning more about her brother’s disorder. She ended the email asking if I might help her come up with an idea for a study she could carry out for her middle school science fair, five weeks away. She signed the email, “Your fan, Maya Jennings.” How could I say anything but yes?
Given Maya’s tight timeline—and the 1,000 miles between our homes—we held an initial brainstorming session via conference call. As we pitched and discussed study ideas, I was impressed by Maya’s seriousness and capability. We developed a study in which Maya would investigate speech sound errors exhibited by young adults during complex speech tasks. We established a set of weekly research tasks Maya needed to complete to finish on time. We also identified participants with typical speech at the time of Maya’s study, but with two of them having received speech sound intervention as children.
I initially considered mentoring Maya merely because of her pluckiness, but I quickly recognized that I could also foster her scientific curiosity in speech science. Over the five weeks, Maya and I exchanged about 70 emails and had two additional conference calls. She completed her study, discovering that only some of the participants’ speech errors could be explained by the nature of their early speech diagnoses, thus only partially supporting her hypotheses and teaching her about her intricacies of speech production. Maya prepared her science fair display with impressive independence.
The benefits of collaborating with Maya were both professional and personal. I became energized by her scientific inquisitiveness, which took me back to my own initial interest in the work that I do. Nurturing a teen in the science of our discipline also gave me great joy, especially because I knew that this work provided Maya insight into a disorder that affects her and her family daily.
It does not take a PhD to mentor a curious young mind. The education and training we receive as audiologists and speech-language pathologists are steeped in scientific method and inquiry. We can nurture a young scientist’s interest in the speech, language and hearing sciences by providing a modest investment of time, expert advice and thoughtful encouragement.
If a Maya does not reach out to you first, then I encourage you to seek out a young mind to mentor!
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FROM THIS ISSUE
November 2018
Volume 23, Issue 11