WHAT'S NEW AT CU? SLHS DEPARTMENT UPDATE!

It was time for another visit to SLHS on behalf of fellow alumni for an annual update. Rest assured, fellow alumni, that the Department continues to make us proud! Currently, Professor Anu Sharma, PhD in Audiology, is serving as Interim Department Chair. She follows Dr. Gail Ramsberger as chair. Gail continues her work in adult neurogenic disorders of communication in addition to her teaching positions. Both professors have held watch over exciting developments in the Department during their time as Chair. 

Amy Thrasher, Clinical faculty

Last year, interior upgrades were done to the clinic entrance and the clinic is very welcoming upon arrival. You can see a portion of the Departments faculty and staff on our lovely campus trees in autumn.

After checking in and greeting one of my favorite familiar faces, Brenda DowellAssistant to the SLHS Chair, I headed downstairs to a favorite place, the Child Learning Center. Affectionately known as the CLC, the Center has been a resource for our community for over forty years, providing intervention services for children with needs along with their typical peers in a play-based educational setting. Before joining the staff and kids outside, I went back upstairs and managed to catch Amy Thrasher (left) in her office. Currently on break, Amy serves as clinical faculty in the Toddler Group and Preschool programs of the Child Learning Center. She developed a program for young children with autism focusing on joint attention and peer interaction through the use of storybook reading and video modeling, Story of Friendship. In collaboration with the Temple Grandin School, Amy also developed a social communication intervention program for adolescents with autism and similar learning profiles using coaching and video self-review, Perspectives. Amy also leads a family education and support group during the summers for families of young children with Down syndrome, Early Circles as part of CLC services

Amy encouraged me to meet new CLC staff including Early Childhood Specialist and current CLC Director, LJ Werner, along with another familiar face from INREAL days …Janine Randol, Clinical Faculty who skillfully manages the Toddler group. Jenny Koslowski is another able member of the CLC staff. Also present was OT, Kathy Keith who regularly consults with the SLPs. It was a treat to join the children and teachers in the back yard and as you can see by the photos below, the CLC was in full action mode.

CLC Photos, L to R, Top to Bottom: LJ Werner w/ CLC child, Janine Randol w/ child, two CLC children, Grad Student Amy Maule, Class of '17 w/ parent & child,
CLC Child having fun in a tunnel, Grad Student Nina De La Rossa, Class of '17 w/child, Erin Leary, '17 (R) w/Janinie & CLC children, Janine w/ OT Kathy Keith.
JL Werner with CLC child Janine Randol with CLC child Two children playing on CLC playground CLC grad student, parent and child
CLC child crawling through tunnel   

I was captivated by Dr. Anu Sharma's research and witnessed the action first-hand in her state-of-the-art clinical lab where she examines brain changes and neuroplasticity in hearing loss. Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and utilizes assessment of cortical auditory evoked potentials, high-density EEG, and other brain imaging techniques in conjunction with behavioral experiments to determine changes in the brain, specifically the impact of hearing loss on the brain. Current results show that even mild hearing loss can result in significant change. See Dr. Sharma's article on Compensatory Changes in Cortical Resource Allocation in Adults with Hearing Loss and a second on Cross-Modal Re-Organization in Adults with Early Stage Hearing Loss.

Dr. Sharma's research team includes SLHS Audiology students who perform electrophysiology testing (using auditory, visual and somatosensory stimulation) source localization and EEG brain dynamics as well as speech perception and cognitive behavioral experimentsShe is tracking the effects of intervention with hearing aids and cochlear implants on cortical plasticity and behavioral outcomes. She is interested in neuroplasticity at both ends of the age spectrum, infants and young children, as well as age-related hearing loss in older adults. She is seen here with student Emily Deeves (left) with their patient (right) who is undergoing an EEG. Detailed information about Dr. Sharma's research can be found at EEG LAB and on the Brain and Behavior Laboratory website.

NEW FACULTY

I met some of the new SLHS faculty members who are engaged in exciting projects. The first new faculty I met was Dr. Christine Brennan (left) who is a developmental cognitive neuroscientist and speech-language pathologist interested in investigating the brain systems supporting language development and speech processing. She comes from the Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern University and is now the Director of the ANCAR Lab (Applied Neuroscience for Communication and Reading) at the University of Colorado Boulder.

