$1 Million Grant to Aid Work with Hearing Impaired Children

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A new $1 million grant from the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs  will allow UTHSC/UTK graduate students to receive advanced, evidence- based training to improve language and early literacy outcomes for young children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Faculty members in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville have received a $1.08 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will allow graduate students to receive advanced, evidence- based training to improve language and early literacy outcomes for young children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The four-year grant is titled, “Interdisciplinary Preparation of Speech-language Pathologists and Educators of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to Improve Early Language and Pre-Literacy Outcomes for Young Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. This particular population was chosen because of the severe state and national shortages of professionals prepared to work with young children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families. The training is structured around use of literacy frameworks and a framework for interdisciplinary practice.

The project will be directed by Ilsa Schwarz, PhD, CCC-SLP, FASHA, professor emeritus in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology. Other project leadership includes co-directors Jillian McCarthy, PhD, CCC-SLP, assistant professor in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology; Kimberly Wolbers, PhD, professor and co-director of undergraduate studies, Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Educational Interpreting Program at UTK; and David Smith, PhD, research professor and director of the Center on Deafness at UTK. Julie Beeler, CCC-A/SLP, program liaison for Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, will serve as project coordinator.

A graduate student interacts with students during a therapy session.

“The vision for this grant is to strengthen the collaborative and interdisciplinary teaching and research activities that already exist between our academic programs at UTHSC and UTK,” said Dr. Schwarz. “As a result, graduate students in both programs will be better prepared to provide optimally effective and evidence-based services to young children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families. We anticipate that our students will be able to improve language and early literacy outcomes for young children using a family-centered approach and set them on the path for later academic success.” The ultimate goals of the project are to promote successful reading comprehension for the children and successful teamwork across the disciplines.

Over the next four years, 15 students from each discipline will be selected to participate by a grant admissions committee. The students will be chosen based on academic excellence, performance in clinical or educational settings, and sign language ability. They will receive a tuition remission for three semesters of their education and complete a capstone research project related to improving language and early literacy outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Upon completion of their training, all students will be prepared to obtain state teaching licensure and professional certification in their discipline.

This project is funded by a grant from the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education for their 84.325K (Focus Area A) competition: Preparing personnel to serve infants toddlers, and preschool-age children with disabilities who have high intensity needs.

This story was originally published in Health Professions Magazine