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NMSU College of Education faculty member receives research grant

New Mexico State University College of Education assistant professor and doctoral candidate Amelia Medina-Rau received a 2013 Student Research Grant in Early Childhood Language from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation.

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Amelia Medina-Rau, an NMSU assistant professor and doctoral candidate in the College of Education's Special Education and Communication Disorders Department, received a national student research grant from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation. (NMSU photo by Darrell Phillips)

As both a professor and student in the special education and communication disorders department, Medina-Rau was selected for her dissertation proposal "Comparing Treatment Effects for Young Bilinguals with Language Impairment." The $2,000 grant is only given to two recipients each year through a national competition, and is funded by the Arlene M. Matkin Memorial Fund. Medina-Rau was nominated by communication disorders program director Linda Spencer.

Medina-Rau said she was honored and humbled to receive the grant, but not surprised following the detailed work that went into her dissertation proposal.

"Many years of labor, my own and those of many editing advisers and mentors have gone into even the proposed stage of my dissertation," Medina said. "Scientific experimentation is all about tightening, controlling and clarifying the conditions under which causality holds. Heeding the critique of my mentors and advisers has been invaluable in tightening my research questions and design."

Medina-Rau's study will examine the differential effects of a vocabulary intervention for 10 Spanish-dominant bilingual preschoolers with expressive language delay. She has proposed an embedded mixed design.

"The primary data source and purpose of this study will rely on a single-subject experimental design to assess change in target vocabulary replicated across three sets of matched stimulus words," Medina-Rau said. "The targets will be counterbalanced for equal response difficulty of both verbal and conceptual demands, and then randomly assigned to three conditions, Spanish-only, English-only and bilingual. The secondary data source will include qualitative interviews and observations to inform functional treatment planning and explore the therapeutic interaction between child and clinician."

"By receiving this prestigious and highly competitive ASHA Foundation research grant, Amelia is positioned to become one of the premier researchers in our field of communication disorders in the area of language impairment in bilingual children," said Marlene Salas-Provance, Special Education and Communication Disorders department head. "I am very proud of her research as it is state-of-the-art, rigorous and innovative.

"Her research meets an important community need by addressing the development of language in bilingual children," she said. "Interestingly, many of our best researchers in the field of communication disorders have received this award early in their careers. National recognition of Amelia's work highlights the excellent research being conducted at NMSU."

The ASHA Foundation supports research in communication disorders that can result in advances in treatments and new developments.