NYU Steinhardt CSD Department Makes Strides with Cultural and Linguistic Diversity

When it comes to Cultural and Linguistic Diversity (CLD), NYU Steinhardt’s Communicative Sciences and Disorders Department has embraced it in so many areas of their work. Here’s a rundown of recent developments:

In 2016, the department launched its Bilingual Extension Program, one year later bringing in María Rosa Brea, PhD, CCC-SLP, Clinical Associate Professor, as its Director. Dr. Brea involves high-impact practices (HIPs), including service-learning projects, in her courses. Reflecting her commitment to bridge learning with service to the community, she received the University of South Florida Provost’s Outstanding Community-Engaged Teaching Award in 2015 and the NYU Steinhardt Faculty Star Award in 2018. In further support of the Bilingual Extension Program, the Department hired Visiting Assistant Professor Alisha Gandhi, who holds New York State certification as a bilingual SLP, so she could supervise our Bilingual Extension Program students in the CSD Speech-Language-Hearing Disorders Clinic.

Beyond heading up the Bilingual Extension Program, Dr. Brea also founded and is faculty advisor to an NYU student organization, the Bilingual Language and Literacy Investigative and Networking Group (BLLING), which seeks to advance knowledge about bilingualism and cultural competence in the field of Communicative Sciences and Disorders through education, research, and community outreach.

Addressing Dr. Brea’s BLLING Group in September with a presentation, Ten Tips for Speech Pathology Management for Bilingual Aphasia, was Dr. Samantha Siyambalapitiya, PhD, BSpPath (Hons I), BSc, CPSP, who stopped by the NYU Small Talk Language Development and Disorders Lab for a few weeks as a visiting scholar and collaborator. On sabbatical from Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, Dr. Siyambalapitiya spent many days working in person with her usually distant research collaborator Dr. Christina Reuterskiöld, chair of the NYU CSD department and Post-Doc Vishnu KK Nair. Dr. Siyambalapitiya is an internationally recognized researcher with expertise in a highly specialized field, focusing on understanding and managing communication disability in individuals who are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD), including bilingual speakers.

This academic year (and beyond), CSD has brought in several additional scholars and researchers, greatly expanding our CLD offerings:

On campus during September, CSD hosted visiting scholar Karla N. Washington, PhD, CCC-SLP, S-LP(C), Reg. CASLPO, Associate Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Cincinnati, who collaborated with Dr. Tara McAllister and her Biofeedback Intervention Technology for Speech (BITS) lab. Dr. Washington delivered a presentation to our Research Colloquium, Measuring Speech Intelligibility in Jamaican Creole (JC)- and English-speaking Preschoolers: Validation of the Intelligibility in Context Scale in a Bilingual Population.  In it, Dr. Washington described the first validation study of the Intelligibility in Context Scale (ICS) for use with speakers of JC and English and detailed psychometric evidence regarding use of the ICS and ICS-JC in a sample of children without disorders using measures of speech sound production. This is the first study to collect ICS data using auditory and written administration with findings to suggest that auditory administration, which might be necessary for language with a new or absent written form, does not negatively impact the psychometric evidence obtained.

Vishnu KK Nair, PhD is a two-year Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the Department for all of 2018 and 2019. With strong interdisciplinary research training in speech-language pathology and cognitive science, Dr. Nair completed his doctoral thesis in 2016 from the ARC Centre for Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Macquarie University, Australia. His research focuses on understanding the cognitive and linguistic consequences of bilingualism in children and adults with and without language impairment. Together with Associate Professor and Department Chair Christina Reuterskiöld, he is currently involved in international collaborations and research projects on longitudinal social-communication outcomes in bilingual children with autism and language intervention in bilingual children with developmental language disorders. Dr. Nair’s passion lies in bridging the gap between clinical and cognitive sciences and he is committed to research with a strong experimental focus and real life clinical implications for the remediation of language impairment in bilingual children and adults. This past March, Dr. Nair presented a talk to the CSD Research Colloquium entitled, Effects of bilingualism on cognitive control and novel word learning, and he also delivered a talk to the CUNY Graduate Center Colloquium on Oct 17.

