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Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

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Special Section: Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

CSD in the Community Providing excellent service to the community is a main priority of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD). Here, we highlight three recent endeavors by CSD faculty members, staff members, and students to reach out to community members with speech and hearing disorders.

Providing a Creative Outlet for People With Down Syndrome When a State College musical theatre group composed of children and young adults with Down syndrome gave its inaugural performance in April, it was to a packed house and a standing-ovation finale. “There are no words to describe the feeling of watching these young people perform,” said Krista Wilkinson, professor. “The standing ovation at the end of the show said it all. People were in tears.” After four months of rehearsals, the performance was held April 21 in Kern Building on Penn State’s University Park campus. Plans currently are under way to organize and perform another show this fall.

skills, such as those required to get up in front of a crowd and do something outside one’s comfort zone,” said Wilkinson. Whitney Schmutter, an undergraduate student and member of Omega Phi Alpha, was Wilkinson’s right hand, helping with everything from teaching participants the words to the songs, to making sure the troupe had a place to rehearse and perform. “I was interested in doing this because I love nothing more than to work with kids, and I think that working with them through music is an extremely powerful thing,” she said. “I watched these kids come out of their shells over the course of the semester and I am so proud of all that they accomplished.” Schmutter isn’t the only one who was positively affected by the experience. “Doing this made me realize I want to get involved in more performing activities in the future,” said a performer with Down syndrome.

Clinic Aids Charter-School Children

The “For Good Performance Troupe” was founded by Wilkinson as a nonwork-related endeavor, and is co-sponsored by the Centre County Down Syndrome Society (CCDSS) and the Omega Phi Alpha sorority at Penn State. The theme of the inaugural show was “friendship” and included the songs “Hakuna Matata” from “The Lion King”; “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from “Toy Story”; “We’re All in This Together” from “High School Musical”; and “For Good” from “Wicked.”

Singing and dancing aside, faculty members and students of the department help children with communication disorders in other ways as well.

“I started the troupe because, over the past twenty-five years, I have worked professionally with folks with Down syndrome and have heard again and again from them that they would like to be part of musical theater,” said Wilkinson, who is the current secretary for the CCDSS. “My efforts with the CCDSS reflect my ongoing commitment to serving individuals with Down syndrome, which is a commitment that also drives my research agenda.”

“As a charter school, Sugar Valley Rural is bound by the same obligations as public schools to provide support services to students with learning challenges,” said Barbara Roberts ’87g CMDIS, instructor, who coordinates and supervises the services. “The school contacted the clinic because they’d heard that we provide great services.”

Wilkinson’s research includes studies of early communication and language in learners with developmental and intellectual disabilities, including Down syndrome. “Clearly, the many benefits of musical theater experience extend to all participants—from improving reading abilities [to learn the song lyrics] to honing music and rhythm skills to refining social and self-advocacy

In October 2000, the Penn State Speech and Hearing Clinic began providing speech and language assessments and intervention services to K-12 students with speech and language needs at the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School in Loganton, Pa.

Now, twelve years later, graduate students continue to provide services to children at Sugar Valley Rural Charter School. Currently, about ten graduate students per semester provide therapy to nearly forty children on a weekly basis. In addition to providing therapy, the graduate students are responsible for writing lesson plans for each child, scheduling therapy sessions with the teachers, writing quarterly progress notes based on data collected during each session, working in teams, assessing new students, and writing evaluation reports. Photo Credit: Krista Wilkinson (2)

“The experience is very similar to what the graduate students will see when they become certified speech-language therapists in the school setting,” said Roberts. “So not only does it help the children at Sugar Valley Rural, it also helps our CSD graduate students prepare for their careers.”

