Students analyze spelling tests to help deaf children overcome writing challenges

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Students Lacey Simpson and Emma Villanueva

University College University students Lacey Simpson and Emma Villanueva are looking for ways to help deaf children improve their spelling, an essential skill for communicating effectively through writing.

The two are working with Lisa Bowers, an associate professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program, who is conducting ongoing research in this area. The U of A team is collaborating with researchers in the Deaf Studies Program at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

“Our overall goal is to make sure that learning to spell is as inclusive and accessible as possible for those who may encounter obstacles or difficulties,” said Simpson.

The research study involves identifying which language processes are strong or weak in elementary-aged children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Researchers analyze spelling tests provided by elementary school teachers.

The team is in the data analysis phase and plans to document their findings and interpretations for publication. Their research will help advance practitioners’ knowledge of the spelling skills of deaf children.

“As a future speech-language pathologist, it’s so important to understand how these students integrate phonological and phonetic concepts – the study of the sounds of speech – to learn how to spell and write in their college life,” Villanueva said. “Spelling is an essential part of communication and academic success.”

Simpson and Villanueva appreciate the opportunity to work with educators at UT Knoxville. “It is beneficial to learn from professionals in other fields, and I enjoy playing a part in this research study to complete my thesis,” Simpson said.

The two also observe speech therapy sessions at various regional clinics as part of the U of A program.

“It’s so fascinating to see what I’ve learned come to life,” said Simpson.

Simpson and Villanueva will graduate with a Bachelor of Communication Science and Disorders in May 2022.

Emma has a personal motivation to choose the field. “When I was much younger two of my great-grandparents survived multiple strokes. Their ability to communicate was impaired and I remember wanting to do something to help,” she said. . “I learned speech therapy in high school and learned that people in this career often work with stroke survivors. I look forward to helping people like my great-grandparents relearn how to communicate effectively.

Simpson agreed that the ability to help others is one of the most significant aspects of the business.

“I want to make positive changes in the lives of those I will be working with,” she said. “I hope to spread kindness and acceptance.”


This story is the latest in a series called The Dean’s Spotlight, featuring outstanding students from the College of Education and Health Professions. Visit COEHP’s online magazine, The Colleague, for more news from the six units that make up the College. Visit the Communication Sciences and Disorders page for more information on COEHP’s speech therapy program.


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