David Hajjar

Current research conducted by Dr. McCarthy, Mr. Hajjar and colleagues looks to bring attention to stakeholders and settings in the community which offer unique opportunities for communication interactions and social exchange for people with complex communication needs (CCN). Initial projects have focused on the adaptive sport and recreation sector as an infrastructure already exists for activities such as skiing, snowboarding or horseback riding. Through experiences with active recreation, people with CCN interact with individuals outside of their typical social networks and are faced with challenging situations which support the growth and development of psychosocial skills such as confidence, motivation and resiliency. As a result of speaking with volunteers from active recreation programs, we have learned that these individuals are dedicated communication partners who reduce physical barriers and provide specific knowledge and skills that promote full participation. Research has also focused on the specific role of volunteers as communication partners while investigating methods to enhance opportunities for communicative exchange across the entire experience. Gathering perspectives from individuals with CCN who use augmentative and alternative communication(AAC) and participate in active recreation will be the next area for research. Specific research aims will include learning about why and how individuals participate in active recreation, what types of intrinsic and extrinsic skills and abilities they acquire and how they use these skills across other aspects of their lives.

David graduated with his Ph.D. in 2017 and is an assistant professor at Ithaca College.


Madeline Kopper

Madeline Kopper collaborated with Dr. McCarthy and Dr. Vaughn to conduct a quasi-random research study which investigated the effects of a short interprofessional experience on the readiness and ability to identify complementary interventions between graduate speech-language pathology and physical therapy students.

Madeline is a member of the M.A. Speech-Language Pathology Class of 2017.


Kristin Abram

Kristin Abram worked one-on-one with Dr. McCarthy to complete a thesis, which focused specifically around the benefits and challenges of using music with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders as well why music might have a positive effect on their communication skills. Use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication during music therapy sessions was discussed as well. Research was conducted through an online focus group with Music Therapists from around the country. This research was titled “Exploring the Impact of Music Therapy on Children with Complex Communication Needs and Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Focus Group Study.” This research was also presented at the 2014 American Speech-Language and Hearing Association Convention in Orlando, Florida. The poster was titled “Music Therapy with Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders Requiring AAC: Focus Group Results.”


Caroline Weir (Synder)

Caroline Weir
Caroline Weir (Snyder) worked with Dr. John McCarthy as her academic advisor in Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College. The research conducted focused on increasing the appeal of augmentative and alternative communication iPad apps for young children. The first research project was a systematic comparison study analyzing the design differences between AAC apps and entertainment/education apps for iPad. The second was a focus group study conducted with typically developing 3-6 year olds and their parents. This study’s purpose was to obtain opinions/impressions of new ideas for AAC interface design. The results of these studies were presented at the ASHA national convention in 2013 and 2014, respectively. This research was the basis for Caroline’s undergraduate research thesis, entitled “Increasing Children’s Interest in Augmentative and Alternative Communication Apps for iPad.”


Mackenzie Snyder

Mackenzie Synder completed her undergraduate thesis with Dr. McCarthy through the Honors Tutorial College. Her project was titled Symbolic Organization in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. We looked at 1) How do children with autism spectrum disorders arrange symbol representations of words from the categories a) describing themselves b) making an art project and c) birthday party? 2) How do children with ASD change their organizational schemes when given a specific communication task? and 3) How do children organize concrete (e.g. cake) vs. abstract (e.g. wish) representations of concepts? We found that each participant organized the symbols in his/her own unique way, so a sorting task may benefit children with complex communication needs who require the use of augmentative and alternative communication.


Jamie Broach (Cooley)

Jamie Cooley
Jamie Broach (formerly Jamie Cooley) worked with Dr. John McCarthy and Dr. Joann Benignoforher undergraduate Honors Tutorial College thesis, which focused on joint attention and AAC in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This projectexamined theeffect ofplacement of an AAC device on joint attention in parent child interactions. Jamie continued her Masters work at Ohio University, and investigated iconicity of commonly used symbols for children with ASD. Results from this project suggestedthat symbols thatare removed from context are difficult for children with ASD to understand without explicit instruction. Further, when asked to draw their own depiction of symbols, both children with ASD and typically developing children drew complex visual scenes, demonstrating that visual scenes may improve the iconicity of symbols frequently used in AAC. Jamie graduated from Ohio University with a B.S. in Hearing Speech and Language Science in 2009, and M.A. in Speech Language Pathology in 2011. She is currently a speech language pathologist for Hillsborough County School District in Tampa, FL.


Andrea Huist

Andrea Huist worked with Dr. McCarthy to complete an undergraduate thesis project, which incorporated video and play activities with direct instruction to teach 10 graphic symbols to children with complex communication needs. The concepts were chosen based on being important early concepts that have abstract graphic representations. The study used the following concepts paired with Mayer Johnson Picture Communication Symbols: big, down, go, help, in, more, off, on, up, where. A single subject multiple baseline across subjects research design was used.


Julia Smith

Julia completed a project which aimed to discover the joint attention abilities and behaviors of beginning communicators when the position of an AAC device is altered in a one to one interaction.

Julia graduated with a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Ohio University in August, 2008.


Laura Dempsey

Laura’s project examined the effect of exposure to personal narratives written by an individual with disabilities on the attitude of fifth grade students towards children who require AAC.

Laura graduated with a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Ohio University in August, 2008.


Jackie Kearns (Strauss)

Jackie completed experimental study examining the effect of animated feedback on assisting typically developing children to locate verbs within a visual scene. She found that children perform well without animated feedback, when the concepts are appropriately embedded within the scene.

Jackie graduated with a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Ohio University in December, 2007.


Lacey Horwitz (Donofrio)

Lacey completed a project investigating teaching the relational concept “on” to children who use AAC. Her study utilized an animated scene and direct instruction methods to teach the concept.

Lacey graduated with a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Ohio University in August, 2007.