Research & Innovations

2017 Undergraduate Curriculum Redesign

The Communicative Disorders (CD) program was awarded a grant from the Teagle Foundation to conduct an undergraduate curriculum redesign. The curricular innovations were developed in response to unprecedented growth in the undergraduate program over the last two years and with the aim to provide students with the support they need for college and post-college success, particularly for those from first-generation, low-income, and minority backgrounds. The goals for the CD program curriculum redesign are threefold. The first is to systematically support students’ fulfillment of the undergraduate requirements consistent with American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) accreditation standards so that students may be candidates for graduate studies in Communicative Sciences and Disorders. The second is to broaden students’ career and advanced degree options beyond the Communicative Sciences and Disorders field. The third is to provide stronger academic support to students, especially students who are first-generation college attendees or who are from under-represented backgrounds. As a part of the curriculum redesign, we will be transitioning our undergraduate degree from a Bachelor of Arts to a Bachelor of Science. 

For more information about the CD Undergarduate Curriculum Redesign, please contact the project lead, Dr. Laura Epstein at lepstein@sfsu.edu

Training & Research on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

An estimated 12% of preschoolers and 5% of school-aged children have significant speech impairments by the time they enter first grade. In California alone, approximately 130,000 children present with developmental disabilities that affect their ability to acquire and use speech functionally or develop adequate language skills. Since language is essential for social and academic participation, children with significant communication impairments are at high risk for social isolation and academic underachievement. For these children, the introduction of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) tools is critical to support their communication development, language acquisition and fuller academic, social and vocational participation. AAC systems are multimodal, and can range from unaided modes of communication such as gestures and manual signs to aided modes such as words or pictures/symbols mounted on communication books or boards, as well as high tech speech generating devices and mobile tablet technologies.  

However, the provision of AAC is only a first step. It is well known that even with the provision of AAC, children with developmental disabilities experience persistent difficulties in their acquisition of language, in particular in relation to the production of grammatically complete utterances in face-to-face conversations. Effective interventions are needed to maximize the use of these tools and support communication and language development in these children. 

The CD program at SFSU is committed to training SLPs with a strong background in AAC assessment and intervention. A number of opportunities are available to that end, ranging from a post-bac certificate in AAC, a state of the art AAC lab, a number of clinical opportunities in AAC across the age span (i.e., toddler through older adults, ) and in different service delivery settings, as well as participation in a number of ongoing training and research grants.

For more information about AAC training and research, contact Dr. Gloria Soto at gsoto@sfsu.edu and Dr. Patti Solomon-Rice at psolomon@sfsu.edu, or visit http://comdis.sfsu.edu/specializations#aac.

Addressing California's Audiology Shortage Issue

The National Institute of Aging has estimated that by 2020, the need for audiologists to serve the older population will increase by 50 percent. US Department of Labor projects the audiologist employment to grow at a rate of 29 percent from 2014 to 2024, four times the average rate for all occupations. According to California Academy of Audiology data, California needs 750 additional audiologists by 2030 to meet the state’s demand for audiology services. On September 9, 2016, the governor of California, Jerry Brown, signed AB 2317 into law. This bill will now allow the California State University system to offer Doctor of Audiology (AuD) programs. This is a major accomplishment in the quest to help bring much needed audiology training programs to the state. This bill was spearheaded by the SFSU CD program faculty (with Dr. Marcia Raggio taking the lead) and supported by the faculty and administrations at a number of CSU campuses.

Dr. Raggio has also conducted research in collaboration with the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) on the cortical contributions to speech perception in noise in individuals with normal hearing and hearing impairment. The focus of Dr. Raggio's research has been on the representation of peripheral electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve, in the form of a cochlear implant, in the auditory cortex in an animal model. These were the first studies of their kind that looked at the central nervous system consequences of electrical stimulation in trained and untrained animals.  She and her colleagues also looked at these representations in short and long-term deafness, as well as in the implantation of neonatal vs. adult implant recipients. Since then, numerous studies have been performed throughout the world that reference this early work.  We know now about the profound changes that take place in the organization of the auditory cortex following this now widely used clinical treatment of deafness in adults and children.  This work, performed by Dr. Raggio and her UCSF colleagues, has been cited over 350 times.  

For more information about the AuD initiative and Dr. Raggio's research, please contact Dr. Raggio at mraggio@sfsu.edu.

Serving Children in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse School Settings

Bayshore Elementary School District (BESD) is a culturally and linguistically diverse school district at the border between San Francisco City and County and Daly City.  Through a partnership between BESD and Communicative Disorders at SFSU, graduate and undergraduate students in Communicative Disorders receive clinical education in this diverse, authentic school setting, focusing on contextualized, curriculum-based intervention. 24 children currently receive speech and language services through the BESD-SFSU partnership.  Children attending this district are 43% Hispanic/Latino, 16% Asian, 6% Pacific Islander, 25% Filipino, and 5% African American.  75% receive free or reduced lunch.  23% of the children in grades K-8 were identified as English language learners in 2015-2016. The district consists of one elementary school and one middle school that will be joined together into one school site in September, 2017.

For more information about this project, please contact the principal investigator and project lead, Dr. Laura Epstein at lepstein@sfsu.edu

Gray Matter Lab

black and white line drawing of head with Gray Matter logo

The Gray Matter Lab's vision is that bilingual and multilingual populations with aphasia will receive the highest quality of therapy in order to increase communicative effectiveness and quality of life experiences. Current research in the lab is focused on the following: 1) the exploration and evaluation of language control in the context of lexical access impairment in bilingual adults with aphasia; 2)  treatment studies that investigate and compare the training effects of linguistic control treatments and non-linguistic control treatments on language control impairment in bilingual aphasia; and 3) developing a multi-lingual website that provides free language treatment materials for speech pathologists (in collaboration with Penn State and Boston University).

For more information, visit https://graymatterlab.sfsu.edu or contact the principal investigator Dr. Teresa Gray, teresag@sfsu.edu.

Autism & Bilingualism Research

Many parents and professionals worry that exposing children with autism to more than one language would cause them to be confused or further delayed. The body of research on bilingualism/multilingualism and autism remains small, but the emerging findings have shown consistently that children with autism and other developmental disabilities can and do learn more than one language successfully. We currently know little, however, about how to best support heritage language learning in children on the autism spectrum. The goals of the Autism & Heritage Language Research Lab at San Francisco State University are to understand the factors that affect heritage language maintenance in families of children with autism and to investigate whether children on the autism spectrum demonstrate unique needs when learning more than one language.

For more information, please visit www.autismheritagelanguage.com or contact the principal investigator, Dr. Betty Yu bettyyu@sfsu.edu.

Student Research

Students are encourage to engage in research by conducting a Master's Thesis or by assisting faculty with research. Student researchers are also supported by faculty advisors to disseminate their work through presentations and publications. The following are graduate research thesis projects completed by CD graduate students since 2013:

  • Jonathan Robinson Anthony (2016). Speech sound acquisition in a 5-year-old Spanish-English bilingual child. Jonathan was a recipient of the Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholarship. He has presented at the 2016 CSHA Student Research Forum and the 2016 SFSU Graduate Research and Creative Works Showcase. He will be presenting a poster at the 2016 ASHA Convention and has a manuscript in preparation for submission to ASHA Perspectives. Jonathan is continuing his research training in the Ph.D. program in Language and Communicative Disorders at San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego.