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Research Interests

For more than 35 years I have been involved in research related to communication and language development of children with disabilities.This program of research has focused on examining both social communication of young children with significant intellectual disability, and the ecological factors that facilitate and discourage communicative growth. I have also worked on developing interventions to encourage more effective and efficient communication by these children.

Recent projects include assessing current dictionaries of prelinguistic forms used by children with severe disabilities to communicate and the functions (e.g., request, protest, comment) these forms serve for the children. In addition, I am interested in investigating the effects of listener (un)responsiveness on the dictionary of forms. An especially interesting area of inquiry is communicative repair. For many of the children with whom I work, their signals are ambiguous and listeners often misunderstand their intent. A major focus of investigation is how do these children "repair" their communicative acts when their first effort is misunderstood? We have found that often they engage in challenging behavior as a repair strategy, because such behavior recruits the attention of adults or results in the intended outcome. Our effort is to teach alternative means of repair that serve the same function and do so more efficiently and effectively than their current forms.

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