The primary focus of my research is to examine the effectiveness of home-school partnerships on the development of language and literacy skills of children from low socioeconomic backgrounds who are English Language Learners (ELLs)-a population at risk for low reading achievement. Within this context, my research goals are to:
(a) investigate the effectiveness of parent-school partnerships for stimulating narrative skill development in at-risk ELLs;

(b) evaluate whether language enrichment and stimulation training provided to parents of at-risk ELLs may be related to their children's increased language and emergent literacy skills;

(c) provide a source of data for the replication of the interventions in broader contexts with other at-risk populations;

(d) provide training opportunities for SLPs working with ELLs.

Current research projects include:

1. SALSA Project

Funding Agency: ASHA
Funding Timeline: 2008-2009 (Data analysis still in progress)
Funding Amount: $10,000.00

This project utilized a home-school journaling approach to stimulate language and literacy development in Spanish-speaking preschoolers. The primary objective of this pilot research was to examine the efficacy of a parent-school collaborative language and emergent literacy intervention, Supporting the Acquisition of Language and Literacy through School-Home Activities (SALSA), for Spanish-speaking Head Start children. The intervention was designed to promote parents' abilities to support language and emergent literacy development in their preschool children through a parent-child journaling activity. It is based on a preschool school-home journaling activity that Nelson (2010) describes in her recent textbook and has application for broad groups of typical and special needs learners as well as ELLs.

The research was supported by a 2008-2009 ASHA Multi-Cultural Projects Grant and involved the collaboration of two university programs. Undergraduate students from Andrews University were supervised by Dr. Lena Caesar, while graduate students from Western Michigan University were supervised by Dr. Nickola Nelson.

2. Early On Training Grant

Funding Agency: Clinton County RESA, Office of Innovative Projects
Funding Timeline: 2010-2011 (Data collection in progress)
Funding Amount: $13, 631.00

This project will utilize a documentary review of curricular offerings among universities in the state of Michigan to gather information regarding undergraduate and graduate preparation for early intervention services in the area of speech-language pathology. Information obtained will then be compared to the curricular offerings of 'model' programs nationwide that purport a specific focus in the training of early intervention practitioners. Specifically, data will be obtained regarding how institutions of higher education in Michigan are preparing Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) to provide services to families (including culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) families) in their home environments. The study will also utilize:

(a) a mail survey to gather information from SLPs currently employed as early intervention providers in Michigan regarding the types of knowledge and training they perceive as useful for effective service delivery to infants and toddlers in their home settings & their knowledge of the Early On Center; and

(b) parent focus groups for obtaining parents' perspectives about the quality of services received. A model for SLP undergraduate and graduate preparation in the area of early intervention for children and their families will be proposed, along with suggestions for continuing education topics. Given the burgeoning numbers of CLD families that SLPs are being required to serve, this project will also gather specific information regarding SLPs' preparation for serving families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.