Jillian McCarthy-Maeder, PhD, CCC-SLP, assistant professor in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology in the College of Health Professions at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a grant totaling $1,020,381 from the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. The funds will support the training of master’s-level students in an area of high national need – literacy and language outcomes for children with severe or complex communication needs (CCN) who are unable to use speech for effective communication. Dr. McCarthy-Maeder’s co-investigator is Ilsa Schwarz, PhD, CCC-SLP, FASHA, professor emeritus in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology.
The award, which will be distributed over a five-year period, will fund their project titled, “Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Language, and Literacy Initiative to Prepare Speech-Language Pathologists.”
Drs. McCarthy-Maeder and Schwarz are also the recipients of a recent Department of Education grant for $1,002,883 to train students in the area of language and literacy for children who are deaf/hard of hearing.
This new award will support the training of 32 graduate students with three semesters each of tuition remission and stipend support. Upon completion, the students will graduate with specialty training to improve the language and literacy outcomes for children with CCN, which include computerized speech and language systems and picture support systems. The specialty preparation will include courses on a range of topics, as well as three semesters of practicum in settings with children with severe disabilities who use or would benefit from support.
“Augmentative and alternative communication is a growing field,” said Dr. McCarthy-Maeder. “The development of the iPad and other tablets, as well as eye tracking systems, has changed how individuals with communication and motor needs access language. Speech-language pathologists in the educational setting often indicate that they are not as prepared to serve children with complex communication needs who would benefit from this technology. The funds from this grant will not only help to recruit some of the best students in the country to our program, but the research completed over the next few years will assist in understanding the best ways to improve language and literacy instruction for children with complex communication needs who are at significant risk for not developing the skills they need for educational, social and employment success.”
Student recruitment starts this fall, and nine students will begin the program in January 2016.