Keisha T. Lindsay, PhD, CCC-SLP, came on board to the CSD Department in the NYU Provost’s Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program as a Steinhardt Dean’s Fellow, through August, 2020. While here at NYU, Dr. Lindsay will pursue her research, teach CSD students, embrace NYU’s vibrant intellectual life through scholarly networking opportunities, and receive co-mentoring from CSD’s chair, Dr. Christina Reuterskiöld, and Dr. Shondel Nero in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Dr. Lindsay will present at the CSD Research Colloquium on November 6, The Phonological Features of Trinidadian English (TrE) and Trinidadian English Creole (TrinEC). Beyond her ASHA certification, Dr. Lindsay is registered with the Council of the Professions Related to Medicine in Trinidad and Tobago. Dr. Lindsay’s research examines how speech and language skills develop in children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, with a particular focus on language acquisition in children from the English-speaking Caribbean. A practicing clinician both in the U.S. and the English-speaking Caribbean, Dr. Lindsay uses her clinical experiences to inform her research agenda and goals.

Stay tuned for more CLD advances in CSD.

CSD Department Researchers Identify Tool to Help Transgender Women Have a More Authentic Voice

Researchers in NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders identified visual-acoustic biofeedback as a new tool to assist in voice modification therapy for transgender women. The research, which appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Voice, identifies a new avenue for this technology as a tool to help trans women find a voice that matches their gender identity.

“Our voices are so much a part of who we are,” said Deanna Kawitzky, the study’s lead author, who conducted the research as a student in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. “For transgender women, it can be really challenging to find a voice that matches how they choose to present their gender identity. This study suggests that biofeedback may be used as a tool to help trans women achieve a voice they are comfortable with. Biofeedback has not been used in this way before, and we’re excited to have identified a new direction for transgender voice therapy research.”

Understanding Biofeedback
In biofeedback, bodily functions are electronically monitored and visually displayed to help someone achieve more voluntary control of that function. Although usually used to measure functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, or skin temperature, biofeedback can also be used to visualize speech and has thus become a tool for individuals seeking to change their voice or articulation patterns.

How it Works
In visual-acoustic biofeedback, the learner speaks into a microphone and views a real-time representation of the acoustic signal of speech on a monitor—in this case, the resonant frequencies of the vocal tract. These frequencies signal the differences between sounds, such as “ah” versus “ee,” but also differ across male and female speakers. In the present study, transgender female participants were provided with targets representing resonant frequencies that are typical for cisgender female speakers. They produced words while viewing the biofeedback display and were encouraged to adjust their speech until their resonant frequencies lined up with these targets. Participants were able to make a significant shift in their resonant frequencies in response to the biofeedback targets. In addition, words that were produced with higher resonant frequencies were rated “more feminine” by blinded listeners.

This research was conducted in the Biofeedback Intervention Technology for Speech Lab (BITS Lab). The lab is led by the study’s co-author and Associate Professor of CSD Tara McAllister.

“Many people want to change the way they speak—whether they have a speech disorder, or speak English as a second language, or are seeking to achieve speech that better matches their gender identity,” said McAllister. “However, our speech patterns are deeply ingrained over years of experience, so change can be extremely difficult. Research in BITS lab aims to understand how technology can help people make these changes in a quick and lasting way.”

The research offers a preliminary suggestion that biofeedback could also be a useful tool in voice modification therapy for trans men and the trans community more generally.

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Dr. Sonja Molfenter Publishes New Study in Dysphagia

As adults age, they all experience a natural loss of muscle mass and function. A new study published in Dysphagia by Assistant Professor Sonja M. Molfenter finds that as the loss of muscle and function in the throat occurs it becomes more difficult for efficient constriction to occur while swallowing – which leads to an increased chance of food and liquids being left over in the throat. The study helps explain why15 percent of seniors experience dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.

Among other health issues, swallowing difficulties can lead to malnutrition, dehydration and pneumonia – from food and drinks being misdirected into the lungs. Swallowing difficulties can also have a financial impact. Other studies have demonstrated that when patients with dysphagia are admitted to the hospital, they normally experience a 40 percent longer length-of-stay than those without dysphagia – estimated to cost $547,000,000 per year.

Molfenter and her colleagues noted that dysphagia in older adults is particularly relevant as the proportion of seniors in the United States is projected to increase to over 20 percent by 2030.

“Dysphagia has serious consequences for health and quality of life,” said Molfenter, the study’s lead author. “This research establishes the need for exercise programs for older adults that target throat muscles just like those that target the muscles of the arms, legs and other parts of the human body.”

Charles Lenell also of NYU and Cathy L. Lazarus of Mount Sinai Beth Israel and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai contributed to this study.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


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Dr. Christina Reuterskiold Wins NYU Steinhardt Teaching Excellence Award

We are proud to announce that Department Chair and Associate Professor Christina Reuterskiold was awarded an NYU Steinhardt Teaching Excellence Award for the 2017-2018 school year.