Health Fair Happenings Students of the department have taken their expertise to kids at Park Forest Middle School in State College as well. In March 2012, students in CSD 230 (Introduction to Audiology), which is taught by Judy Creuz, instructor, attended the Park Forest Middle School Health Fair and presented educational posters and games about how to prevent noiseinduced hearing loss. “Most of the middle-school students were not aware of how much damage they can be causing by listening to their iPods at such loud levels,” said one student. Later, in April, another group of students from the CSD 230 class accompanied Creuz to The Village at Penn State for the residents’ annual health fair. “We provided hearing screenings at the fair and talked to the residents about services available at the Penn State Speech and Hearing Clinic,” said Creuz. “We offered full hearing evaluations and dispensed hearing aids. The students had a good time at the fair, chatting with the residents about hearing and some of the difficulties they experience with hearing loss in their daily lives.” Also in April, the class hosted an informational table at the Autism Speaks 5k Walk in which they provided information about services offered by the Speech and Hearing Clinic.

Helping Patients at Hershey CSD graduate students also help patients at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and the Penn State Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital as part of their externship experiences. “These facilities offer a unique clinical experience to the students who work under the supervision of seasoned speech-language pathologists,” said Stacy Dorner, externship coordinator for the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. At the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, students have been given the opportunity to evaluate and treat a variety of disorders including dysphagia, neurogenic communication disorders, speech and language delays, traumatic brain injury, and autism. The Penn State Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital has provided students with experiences in evaluation and therapeutic intervention with patients in the areas of neurology, stroke, and dysphagia. “I am working with individuals who have had traumatic brain injuries, strokes, or spinal cord injuries,” said Noelle Smith, a secondyear master’s student who is doing her externship at the Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital this summer. “The field of speech-language pathology is so diverse, and my experience at the hospital will provide me with the skills needed to help provide services to individuals in a wide variety of populations.”

Student Featured on “StutterTalk” Michael Boyle, a Ph.D. candidate, was recently a guest on “StutterTalk,” a popular weekly podcast that highlights topics in the area of stuttering. He was invited on the show to discuss his article, titled, “Mindfulness training in stuttering therapy: A tutorial for speech-language pathologists,” which was published in the Journal of Fluency Disorders in 2011. In the podcast, Boyle, who is a person who stutters, said: “Mindfulness is the process of attending to the present moment experience intentionally and also non-judgmentally. In other words, you’re attending to and you’re aware of things that are happening in the outside world but you’re also noticing and attending to things that are happening internally. Mindfulness can help us expand our capacity to pay attention and that is relevant for using certain speech-modification techniques because it takes a lot of attention to be able to use those strategies. Mindfulness could also help us to regulate emotions a little bit better in terms of our speech. Very often people who stutter may think ‘Oh my gosh, I sounded so stupid right there,’ and then they feel more negatively, which leads most likely to more stuttering and even more negativity. Mindfulness helps you to look at it as it’s occurring and accept it and maybe break up the automatic thought process that causes the negative spiral from going out of control.” In addition to pursuing a Ph.D. degree, Boyle is a speechlanguage pathologist and the leader of the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Stuttering Association. His research focuses on social aspects of stuttering, including stigma and bullying in people who stutter, as well as predictors of psychological well-being and resilience among people who stutter. Boyle recently accepted an assistant professor position in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Oklahoma State University beginning in August 2012. The podcast episode was published in February 2012 and is available at:

Special Section: Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

$2.5 Million in Grants to Train New Faculty Members and SpeechLanguage Pathologists The Penn State Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Leadership Project and the Penn State Children’s Communicative Competence Project each have received a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Over a five-year period, the grant will support ten Ph.D. students who are committed to obtaining employment in an institute of higher education where they will conduct research and prepare future speech-language pathologists to provide evidence-based services in early intervention or in a school setting. The doctoral scholars will complete a comprehensive research-based curriculum that integrates academic courses, mentored research experiences, mentored college teaching experiences, leadership training, and outreach opportunities. The grant for the Children’s Communicative Competence Project will fund twenty-one master’s students to become fully credentialed speech-language pathologists who are qualified to provide services in high-need, early intervention or school settings. The students will complete a comprehensive curriculum that integrates academic coursework, research, and mentored clinical experiences. “This grant will ensure that graduates will be prepared to

