Student research profile: Hannah Lauer

Mar 18, 2022

Communication Sciences and Disorders student examines diversity among research participants.

Hannah Lauer is a senior in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program who is minoring in Linguistics. She expects to graduate this spring and attend graduate school to become a speech-language pathologist.

With the assistance of her faculty mentor, Associate Professor Jolene Hyppa Martin, Lauer conducted a research project titled, “Representation of Multilingual, Multicultural, and Diverse Communicators in Intervention Studies for Augmentative and Alternative Communication: A Systematic Review.” 

The research examined existing literature in the field of speech-language pathology to find out whether study participants came from diverse backgrounds.

Briefly describe your research project.

We completed a comprehensive systematic review to examine the cultural, linguistic, socio-economic, age, and gender of participants (i.e., people who use augmentative and alternative communication or AAC) represented in AAC intervention studies published in peer-reviewed journals commonly used by speech-language pathologists (SLPs). We wanted to see how people of different linguistic backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, cultural backgrounds, and genders are represented within the current body of research that is used by speech-language pathologists to inform evidence-based practices that they use to conduct therapy.

How did you get involved in research? 

My mentor, Dr. Hyppa Martin, told me about the UROP program and encouraged me to participate. The concept for the project came about due to a combination of different factors, including my experiences with a family member who has an AAC device, reading research articles to get an idea of the current issues within the field of speech-language pathology that relate to AAC, and discussions with my faculty mentor.

What do you want people to know about your project?

If I could give people one takeaway from this project, it would be that there’s not a lot of research on diverse populations who use augmentative and alternative devices to communicate. 

To date, a majority of AAC intervention studies are based on males between the ages of 3 to 21 years who speak English. SLPs engaging in research need to seek out participants from broader backgrounds and need to be clear and consistent in reporting this information in order to contribute to intervention knowledge about our increasingly diverse clinical populations.

Outside of the speech-language-hearing world, everyone has biases. People may believe they are acting objectively, but they are actually influenced by biases toward individuals of other linguistic and cultural backgrounds, SES, ages, and genders. In order to combat these biases, people can intentionally learn about issues surrounding gender, racial, age, and socioeconomic inequity in our communities, and encourage dialogue among colleagues and community members who may have different perspectives.