Mary Andrianopoulos, Communication Disorders, and Mary Lynn Boscardin, chair of the Student Development Department, recently were awarded a five-year, $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) for training speech language pathologists in the public schools to effectively deliver reliable, evidence-based models of technology. Theirs was one of only nine winning proposals in the national competition.
The grant will fund over 40 master's students in speech language pathology (SLP) with a specialization in the area of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and using technologies to facilitate learning. Their Research-to-Practice activities will include studying the efficacy of various intervention approaches that are typically delivered to children on the autism spectrum, say Andrianopoulos and Boscardin.
The students will also use evidence-based practices to improve and maintain achievement among students with ASD using telepractice to deliver services, which will include active consultation and e-supervision of the graduate students.
Andrianopoulos and her colleagues also intend to provide professional development opportunities including state-of-art knowledge and empirical data related to training SLP specialists to staff and teachers at partner schools in the Pioneer Valley and nationally, using smart classrooms on campus. Public schools in Chicopee, Springfield, Holyoke, Sunderland, Amherst and South Hadley are involved in the project, along with the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. John Elder Robison, author of the best-selling book, “Look Me in the Eye,” will serve as a consultant and advisory board member on the grant.
Andrianopoulos says, “What made this grant proposal a winner is the telepractice/telehealth component we proposed for the project plan, which reviewers reported was new, innovative and the way of the future. The new grant will expand our SLP specialty-training program in ASD in collaboration with our UMass Telepractice Research Team our well-established school partners to include technology use.”
In April, she and Michelle Boisvert, lead investigator of telepractice research and a clinical instructor in Communications Disorders, will present their research findings on the effective use of telepractice as a service delivery, training and educational model at the annual Council for Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CAPCSD) conference in Arizona. Their research has shown that students with ASD demonstrate equivalent, and in some cases better, outcomes when intervention is provided through telepractice compared to traditional on-site services.
Boisvert says, “Telepractice involves the application of technologies such as computer-based video conferencing software and the Internet that enable specialists to deliver services in real-time from a remote location. This is especially beneficial because there is a critical shortage of speech language pathologists in the country.”
Andrianopoulos has established a legacy in training the next generation of SLPs with a specialization in autism and in research related to speech and language differences among those individuals with an autism spectrum disorder. To date, she has received $3.65 million from DOE and has funded and graduated 50 master's and eight doctoral students in SLP. In addition to Andrianopoulos, Boscardin and Boisvert, the team includes Communication Disorders faculty member Jacquie Kurland, Meg Gebhard from the School of Education and Lisa Green from the Department of Linguistics.
Photos: Mary Andrianopoulos (top right) and Mary Lynn Boscardin