In addition, the Children’s Communicative Competence Project will include the development of webbased modules on research-based interventions for children with seKathryn Drager Janice Light vere communication disabilities, which will be freely available to families and professionals undertaking pre-service and in-service training across the nation and around the world. “Not only will the project help train students at Penn State, but it also will increase significantly the number of fully credentialed speech-language pathologists across the nation who are trained to provide evidence-based services to improve results for high-need children who have severe communication disabilities,” said Light. “This project will ensure that children with the most complex communication needs have the supports they require to develop communicative competence and attain their full potential.” Jessica Currall, research associate, and Barbara Roberts, instructor, also are involved with the Children’s Communicative Competence Project. In addition, they are involved with the AAC Leadership Project, as are Krista Wilkinson, professor of communication sciences and disorders, and Erinn Finke, assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders. More information about both grants and associated research is on the web at:

Photo Credit: Gene Maylock (2)

“The AAC Leadership Project responds to the serious shortage of Ph.D.-level faculty members who, by fulfilling leadership roles in research and in preparing speech-language pathologists, can improve services and results for children with severe communication disabilities, such as those associated with autism, cerebral palsy, and traumatic brain injuries,” said Janice Light, Hintz Family Chair in Children’s Communicative Competence, who leads both the AAC Leadership Project and the Children’s Communicative Competence Project. “These children are unable to rely on speech to meet their communication needs and may require AAC assistive technology to enhance their communication. Without research to determine evidencebased practices and without pre-service training to prepare speech-language pathologists to implement these evidencebased practices, these children are at grave risk in all areas of development and educational achievement.”

provide effective, research-based services to children with the most involved communication needs, including those from high-risk groups, such as those who live in poverty or are English-language learners,” said Kathryn Drager, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders and a co-investigator on both projects.

Department Welcomes Administrative Assistant

In her work, Erinn Finke, assistant professor, has noticed that many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are stimulated and motivated by video games. Now with a grant from the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State, she and her colleagues Benjamin Hickerson, assistant professor of recreation, park, and tourism management; Michael Murray, associate professor of psychiatry; and Rick Kubina, associate professor of education, plan to investigate which video games children with ASD are drawn to and how they engage with them with a goal of then investigating how instructional activities can be structured similarly to stimulate their engagement. “Some of the variables we plan to look at include visual attention (Where are children looking while engaging with video games?), goal orientation (Are the children engaging with the video game in a goal-directed manner?), and emotional response (How do children respond emotionally during critical moments in video game play, such as when they beat a level or when their character dies?),” said Finke.

According to Finke, the results could help the team develop interventions that modify activities within the school curriculum to match the learning demands and rewards of video gaming, which in turn, could improve mastery of state-specified instructional standards. Such an intervention, she said, could benefit children who are typically developing as well.

Nyman replaces long-serving administrative assistant, Joy Lose, who retired on June 29, 2011. Lose worked at the University for 36 years and in the College of Health and Human Development for 20 years. Her work ethic, professionalism, positive energy, and dedication to the Penn State community were always evident, greatly valued, and respected. Lose has relocated to Alabama to spend time with her two grandchildren Myla and Nolan, daughter Jessie, and son-in-law David.

Photo Credit: Gene Maylock

Can Video Games Help Children with Autism Succeed in School?

Sharon Nyman joined the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders as the administrative assistant to Gordon Blood, head of the department, in July 2011. Nyman began working at Penn State after graduating from high school. She worked in what is now the Office of Human Resources for nine years and then joined the College of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (now the College of Health and Human Development) for six years before leaving Penn State in 1985 to move away from the area. Nyman returned to the State College area in 1995 and worked in the College of Health and Human Development, first in the development office and second as an assistant to Barbara Shannon, then dean of the college, and her administrative assistant, handling the various day-to-day operations of the dean’s office. She continued in that position until she joined the department.

Special Section: Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Student Studies Bilingual Language Development in China relationships between theory of mind and language performance are similar in Mandarin- and Englishspeaking preschoolers.”

