Students to Present Phonetic Findings

Student Association (SA) President Jennifer Sanchez and three other students were approved for $600 in order to attend the 2010 American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) Conference in Philadelphia, PA.

The research conducted by the group, consisting of Sanchez, Madeline Lima, Katherine Taveras and Tiffany Chang, was observed by ASHA and became one of the few selected out of the many entries.

With the help of former communication disorders professor Leah Fabiano-Smith and four students who’ve since graduated, the group analyzed four Fisher Price toys and the sounds they elicit from children through phonetically transcribing any associated words, in both English and Spanish. They first compiled a list of all possibly associated words, categorized each in a phoneme group and found which had the most phonemes in both English and Spanish.

“Until now there’s been no research on what toys make what sounds,” Sanchez said. “Now speech pathologists have evidence to show them. Kids have been misdiagnosed, when really they just didn’t have the opportunity to make those sounds.”

The research focuses on Fisher Price toys and the sounds they elicit from children in both English and Spanish. The three different toys analyzed– the Little People Busy Day Home, Just Like Home Play Food Set and Little People Learn About Town, were found to be the best for both English and Spanish speaking children, the second best for Spanish and second best for English speaking children, respectively.

“You don’t always have the same advantages as monolingual kids in this country,” said Lima, a fourth-year communication disorders major. Being an English as a Second Language student herself, she hopes to work with bilingual children in the future.

Glad to be involved in research as an undergraduate, Lima joined the group in the fall of last year after a bit of progress had already been made.

“We finished literally right when classes were ending,” Sanchez, who became interested in the field after interning in Jamaica Hospital’s brain trauma unit, said of the group’s endless work.

To ensure a successful presentation, the group has been practicing via Skype with Fabiano-Smith, who is now at the University of Arizona. They’ve all been rigorously preparing for the poster board presentation where they’ll inform hundreds of speech pathologists of their findings, helping in ASHA’s self-proclaimed mission of “making effective communication, a human right, accessible and achievable for all.”

The group will arrive in Philadelphia on Wednesday, Nov. 17, start presenting the next day, and will remain until Saturday. Sanchez, however, will arrive on Thursday, due to prior commitment to a president search committee meeting on campus.

“It’s a good connection between my personal life and what I want to be doing for the rest of my life,” said Sanchez.