Girl with microphoneThe field of Communication Sciences and Disorders is a rapidly growing area of basic and applied research combined with clinical development. The interdisciplinary nature of the field draws from such diverse disciplines as physics, biology, engineering, psychology, linguistics, medicine, and philosophy. Students can focus in one specific area or create an education plan and training that encompasses a range of communicative disorders.

Spotlight on Research - An Interview with Dr. Arnold Olszewski, Director of the Children's Acquisition of Language and Literacy (CALL) Lab

Dr. Olszewski
Tell me about the national award you recently received.

The award is funded by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The award is called the Advancing Academic Research Careers (AARC) award. It’s for researchers who have recently started a faculty position and would like a little bit of extra mentorship with both research and teaching. You have to identify a mentor for both of these. So I’m working with Dr. Franklin who is in our department here, she is my teaching mentor. And Dr. de Medeiros is from Gerontology and she’s my research mentor. Dr. Franklin is helping me prep some graduate level class because I’ve never taught at the graduate level before and looking for ways we can incorporate interdisciplinary activities into my teaching. And also with training the thesis students and undergraduate research students. On the research side, I’m being trained by Dr. de Medeiros on qualitative research. She’s helping me to incorporate methods of qualitative research into my already existing research that has always been very quantitative. So a different methodology but still looking at the same topics that I have previously researched.

Tell me about your research.

I look at early language literacy development. I’m specifically interested in looking at children who are at risk for developing literacy disabilities. This includes kids who are in poverty, kids who have health conditions, and kids from minority backgrounds. Looking at factors that might inhibit their language literacy development and then also developing interventions so we can provide the appropriate support so those kids don’t fall behind.

When did you first start researching this topic?

Since graduate school I’ve been working on supporting kids who were at risk for disabilities. I worked a lot with kids who were living in poverty and a lot of bilingual children as well. I did my PhD at the University of South Florida, so there was a huge bilingual population there. It’s really only the last year and a half or so that I’ve stared working with kids who have health conditions and that’s the area I’m focusing on for this award.

What got you first interested in the topic?

I have always been interested in research. After a couple years working as a speech language pathologist in the public schools I saw a lot of kids who were in high school who were getting ready to graduate who did not have severe disabilities but they were not reading at a functional level. These were kids getting ready to graduate and they’re not going to be able to go to college, they’re going to have trouble getting a job and it was just so many of these kids who had slipped through the cracks in the education system and I thought what can we do to try and prevent these kids from falling behind. How can we put supports in early on when kids are in preschool and kindergarten so they don’t fall behind their peers, and so they can become literate and have a better chance of getting into college and starting a successful career.

You are the Director of the CALL lab. How does that relate to your research?

I have 3 graduate students and 6 undergrads that are working in the lab. We’ve got a couple things that were doing right now. We’re interviewing speech pathologists to look at what they know about kids with health conditions and how confident they are in working with that population. I’m also doing a survey of parents at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, looking at parents of children with health conditions and healthy children to see if there are differences in how frequently they read to their kids or play word games with them and also their attitudes about literacy, so if that’s something they perceive as important or not. I’m also continuing my intervention work by looking to see if these short Twitter videos encourage parents to use more instructional strategies while reading to their children.