Researching Neurodevelopment and Disorders

The Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences conducts a variety of innovative research programs focusing on atypical neurodevelopment in autism spectrum disorders, hearing impairment, rare diseases, childhood apraxia of speech, stuttering, reading disorders, and neurotypical populations. Our innovative research impacts education and healthcare delivery and policy across the U.S. and abroad.

child doing hearing test

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Pupil Biomarker Research

Early diagnosis and treatment results in better outcomes and quality of life for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Collaborations among researchers in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Elson S Floyd College of Medicine, and other institutions are examining the potential for non-invasive physiologic measures including pupillary light reflex (PLR). PLR biometrics have shown to differentiate typically developing individuals from those with ASD in children as young as two years of age. This technology is being evaluated for use in medical practice to bolster current behavioral screening approaches.

child doing hearing test

Examining Integrative Brain Function in Neurodevelopment

Eye-tracking and EEG technology are being used by researchers in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences to study integrated brain function by relating auditory and visual processing, providing novel insight into how individuals with ASD manage eye focus and facial recognition. This information is then used to examine responses to behavioral interventions focused on improving social pragmatics.


Speech Electrophysiology

The Department of Speech and Hearing Science employs EEG to assess the neural processes supporting speech perception and production, with a particular focus on how sensory and motor processes interact during motor and cognitive tasks.  Extension of this paradigm to clinical populations is currently underway to clarify the underlying neural difference in sensorimotor-linked disorders such as stuttering and autism Sensorimotor electrophysiology

Hearing test with children

Improving Measurement for Communication Disorders

In the state of Washington as well as nationally, there is a rise in children referred for specialty testing to accurately diagnose and describe the profiles of children with developmental disorders. One of the research efforts of the WSU Department of Speech and Hearing is to examine the utility of screening and diagnostic tools used for very young children at risk for communication disorders including ASD. Working with teams across multiple institutions, SHS faculty are able to conduct thorough evaluations using multiple methods of assessment to optimize the tools used and improve the early identification process for children and families in need.

professor at a white board

Developmental Trajectories of Risk Factors for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Researchers in the WSU Department of Speech and Hearing are committed to the early identification of autism spectrum disorder and helping families receive timely access to appropriate ASD-specific early intervention. One of the challenges in making early diagnosis of ASD in very young children is the substantial change in ASD symptoms and other important developmental areas such as language and cognition in very young children. Working with families over time during the infant and toddler years allows SHS faculty to better track possible risk factors for ASD leading to earlier intervention and improved outcomes.

Speech and hearing Research

Technology Innovations for Speech & Hearing

Department of Speech and Hearing researchers are monitoring speech and language development in children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing (D/HH), babies at risk for long-term speech and language disorders, adults with neurodegenerative disease, and healthy talkers, using small wearable recorders to capture all day audio recordings. The recordings are analyzed using automatic speech recognition (ASR) and automatic speech processing (ASP) using modern artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).  Some data are collected into corpora and made publicly available in online repositories.

speech test

Rare Disease

Several researchers from the Department of Speech and Hearing focus on a rare genetic metabolic disorder, classic galactosemia, which prevents affected individuals from breaking down the sugar in milk and milk products. Left untreated, classic galactosemia is fatal in most patients. When treated with diet restrictions, patients survive but often present with severe speech, language, and motor disorders. Currently we are conducting a study, Babble Boot Camp, starting therapy with infants as young as 8-weeks-old.