University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Rudy Lucier



Undergraduate Research Award


I’m Rudy, a junior SLHS and Communications student interested in the intersection of bilingualism and autism. In my free time, I enjoy biking, graphic design, and watching movies—particularly those about friendship. Interacting with the local community through Dr. Gross’s Bilingual Language Development Lab has been a highlight of my time at UMass, and has shaped my values entering the Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences field. I’m looking forward to seeing where this path takes me, and meeting more amazing influences along the way.


The research I have been assisting with is under the guidance of Dr. Gross, Director of the Bilingual Language Development Lab. This lab serves as a resource for families and professionals to promote development in each of the child’s languages and confronts the over- and under- diagnosis of communication disorders in bilingual youth. My contributions to this team come largely from transcribing, in both Spanish and English, the dialogues of children with and without Developmental Language Disorders (DLD) during interactive storytelling sessions conducted over Zoom. The primary objectives of this research revolve around constructing comprehensive profiles of each child's observed language use, and concurrently gathering observations from their families regarding language practices and experiences with code-switching. 

Code-switching is the dynamic shift from one language to another, due to a myriad of factors including incorporating elements from both languages, addressing different speakers, accommodating a specific listener’s language, more easily accessing a word in the moment, using the language that best expresses one’s idea, or just saying what the speaker thinks sounds better. Characterizing the unique language practices and personalities of bilingual children—who navigate a world that often overlooks the value of their identities, indicates ways to better support their language development. By comprehending the intricacies of their communication patterns, we aim to contribute to a more nuanced understanding that could, in turn, inform future research about the variability that exists within bilingualism and autism. I hope this research will help professionals and families understand and support these children who, in many cases, are boxed into an education that does not fit their needs, so they can celebrate and express themselves freely using whichever language they choose.

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