Janice Light

Janice LightCommunication Sciences and Disorders (Penn State University)


Presentation Topic: Making a Positive Impact: Building an Important and Productive Line of AAC Research (Handout as a pdf)

In this presentation, I talk about how to build a line of research to enhance our understanding and improve outcomes for individuals with complex communication needs and their families. I share some examples from my own research career and discuss some lessons that I learned along the way as I tried to build an active research program to make a positive difference.

Background: I first became interested in AAC in the early 1980s when I worked in a class with children with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other intellectual disabilities who were not able to rely on speech to communicate. I knew very little about AAC, but I was determined to try to find ways to enhance their communication skills. I had so many unanswered questions and these questions motivated me to start my research career. Since then I have been involved in research, teaching, and service delivery/ outreach to build the communicative competence of individuals who require AAC.Chart of research career

Current Interests: I am actively involved in research to enhance the language, literacy, and communication skills of children with complex communication needs. This work involves research: (1) to investigate effective interventions to teach language and literacy skills; (2) to improve the design of AAC technologies to better meet the needs and skills of children with complex communication needs; and (3) to support families and partners of children who require AAC. I am also very interested in graduate level training in AAC to support the development of the next generation of leaders in the field.

Sample Presentation / Publication: Light, J. & McNaughton, D. (2014). Communicative competence for individuals who require augmentative and alternative communication: A new definition for a new era of communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 30, 1-18. (Free copy as pdf)

I choose this paper because it attempts to layout the challenges ahead of us as a field – to support individuals with complex communication needs in developing communicative competence. I am very interested in discussing research and evidence-based practice to achieve this goal.


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