Through STEP I was able to get involved in Dr. NIttrouer’s Speech Development Lab located at the OSU Eye and Ear Institute. Dr. Nittrouer studies the effects of hearing loss on child language development. I began training to be a tester last winter, which required learning specific language tests that assessed speech intelligibility, reading abilities, expressive language skills, and auditory comprehension of language. Testing then began in the summer, and I was responsible for running these tests in the booth with each child. This summer, the lab brought in forty-eight normal hearing children and fifty children with hearing loss. I used my STEP money to pay my rent during the summer so that I was able to stay in Columbus and work in the lab.
When I first decided to use my STEP money for research, I was just planning to use it as a resume builder for graduate school. I expected to be a lowly research assistant, and I wasn’t anticipating much hands-on involvement in the project. Once I got there and found out that I would be in the booth with the children, I was ecstatic. I was able to participate directly in data collection, and I learned how to interact with children with hearing loss. I had never met anyone with a cochlear implant before, and clients with hearing loss are a large population in my field. I had never considered working with this population, but now I am considering making this my focus. I had always assumed that deaf children were socially isolated because of their communication difficulties. However as I began playing with the children in the playroom, I discovered that they’re just like any typical fun-loving fourth grader. Also their speech was much better than I had previously given them credit for. The modern technology is absolutely amazing, and I found that I had completely underestimated the impact that a cochlear implant can have on a profoundly deaf child. I would love to work with children with hearing loss in the future.
When I began the project, I thought that it would only be a temporary position for the summer. However, this opportunity lead to a year-round position. I am still working at the lab as a “scorer,” and my responsibilities include watching the videos collected over the summer and organizing the data. This has increased my involvement and interest in the project. As I’m learning more about the research process, I have started to consider furthering my education and getting a PhD in addition to my clinical license. To further explore this option, I have decided to do an honors thesis next year. This personal growth can be directly attributed to my experience in the Speech Development Lab, which was made possible by the STEP money.