“It’s a way of saying, ‘How are you?’ and it doesn’t mean that they want to go to lunch with you,” she said.

Wasilus measured theory of mind by asking children to say what another person wants, believes, or knows, in a series of game-like scenarios. So far, her results reveal that existing vocabulary knowledge and the ability to hold complex information in mind are linked most strongly with theory of mind performance for Mandarin speakers. In English speakers at Penn State, the ability to learn new words and to inhibit a dominant response were most strongly correlated with theory of mind performance.

But more importantly she learned that cultural differences are important to consider when studying bilingual language development. Wasilus was one of eight undergraduate students and three graduate students to conduct a research internship abroad last summer under the auspices of the Center for Language Science, based in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts. Funded by a $2.8 million National Science Foundation Partnership for International Research and Education (PIRE) grant, the internships were created so that students could conduct research on the nature of the bilingual mind and brain, as well as the processes of bilingual language development. Wasilus’ internship took place in Beijing, where she investigated the development of “theory of mind” in twenty children whose parents work at Beijing Normal University. “Theory of mind,” she said, “is the ability to attribute mental states, such as beliefs, desires, and knowledge, to oneself and others—to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own.”

“These results suggest that the development of theory of mind is closely related to the child’s ability to learn and manage linguistic information,” said Carol Miller, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders who supervised Wasilus’ research. “However, the developmental process may differ across languages and cultures.”

In particular, she examined whether theory of mind develops similarly among English-speaking and Mandarin-speaking children. “Although there is research on theory of mind in Mandarin speakers, the relationship between theory of mind and language processing remains to be explored,” she said. “The purpose of our research was to discover if

Wasilus presented her findings at the 2012 Penn State Undergraduate Research Exhibition, which was held in April.

Student Achievements Marisa Wolfe Selected as Lady Lions “Unsung Hero”

Three Penn State women’s volleyball players were named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American team on December 13, 2011. Katie Slay, a sophomore middle hitter, was named to the second-team. Slay was a force on defense all season for Penn State and was crowned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. This was the first All-American honor for Slay. Slay also was named to the 2nd AllAmerican team for volleyball.

Marisa Wolfe, a CSD undergraduate student, was selected as the Lady Lion’s Tom Caldwell “Unsung Hero” award winner for the 2010-2011 academic year. The Penn State women’s basketball team hands out several awards at its annual postseason banquet, which is held at the Penn Stater in the spring. “Ris plays really hard,” teammate Maggie Lucas told the Centre Daily Times. “She leaves everything she has on the court. She’s positive. She’s going to give you everything she has.” Wolfe sustained a concussion during a preseason pickup game last winter, which kept her out of the first three games of the 2011-2012 season, but she soon recovered and returned to finish out the season.

Photo Credit: Penn State Athletic Communications

Katie Slay Named to AVCA All-American Team

Photo Courtesy: Nicole Wasilus

Undergraduate student Nicole Wasilus learned a lot about cultural differences while she was in China last year. For example, ” which she learned that a common greeting there is, “ means, “Have you eaten yet?”

Senior Named 2013 THON Overall Chairman By Sam Janesch, staff writer, The Daily Collegian

Martin, a senior in communication sciences and disorders, was named as the 2013 THON Overall Chairperson and hopes to continue the success of the philanthropy over the next year alongside the rest of the Overall Committee. “I’m excited to be giving back to an organization which has given me so much,” Martin said. After serving as the 2012 Overall OPPerations Chairperson, Martin is taking over the Overall Chairperson position from Tanella, who helped lead the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon to raise a record-breaking $10,686,924.83 this year.

Martin’s THON experience includes being an OPPerations committee member in his freshman year, a captain in his sophomore and junior years, and the Overall OPPerations Chairperson as a senior. This year, he led a team of more than 700 committee members in charge of setting up and organizing in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Photo Credit: Ryan Kristobak

Will Martin waited in his apartment after interviewing for the position off 2013 THON Overall Chairperson. Overall Chairwoman for 2012 Elaine Tanella and Four Diamonds Fund Director Suzanne Graney came to his apartment and told him the news—that he would take over to lead the world’s largest student-run philanthropy.

