Tara O’Neill

Tara O'NeillCommunication Sciences and Disorders (Penn State)


Background: I received my masters’ degree from Penn State in CSD in 2012. As a graduate student, I was involved in research investigating eye gaze patterns on grid-based AAC displays in order to determine optimal design features as they relate to visual-cognitive processing. After graduating, I worked for three years as an itinerant, school-aged speech-language pathologist for the Delaware County Intermediate Unit. My primary placement was with students in a center-based program who had complex learning and communication needs. Many of my students were adolescents and young adult learners that had limited success with aided AAC technologies, and I felt that this was often because the AAC technologies were not well designed to match the needs and skills of the students. This renewed my interest in effective AAC system design. I returned to Penn State in 2015 to begin my PhD program.

Current Interests: My current doctoral studies are focused on optimizing the design of AAC technologies. One specific area of system design that I am interested in is the design of AAC systems that match with visual-cognitive processing skills of individuals with who use them. I am also interested in family-centered services for families of children who require AAC. Specifically, I am interested in how effective family involvement can improve the fit between the design of AAC technologies and the children who use them.

Sample Publication/Presentation and Rationale: O’Neill, T., Wilkinson, K., Light, J., Neumann, E., (2016, November).  Preliminary investigation of eye gaze on Visual Scene Displays (VSDs) with a navigation menu.  Poster at the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), Philadelphia, PA.  [Handout].

This topic is of special interest because it investigates how individuals with various disabilities attend to and interpret visual information on AAC displays with a navigation menu. This information should serve to provide implications for AAC system design features that match with the visual-cognitive processing skills of the individuals who use them, and ultimately improve communication outcomes for individuals with complex communication needs.

Dissertation Chair: Dr Krista Wilkinson

Additional Information: Tara O’Neill (from AAC.PSU.EDU)

Think Tank Presentation Topic and Discussion Starters

Currently, I am working in collaboration with Dr. Krista Wilkinson and Dr. Janice Light on a project that investigates how individuals with various disabilities attend to and interpret visual information on AAC visual scene displays with a navigation menu (see example presentation above). One aim of the current project is to investigate the optimal spatial arrangement for the navigational features of AAC technologies. I plan to present on findings from an analysis that examines how the location of the navigation menu affects visual attention. One challenge of this work is being able to translate the basic research to practical/clinical implications. Several of my questions are:

  1. How can we effectively translate basic research findings to designing appropriate applied/ clinical research studies?
  2. How can we translate basic research findings to clinical implications for system design?
  3. How can we translate basic research findings to recommendations for device manufacturers and app developers?

ONeill (2017) Think Tank handout

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