Amanda Nagler, Ayesha Nashurdeen and Iman Salam are are pursuing double master's degrees and engaging in research collaborations.

Adelphi Research Day 2018

Amanda Nagler, Ayesha Nashurdeen and Iman Salam—three students starting the prestigious M.S. in Infant Mental Health-Developmental Practice (IMH-DP) program next year—have also been making the most of research collaborations with Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) faculty and presentations at major conferences as they prepare for their careers.

All three are pursuing double master’s degrees—completing their IMH-DP in 2019 and CSD in 2020.

They are highly active and engaged in research, which is separate from the IMH-DP program.

Nagler called the IMH-DP program “a fantastic opportunity” to “make my future clinical practice more holistic for the children I hope to work with one day. No one—no child, especially—lives in a vacuum,” she said. “Being trained to work in a more multidisciplinary way allows me to treat more than just one aspect of the child’s health.”

Nagler, who earned a B.S. in Linguistics from Northeastern University in Boston in 2016, is now working on two research studies with her professors. “Dr. [Reem] Khamis-Dakwar and Mrs. [Deborah] Friedman, the clinical coordinator at the Hy Weinberg Center [for Communication Disorders], and I are working on a study to develop a screening for input dependency for children with language delay.” Nagler explained, “This study looks to develop a measure to better identify the level of reliance children with language delay exhibit on the language of the adult or caregiver in the room in a manner that would allow us to inform our therapy practices as well as our decisions about duration and frequency of services.”

She presented that research work at two conferences during April 2018, the New York State Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NYSSLHA) annual convention in Rochester, New York, and Adelphi’s 15th Research Conference, where she received an honorable mention. Nashurdeen and Salam also presented at both events.

The second project—in collaboration with Melissa Randazzo, Ph.D., assistant professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and student Melissa Ortiz—“focuses on using rhyme recognition as it relates to internal speech in both healthy adults and adults with nonfluent aphasia,” Nagler said. “We are looking at this using electroencephalography (EEG) and utilizing both a recognition and a production paradigm to show a correlation between intact internal speech and recognition of rhyme.

“One reason I chose Adelphi was its reputation as a research institution,” said Nagler. “I came here knowing I wanted to participate in research and continue to develop my own skills in the lab.”

Nashurdeen, who came to Adelphi with a B.A. in linguistics and another in sociology from Stony Brook University in 2017, said she too is working on research with Dr. Khamis-Dakwar.

“As a minority—American Indo-Guyanese—in the field of speech pathology,” Nashurdeen said, “I was interested in contributing to a clinical knowledge base of the Indo-Guyanese population [originally from Guyana, South America], living in the United States, particularly in New York City, where I too grew up. I found that there is not much research within the field on this cultural and linguistic minority group.”

Nashurdeen said that she came to Dr. Khamis-Dakwar—or “Dr. Kay-Dee, as we fondly call her”—with this idea in mind, since she too is engaged in research on culturally and linguistically diverse populations. “From here,” Nashurdeen said, “I would be interested in further developing this research by collecting data on Indo-Guyanese GEC speakers in NYC neighborhoods, to provide SLPs with a more developed understanding of what differences to expect and to what degree, depending on individuals’ exposure to mainstream English in the United States.”

Salam, who received her B.A. in Speech-Language-Hearing from Temple University in 2016, said her acceptance into the IMH-DP program “meant a lot to me, especially knowing how competitive the program is.”

She conceded, “I was always hesitant to become involved in research. Still, I often like to push my boundaries and leave my comfort zone to grow academically and in knowledge.”

In discussing her research, Salam cited a past study that analyzed a Chinese American child diagnosed with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD), who code switched between Mandarin and English. “Those findings showcased that the child’s code-switching was used systematically and strategically for pragmatic reasons.”

That study inspired Salam and Dr. Khamis-Dakwar to investigate the pragmatic function behind diglossic code-switching in Arabic-speaking children with HFASD. In conducting a case study with a 6-year-old Palestinian child with HFASD, they obtained seven video samples of him interacting with others in various environments, ranging from playing with his sister to enjoying a family meal to engaging in activities with his speech therapist and his mother.

“After transcribing and translating the videos through conversational analysis,” Salam said, “we found 75 occurrences of code-switching to and from Modern Standard Arabic, out of 279 conversational units. Our findings indicated that the child was code switching systematically for the purpose of emphasis, clarification and commenting on his own knowledge.” She won the international research award at Adelphi’s Research Day for her work.

A Memorable Refugee Camp Experience

Salam also learned a great deal from her Summer 2017 experience at a Syrian refugee camp clinic in Lebanon in trying to help children as a volunteer student clinician.

At the camp, she saw 70 clients within three weeks—conducting oral motor exams and articulation therapy sessions, for instance—and also held two workshops at the camp to raise awareness on communication disorders. In speaking with parents at the clinic or the camp, she “realized the lack of knowledge they had regarding their child’s communication disorders.”

Because some parents viewed their child’s unresponsiveness to them as “impolite” or “a sign of stubbornness,” she said they resorted to angry speech and physical violence as remedies. “The parents thought if they used violence against their child who stutters,” she said, “he will learn not to stutter anymore.”

In addition, Salam assisted parents of children who have cerebral palsy as well as others who stopped speaking due to the trauma of war.

Impact on Careers

For Nashurdeen, the IMH-DP program has been “an incredible opportunity, both for my personal growth and my professional and clinical development. As a Muslim woman and a minority,” she said, “contributing to the empirical area of this field has been pivotal to my understanding of my and other clinicians’ roles. Dr. Khamis-Dakwar has often mentioned the importance of having clinicians, especially from minority backgrounds, take up the charge of adding to research that’s clinically relevant to the clients we work with.”

She added that she is heading for a career in speech pathology, working with preschool and school-age children. “My clinical and research experiences so far will allow me to focus on not just clinical treatment but on understanding how my client’s background, culture, family practices, socioeconomic status and other challenges may factor into any speech or language difficulties.”

“Speech-language pathology is the best field on the planet—one that amalgamates all my interests,” said Salam. She feels that her research studies should be “a great advantage” in her eventual job search. Since she has taught kindergarten and school-age children, she said, “I know that my career plans will mainly serve children and their families. However, my various [future] field placements will help me decide my career setting, whether in a school or hospital.”

Nagler said, “To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure exactly where I will work in the future. Originally, I had hoped to go into private practice, but through my education here so far, I am more interested in an SLP position working with young children in a medical setting.”

In her view, the SLP field is currently “experiencing a research-to-practice gap, which means that although research is happening, it’s not necessarily being adapted and explored by practicing SLPs.”

She added, “Being able to do research here while studying to be a clinician and working with staff who acknowledge and support bridging that gap is incredibly important to me. Having practicing SLPs conduct research is the best way to continue to bridge the research-to-practice gap, and the best way to improve our own practices as well.”

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