Background: I entered the field of nonvocal communication in 1979 when, as a certified speech-language pathologist and a graduate student in Psycholinguistics, I needed a job. The Rehabilitation Engineering Center on Communication Enhancement at Tufts-New England Medical Center hired me as a research assistant to teach one of the first talking machines to three young children with cerebral palsy. I was hooked and literally fell into a field that has fueled my passion and career for almost 40 years. As the field matured technologically and clinically, and as ISAAC was formed, I became an AAC researcher. I moved to Portland, OR in 1985 and started working with adults with severe acquired and developmental communication impairments. At that time, by the way, I used to drive up to Seattle to collaborate with Drs. Beukelman and Yorkston! Over the years, all of my research projects have been based on the unmet needs of the patients and the families whom I serve in an AAC clinic. People with complex communication needs are at the core of my translational research agenda and help drive my iterative work to develop innovative assistive technologies.
Current Interests: I remain committed to helping adults with acquired and developmental communication impairments find ways to participate verbally in their daily lives. I currently have research projects related to Primary Progressive Aphasia and Locked In Syndrome (from many diagnoses that lead to severe speech and physical impairments). I am interested in the concept of co-construction for language generation, and ways that we can support adults (behaviorally and technologically) as they lose their speech, language and cognitive skills because of neurodegeneration.
Sample Presentation/Publications: While I have published over 40 peer-reviewed articles and given over 150 presentations, I am most proud of the book that I edited in 2000 with Dr. Hank Bersani, Speaking Up and Spelling It Out. This is a book of essays written by people with complex communication needs describing their use of AAC throughout their lives. Much of my work can be viewed at www.reknewprojects.org .
Presentation Topics: I am available during the Think Tank to guide graduate students toward their research goals.