Martin said his personal experience with the managers at the Bryce Jordan Center will help him throughout the next year. “Will will do fabulously,” Tanella said. “He presented a very clear vision for THON 2013 and beyond.”

When Tanella told him the news, Martin said, “It was shock and excitement at the same time.”

Jocelyn Shuber ’12 CSD attended spring 2012 commencement as the program marshal for the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. The daughter of Peter and Lorri Shuber, of Butler, Pa., Shuber graduated with a 4.00 grade-point average. While at Penn State, she was the president of the Penn State Orchesis Dance Company, a chair of THON, a member of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and a student leader and mentor of the Jumpstart Retreat Program. She received a President’s Freshman Award, a President Spark’s Award, an Evan Pugh Scholar Award for Juniors, and an Evan Pugh Scholar Award for Seniors. She made the dean’s list during her entire time at Penn State and was a recipient of a Bayard D. and Ethel M. Kunkle Scholarship and a Communication Sciences and Disorders Scholarship Award. Shuber plans to pursue a master’s degree in speech-language pathology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Photo Credit: GradImages

Photo Credit: Penn State Athletic Communications

Jocelyn Shuber Serves as Program Marshal at Commencement

Special Section: Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Alumnus Receives 2011 Honors of the Association Award From ASHA Photo Credit: Gene Maylock

Robert E. Hillman ’74, ’75g S P A has received the 2011 Honors of the Association Award from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, which recognizes a lifetime record of exceptional achievement. The Honors of the Association Award is the association’s most prestigious honor. Hillman is a co-director and research director of the Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate professor of surgery and health sciences and technology at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2008, he received the Alumni Fellow Award, the highest honor bestowed upon alumni by the Penn State Alumni Association. Hillman presented a talk as part of the HHD Alumni Society’s Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series at Penn State in September 2011 titled, “Preserving and Restoring the Human Voice: Current Innovations and Future Directions.” The presentation focused on the ground-breaking work of an award-winning interdisciplinary team of surgeons, speech-language pathologists, and scientists at the Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH Voice Center) in Boston who have spent over twenty years creating more effective ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat some of the most challenging laryngeal voice disorders.

Ann C. Crouter, Raymond E. and Erin Stuart Schultz Dean of the College of Health and Human Development (left), and Jeff Sarabok ’91 HPA, present Hillman with a framed copy of the poster that advertised his September 2011 talk at Penn State.

Communication Sciences and Disorders Affiliate Program Group The CSD APG seeks to unite CSD alumni (and alumni of predecessor majors) in order to serve alumni, faculty and staff members, and students of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Below is an update from the CSD APG’s president about current APG activities and ways to get involved. We welcomed four new board members to our team: Jen Jacobs ’05, ’07g CSD; Emily Green-Hamilton ’05 CSD; Joy (Ford) Dieffenderfer ’05 CSD; and Karen Thomas ’92g CMDIS. We held our annual “Alumni in the Classroom” event in September 2011, and we were able to match alumni with undergraduate classes as well as with two graduate seminars. Our next “Alumni in the Classroom” event is scheduled for September 26-28, 2012. If you would like to speak to a CSD class about your career or about an area of expertise, please contact Leslie Talford. We hosted a web conference with the Penn State NSSLHA organization in February 2012 in which one alumni presenter was featured. We will hold another web conference for the undergraduate students in NSSLHA in the spring of 2013. Alumni who wish to speak to students remotely via web technology should contact Leslie Talford. Please view our annual e-newsletter, which was distributed in spring 2012, at

Connect with the Affiliate Program Group Website Facebook “Penn State CSD Alumni” APG President Leslie Ferree Talford ’98 CMDIS

Health and Human Development Magazine - Summer 2012 / SPECIAL SECTION: CSD