The Teaching Excellence Award is given to full-time faculty members in The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development who demonstrate teaching excellence. Award winners receive a specially designed certificate and a monetary award.

Congratulations, Dr. Reuterskiold!


CSD Students Win ASHA Research Award

Congratulations to CSD students Samantha Ayala and Laine Cialdella, who were recently awarded the 2018 Students Preparing for Academic-Research Careers (SPARC) Award by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA)’s Academic Affairs and Research Education team.

The SPARC Award Program is part of ASHA’s strategic objective to enhance the generation, and eventual implementation of, clinical research. The goal of SPARC is to foster students’ interest in the pursuit of PhD education and careers in academia.

Both Samantha and Laine are mentored by Associate Professor Tara McAllister.

Award Recipient Laine Cialdella

Award Recipient Samantha Ayala

Department of Communicative Science and Disorders Graduation Award Winners

We are delighted to announce the below student award winners for the 2017-2018 academic year. Congratulations to all the winners, and to all students graduating from the department.


Spring 2018

Excellence in Academics Nicole Candiotti
Excellence in Research Grace Tsang
Excellence in Service Gretchen Go
ARC: Excellence in Academics, Research, and Clinical Skills Samantha Ayala


Fall 2017 
Academic Excellence Gabriella Magid
Clinical Excellence Bianca Rammairone and Melyssa Weller
Research Recognition Erica Herzberg
ARC: Excellence in Academics, Research, and Clinical Skills Samantha Siminerio
Outstanding Professionalism Kacie McGoldrick
Outstanding Service Elizabeth Otterbein


Spring 2018
ARC: Excellence in Academics, Research, and Clinical Skills Diana Gherlone
Academic Excellence Erin Clancy
Clinical Excellence Corrine Ryklin
Outstanding Professionalism Esther Pak
Summer 2018
Excellence in Research Ashley Quinto
ARC: Excellence in Academics, Research, and Clinical Skills Christine Cedeno
Outstanding Service Elizabeth Francis
Outstanding Professionalism Vittoria Frustaci
Clinical Excellence Emily Capazzi
Academic Excellence Julia Gassert

PhD Student Joanne Li Wins Student Research Award

Photo of Joanne LiJoanne (Jingwen) Li, current PhD student in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at NYU Steinhardt, was recently awarded the Student Research Award for the Conference on Motor Speech for her platform presentation titled “Do individual differences predict learning outcomes in biofeedback training?”.

Joanne’s research focuses on bilingual language development and disorders, speech motor control, and speech prosody. She is currently working on her first qualification project, which is about perception and production of English lexical stress by Cantonese and Mandarin learners of English.

Speech@NYU’s First Campus Immersion Weekend

Group photos of online students holding NYU banner.This fall, 37 students in NYU Steinhardt’s new online MS in Communicative Sciences and Disorders program Speech@NYU spent their first weekend on campus to experience the sights and sounds of New York city. The students had the chance to immerse themselves in local clinical settings, mock diagnostic evaluations, and clinical workshops within the department. Practicum I and Practicum II students in this program of study will spend two long weekends on campus cultivating their skill set to meet clinical competencies during their time in the online MS program.

The three-day event began with an orientation breakfast and getting-to-know-you gathering led by Erin Embry, Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of Online Education, and Christina Reuterskiold, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. Ted Magder, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at NYU Steinhardt, also spoke to the students about the important role online learning has in the school’s goals of innovation, impact, and inclusion. This is the first time the online cohort of students were able to meet each other in person and share their experiences about being part of this groundbreaking new program at NYU. That same evening, students, faculty, and staff of the CSD department enjoyed an “Escape the Room” adventure and shared in some food and drink at a local restaurant.

The main reason for the students to be present on campus was to participate in clinical experiences in schools and sites that often work with the CSD department’s on-campus MS program. Immersion sites included: Dream Charter School, Democracy Prep Charter School, Children’s Aid Society, and East Calvary. The locations were arranged in partnership with City Sounds, a pediatric based speech-language pathology center serving the New York metropolitan area. NYU CSD faculty and City Sounds supervisors accompanied the online students as they gained valuable hands-on experiences and observation hours at the various locations.

To round out the weekend, students participated in workshops in which they gained hands-on experience with standardized speech and language assessments, as well as learned to use various tools such as portable audiometers, audiology booths and others that they will encounter in their clinical experiences during the program and as professional clinicians. They also participated in mock diagnostics to evaluate what they had learned in the program thus far.

The department was thrilled to welcome the Speech@NYU students to campus, and look forward to hosting future cohorts each semester.

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