Janice Light, Ph.D (JCL4@PSU.EDU) holds the Hintz Family Endowed Chair in Children’s Communicative Competence in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Penn State University. She is actively involved in research, personnel preparation, and service delivery in the area of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Her primary interest has been furthering understanding of the development of communicative competence, language, and literacy skills by individuals with complex communication needs who require AAC. Dr. Light has been the principal investigator on more than 20 federally-funded research grants to improve outcomes for individuals who use AAC (totaling more than $10 million). She is currently the Principal Investigator for the RERC on Communication Enhancement. She is the author of more than 80 peer-reviewed papers, book chapters, and books, and served as a Co-Editor of the AAC Journal with Dr. McNaughton. She has received numerous awards in recognition of her research and teaching contributions to the field, including the Don Johnston Distinguished Lecturer award from the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, the Dorothy Jones Barnes Outstanding Teaching Award, the Penn State Teaching Hall of Fame award, the Helen G. and Evan G. Patishall Outstanding Research Achievement Award, the Pauline Schmitt Russell Distinguished Research Career Award, the Penn State University Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the 2013 President’s Award for Academic Integration. In collaboration with Dr. Wilkinson and Dr. Drager, Dr. Light’s work was recognized with the AAC Journal 2012 Editor’s Award.
David McNaughton, Ph.D (DBM2@PSU.EDU) is a Professor in the Department of Educational and School Psychology and Special Education, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, at The Pennsylvania State University. He teaches classes on assistive technology and collaboration skills, and his current research interests include the development of vocational opportunities for individuals with severe disabilities, and literacy instruction for children with complex communication needs (CCN). Dr. McNaughton is a partner with the current RERC on Communication Enhancement, was a Co-Editor of the AAC Journal with Dr. Light, and has published over 30 AAC-related articles. He has received ISAAC’s Editor’s Award and the Outstanding Dissertation Research Award from the Council for Learning Disabilities.
Krista Wilkinson, Ph.D. (KMW22@PSU.EDU) is a Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at The Pennsylvania State University, teaching graduate courses and seminars in augmentative and alternative communication. Dr. Wilkinson studies early communication and language in learners with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Her main interests include vocabulary learning as well as the use of visual supports in communication and education. Dr. Wilkinson has been Principal Investigator on grants from the National Institutes of Health for over 15 years, including an R29, an R03, and several components of P01 (Program Project) mechanisms. She has also received funding awards from the ASHA New Century Scholar Program and the Penn State Social Sciences Research Institute. Dr. Wilkinson has over 45 peer reviewed publications and chapters and over 100 presentations at national and international conferences, spanning disciplines as diverse as Psychology, Communication Sciences & Disorders, and Behavior Analysis. In collaboration with Dr. Light and Dr. Drager, Dr. Wilkinson’s work was recognized with the AAC Journal 2012 Editor’s Award. As of 2013, she serves as Editor for the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (she has also previously served as Associate Editor of AJSLP), and Associate Editor for the Journal of Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Dr. Wilkinson is the ASHA representative to the National Joint Committee for the Communicative Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities.
Kathy Drager, Ph.D. (KDD5@PSU.EDU) Kathy Drager, Ph.D. (KDD5@PSU.EDU) is the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education in the College of Health and Human Development and Professor of Communication Disorders at Penn State University. She has significant experience in research in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for children and adults with severe disabilities. Her research interests include AAC for individuals with severe expressive communication disorders, especially for children, adolescents, and adults with severe disabilities who are at the beginning stages of communication, including children with autism. She is also interested in issues faced by the global community in AAC. Dr. Drager has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in AAC, autism, and cultural and diversity issues in AAC. She has participated in personnel preparation grants to train MS level SLPs in AAC and to train doctoral students in AAC. She has more than 35 publications and over 110 presentations at local, national, and international conferences. She has served several terms and is currently on the Associate Editor board of Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Dr. Drager is an outstanding teacher; she is a past recipient of the prestigious Penn State Alumni Society Excellence in Teaching Award.
Erinn Finke, Ph.D., CCC-SLP (ENH109@PSU.EDU) is an Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Penn State University, and serves as the Professor In Charge (PIC) for the graduate program. The overarching goal of her research interests and experience are to develop evidence-based methods for supporting social relationships for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including those children on the autism spectrum with severe communication impairments and who use AAC systems for communication. Dr. Finke teaches undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral-level seminar courses in AAC, language and school-based issues. She is an active Investigator on a 5-year personnel preparation grant to train doctoral students in AAC, and she participated as an Investigator on a personnel preparation grant (now completed) to train MS level SLPs in multicultural services and access for immigrant children. She is also the Principal Investigator on several grants involving children with autism spectrum disorders who use AAC systems for communication (including the Organization for Autism Research (OAR) award), and collaborates both within the CSD Department and with related fields on additional grants and fellowships. She has published extensively on AAC and working with individuals with autism, and has participated in dozens of presentations, seminars, and poster sessions at local, national, and international conferences. Prior to returning to Penn State for doctoral training in 2004, Dr. Finke worked as a speech-language pathologist in an urban public school system providing services to children with communication disabilities, including those from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds and those from high poverty communities.
Jessica Gosnell Caron, Ph.D., CCC-SLP (JGC169@psu.edu) is an Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Penn State University. Her work to-date has focused on enhancing communicative competence and improving quality of life with persons whose communication includes AAC as it relates to a) the use of mainstream communication modalities (e.g., social media), b) enhancement of design and use of high tech communication methods, and c) improvement of literacy outcomes. She has established a diverse contribution to the field, having published manuscripts, a book chapter, and presented at national and international conferences. She was a 2014 recipient of the ASHFoundation New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship, Dreams and Possibilities Campaign initiative. In addition, she has taught courses in AAC at Northeastern University, Massachusetts General Institute of Health Professions, Boston University and Penn State University. She is also a speech-language pathologist with the Certificate of Clinical Competence who has robust experience in all areas of AAC across the lifespan and among varied settings including the Augmentative Communication Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, as a consultant to Adult Day Rehabilitation Centers, and a private AAC Consultant to schools in Massachusetts.
Jessica Currall, M.S./CCC-SLP (JMC447@PSU.EDU) is a Penn State alumni who worked in the Maryland public schools for seven years prior to returning to State College in 2009 as the AAC Research and Outreach Coordinator. In this role, Jessica works closely with the AAC faculty in support of the projects and studies, and to promote research-to-practice applications as a clinical instructor of AAC assessment and intervention at the Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic. Jessica has over twenty years experience supporting individuals with complex communication needs of all ages, and their families. Populations served include individuals with: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Cerebral Palsy, Developmental Delay, Down Syndrome, language delays and disorders (including with pragmatics), intellectual disability, limited or no literacy skills, progressive motor disorders (such as, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS), and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Barbara Roberts, M.S./CCC-SLP-L (BAR8@PSU.EDU) is an Instructor in the department and an ASHA certified speech language pathologist. She supervises graduate student clinical experiences in the Penn State Speech / Language and Hearing Clinic and in an area charter school. Both the clinic and charter school provide comprehensive services for infants, children, and adults with speech, language, and hearing disabilities including those who require AAC. Barb also serves as the externship coordinator for graduate students on the Masters Level AAC Training Grants. Prior to coming to Penn State in 1992, she worked as a SLP in the public schools providing services to children with communication disabilities, including those from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds and those from rural and high poverty communities.