Amanda Simmons

Speech and Hearing Science (University of Tennessee)

Background: I received a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2005-2009) followed by 2 1/2 years of service with the Peace Corps in Cameroon and Zambia where I was challenged to communicate in other languages and cross-culturally. These events grew an appreciation for my voice and communication abilities which led to my enrollment in a speech language pathology master’s program. I currently study the implications of education and training development on the use of AAC with kids in acute care settings and adults with neurogenic disease processes.

Current Interests: I have conducted mixed methods research looking at acute care nurse knowledge and use with AAC followed by computer-based education modules to fill some of those knowledge gaps. I am currently shifting my research to develop and implement education and training on low-tech and no-tech AAC for patients living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (pALS) and their caregivers. I have a particular interest in ensuring that the masses (stateside and abroad, from all walks of life) are aware of and growing in their ability and comfort using AAC of all kinds! I hope to develop education and training accessible to anyone who might be interested or willing to listen.

Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jillian McCarthy

Sample Presentation/Publication and Rationale: Impact of Computer-Based AAC Education for Nurses, Nursing Students, and SLP Students

Nurses, the primary point of contact during hospitalization, are common communication partners but report limited ability to troubleshoot communication breakdowns during communication interactions to meet patients’ needs. Some of my research has sought to determine the effectiveness of a four-part computer-based learning program for nurses, nursing students, and speech-language pathology students (control group). Outcomes include increased knowledge on basic aspects of communication and AAC use with patients. I love the idea of teaching a man to fish so that he can eat for a lifetime as opposed to fostering dependency – how can be build capacity to empower others to support individuals with complex communication needs?

Presentation Topic: pALS, Caregivers, and Healthcare Staff’s Perceptions of Low-Tech AAC

Discussion Topic: Participant recruitment for the populations I desire to work with is particularly difficult, especially when considering attrition due to severity and progression of illnesses such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Parkinson’s Disease (PD). An additional concern is how to integrate and work through the emotional aspect of pALS and their caregivers – life is hard and a moving target for them to work through.

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