In June, the college will welcome Lisa Bedore, a renowned researcher of developmental language disorders among Spanish-English bilingual children, as chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Here, she shares meaningful moments from her career, what drew her to the College of Public Health, and her hopes for the future of the field.
What do you see as the strengths of the department, and what are some hopes you have for its future?
The department has a long history of excellent work and has very strong faculty, so it is exciting to join them. Being in the College of Public Health offers new possibilities for developing research and training programs that help us understand communication disorders in the context of healthy lives.
The department has wonderful students and faculty and offers excellent clinical and research training. Faculty are working to understand the nature of communication disorders through their work in intervention and assessment. I hope that as we work together on clinical and academic training, we can develop innovative assessment and intervention approaches for individuals with communication disorders and innovative approaches to clinical training that build on our research foundation.
What are the issues or challenges in your field that you think are most important for the department, and the field, to tackle?
Awareness of communication disorders is a perennially important issue. However, it is also important to increase awareness of the scope of practice of the speech-language pathologist. Our role is much broader than the name might suggest. Speech-language pathologists serve areas as diverse as prevention, literacy, feeding and swallowing, and memory in addition to assessment and intervention for disorders of speech and language production across the lifespan.
Also, we need to develop approaches for managing communication disorders that are effective across settings for a culturally and linguistically diverse population. The approaches offered by public health may help our field develop approaches that are effective beyond the traditional clinical settings.
Unlike many public health schools, Temple’s College of Public Health includes programs from many seemingly disparate fields—the traditional public health fields, nursing, physical therapy, kinesiology, social work, recreation therapy, and others—as part of a broader conception of public health. How do you see the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department fitting into this broader conception?
Language and communication are central to what makes us human and permits us to interact in society. This is important to the scope of public health, where the conditions that support a healthy society are of concern. By studying and addressing the factors that lead to communication disorders and differences, we contribute to the broad conception of public health the college seeks to develop.
What has motivated you or inspired you throughout your career in the field? What initially drew you to it?
I’ve always been interested in how people learn language and in the cognitive and linguistic foundations of language learning disorders. Communication sciences and disorders offered me a practical outlet for those interests as a clinician and a frame for addressing my questions as a researcher. As a bilingual speech-language pathologist and researcher, I am particularly motivated to understand how developmental language disorders are manifested in bilinguals.
This offers a window into understanding the foundation of language disorder in a general sense and supports clinicians develop practices that support the overall development of the child. Lack of understanding of this challenge contributes to poor educational outcomes for dual language learners. This is a question that affects all of us at different levels. Training clinicians and researchers who work with culturally and linguistically diverse individuals will serve the population at large most effectively.
Looking back, what are some of the highlights of your career so far?
I’m especially proud of the progress that the students from the Human Abilities in Bilingual Language Acquisition (HABLA) lab and the Bilingual Certificate program at UT Austin [my institution before Temple] have made over the years. Graduates of our program have gone on to make a difference in service delivery in their communities in Texas and around the country. Through their work with clients and colleagues, they are transforming service delivery for bilingual individuals with communication disorders as clinicians, administrators, and faculty.
Another highlight has been seeing the Bilingual English Spanish Assessment (BESA) published. This is a project that is a joint effort of a research group housed at Temple University, UT Austin, and San Diego State University that I was lucky to join when I moved to UT Austin. The BESA is unique because it is the only speech and language assessment developed from the ground up for Spanish-English bilinguals and it provides clinicians an evidence-based tool for diagnosing language impairment.