Alaina Eck

Alaina EckSpeech and Hearing Science (University of Tennessee Health Science Center)

Background: Prior to starting my doctoral program, I completed both my undergraduate and master’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Penn State University. During my master’s program, I completed a research project with Dr. Finke and developed an interest in the area of social communication for individuals with communication disorders. I also had a variety of classroom and clinical experiences with individuals with ASD, including those who use AAC. The combination of these experiences inspired me to pursue a doctoral program focused on improving the social outcomes for this population.

Dissertation Chair: Dr. Erinn Finke

Current Interests: My current interests involve improving access to important social contexts for individuals with communication disorders, including those who use AAC. We know there are certain contexts, such as play and mutually motivating activities, that support social development. I am interested in assessing how individuals who use AAC currently access these situations, along with what supports and barriers impact their participation. This information can inform interventions to ensure these interventions are accessible for all individuals.

Discussion: Play represents a universal context, but one that is experienced with a lot of variation across families and cultures. In considering how to increase access to this important context, it is important to conduct research that captures supports and barriers presented across a variety of cultural influences.
In addition, play is a largely exploratory context for children. Therefore, there is a need to determine the appropriate level of partner-training and support that should be provided in this context.

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