 

Dr. Brennan’s current research extends from her previous phonological work conducted in the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern University that focused on how the auditory cortex encodes phonemes, how it synthesizes phonemes into words, and how these processes are affected by experience. Dr. Brennan’s current research aims to improve our understanding of how the organization of the auditory cortex for phonological information may differ in children with and without language-based learning disabilities in which phonological skill is implicated, including dyslexia. Her research projects utilize standardized behavioral measures, experimental tasks, and functional neuroimaging (fMRI). She is a member of the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, as well as a member of the Intermountain Neuroimaging Consortium (INC). Professor Brennan currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in speech and hearing sciences. She earned her PhD and MA from Northwestern University. I appreciated her willingness to meet impromptu as she was soon to teach one of her courses: 5576 SLHS Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology. 

 

 

 

 

Next door to Christine Brennan I found Assistant Professor, Dr. Christina Meyers-Denman (right) who comes to SLHS from the University of Arizona in Tucson where she received her Ph.D. in Speech, Language, and Hearing Science with a Cognitive Science Minor and specializations in Child Language Disorders, Language Learning, Intervention, and Early Bilingualism. 

Christina’s areas of expertise includes applied research in early childhood. She heads up the brand new Improving Treatment Outcomes for Young Speakers Lab (iToys) where she and students work with children who experience late vocabulary development. The Lab’s learning sessions pair normal children with those needing clinical intervention. Clinicians incorporate child-centered intervention, focused observation, parent involvement and gestural support bridges. Dr. Meyers-Denman's research will weigh the benefits of the approach with particular attention to the use of gestural support in advancing children's vocabulary development. 

 

 

OTHER RESEARCH

Dr. Brenda Schick's contributions to the field of Deaf and Hard of Hearing in research, curriulum development, and evaluation is exceptional. She is currently on Sabbatical and in the thick of an exciting new grant funded by IES. With the help of graduate students, she is studying the role of fingerspelling in literacy development in young deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Her past work, funded by NIH, focused on the development of a Theory of Mind in deaf children and how it relates to their language skills. Her work shows that complex language skills are essential for the development of skills in social cognition. With colleagues from the University of Washington, she also developed a tool to assess Quality of Life in students with a hearing loss.  

Some of Dr. Schick's other projects include the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA), a tool she co-developed which evaluates the skills of K-12 interpreters. With colleagues, she published data on the performance skills of interpreters who work in the K-12 setting. Her work on the EIPA has been incorporated into a Classroom Interpreting website dedicated to K-12 interpreting. 

Brenda co-developed a sign language curriculum (video and books) designed for parents titled Sign With Me, as well as a series of children's books that have been translated into ASL by deaf adults and children, titled Read With Me. She has served as the school board president for Rocky Mountain Deaf School, a bilingual charter school for deaf children in metro Denver. She was also a classroom teacher for deaf children. In addition, she is a CODA, having grown up in a deaf family. 

 

What would the SLHS department do without grad students? Raul San Agustin, Graduate Assistant (left) is the one who has been supplying me with new SLHS alumni lists each spring. He provides office support for the department by assisting with the application process; communicating and interpreting departmental and campus graduate regulations to current graduate students, staff, and faculty; describing the graduate program to prospective students; creating spreadsheets and other data sheets to assist the graduate committees in the selection and recruitment of graduate students; and maintaining documentation files as requested by state and federal agencies. He comes well prepared for these tasks with a background in  marketing/consumer products industry. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and is currently studying a Master’s Degree in Marketing (MS in Marketing) at CU Denver. Raul says he has "found that working in higher education at the SLHS Department has been amazing. As a current graduate student, I can empathize with fellow students and am happy to support their journeys.

 

The Department's student organization NSSLA is alive and well, I always seek out their bulletin board (right) to prove it! 

 

Raul and the entire staff and faculty are welcoming faces who would entertain your visit anytime if you'd like to see what's happening at your Alma Mater. Just contact the Department to schedule a visit! 

See other SLHS faculty and staff bios online.  

               Many thanks to Anu Sharma and all of the faculty students and staff who took time to spend time with me on this visit. 

~ Cynthia A. Gray, '76