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Nancy Creaghead, PhD, and Karla Washington, PhD

Nancy Creaghead, PhD, and Karla Washington, PhD
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Publish Date: 12/06/12
Media Contact: Katy Cosse, 513-556-2635
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Focus on Research with Karla Washington, PhD

Karla Washington, PhD, is an assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders (CSD) in UCís College of Allied Health Sciences. A licensed speech-language pathologist with a focus in child development, she joined UCís faculty in the fall of 2011.

She completed her PhD at the University of Western Ontario and, at the University of Toronto, completed her postdoctoral research on pediatric outcomes associated with speech therapy. For her dissertation, she examined the effects of computer-assisted intervention on grammar skills in children with language impairments. Her postdoctoral work focused on functional communication in children who did and did not receive speech therapy, using a newly developed outcome measure of social communication skills.

She has three current research projects at UC, two involving CSD students. Next month, sheíll travel to Jamaica to conduct research and lead a study abroad experience for students.

Focus On highlights faculty, staff, students and researchers at the UC Academic Health Center. To suggest someone to be featured, please email

How did you come to UC? 
"I came to UC because I wanted an academic position in a CSD department with the opportunity to work with someone who spoke my language--who had a long-standing history and expertise in child language development and disorders."

"So, when I noticed there was a position here, especially to work with professor Nancy Creaghead, I immediately sent in my application. The rest is history and Iím very pleased that it worked out.Ē

Can you elaborate on your work next year in Jamaica?
"The Jamaican language situation is such that there are two languages that are spoken, Jamaican (or Jamaican Creole or Patois) and Standard Jamaican English.

"In our field, thereís very limited information about how Jamaican speech and language skills are acquired in young Jamaican children. We need this information so that we have a benchmark for being able to identify when delays or disorders occur in the development process.

"In January, Iíll travel to Jamaica to complete a research project entitled, 'Jamaican Childrenís Speech and Language Skills.' I will be collaborating with researchers in Jamaica and Australia to examine speech and language skills in multiple contexts. Being Jamaican by birth, I speak both languages and, along with my training in clinical and research practices in speech-language pathology, Iím well positioned to conduct this research. 

"The project also includes an education abroad experience for CSD graduate students. I developed the experience using a program development grant from UC International. Five students successfully applied and theyíll be going to Jamaica to conduct speech, language and hearing screenings in children. This trip will take place in March and Dr. Creaghead will be joining us as a co-program leaderóweíre all very excited.Ē

What is your current research focused on? 
"Including the Jamaican project, I have three programs of research. For the first project, Iím investigating literacy development in young monolingual and English language learning preschoolers who are considered at-risk for failure in developing these skills.

"Iím training preschoolersí parents on how they can facilitate literacy development at home using different types of storybooks. Graduate and undergraduate students, along with senior honors capstone students, are involved in this project, which utilized a random allocation to an experimental and control condition. Our aim is to change the way in which parents read to their children, which we hope will in turn improve childrenís reading outcomes. To date, approximately 50 of the 60 needed participants have been recruited.Ē

"For my third project, Iím hoping to collaborate with researchers at Childrenís Hospital to include a neuroimaging component. The project is an intervention study that examines language development for grammar and storytelling skills in young children with language impairments.

"We know that, following language intervention, childrenís skills do get better over time and we also have evidence that some of these children move into the normal range. But more information is needed about what is happening in specific regions (like language regions) of the brain before and after therapy, so that we can better understand the associations between intervention, the brain, and language development.Ē

What do you like to do outside your work at UC?
"Outside of my work here, Iím part of Mayor Mark Malloryís Young Professionalís Kitchen Cabinet. The mission behind it is to find ways to attract and retain young professionals in Cincinnati and to have them inform the mayorís office of things that are important to the communities in which they live.

"Iím part of the public safety committee. Currently, weíre conducting a survey of communities to ask them about their perspectives of safety in their own community. Weíre about to compile those results and then present them back to the community as well as the larger YPKC community. 

"Outside of that, I enjoy traveling, cooking and spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy watching silent movies.Ē

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