New U.S.-Brazil Program in Communication Disorders

Students on two continents are participating in a new, innovative program designed to promote research into communication disorders across languages and cultures. The three-year project, jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the Brazilian Ministry of Education (Fundacao Coordenacao de Aperfeicoamento de Pessoal de Nivel Superior; CAPES), supports student exchange as well as cross-cultural and cross-linguistic curriculum development for students of speech-language pathology and audiology at four universities in the United States and Brazil. The universities include East Tennessee State University (lead U.S. university, Dr. Brenda Louw, Project Director), the University of Northern Iowa (Dr. Ken Bleile, Project Director), Universidade Federal de Santa Maria (lead Brazil university, Dr. Marcia Keske-Soares, Project Director,), and Universidade de São Paulo-Baurú (Dr. Inge Trindade, Project Director).

"The purpose of the consortium," explains A. Lynn Williams, Project Co-Director and Associate Director, Center of Excellence in Early Childhood Learning and Development Professor at East Tennessee State University, "is development of a global curriculum based on a shared research collaborative to train the next generation of clinical scientists. Through this experience, students will have the opportunity to learn the social and cultural differences that exist in in working families from an ecological model of child development, to understand communication disorders from a holistic perspective within the theoretical framework of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health—Children and Youth, and to assess the impact of communication disabilities within the unique socio-cultural contexts of families and communities that exist in the two countries."

This global research agenda in communication sciences and disorders is being carried out by four teams of students, mentored by faculty from the American and Brazilian universities. Each team is conducting two research projects every year, a research review study and a data-based research study. Of particular interest is an online course, "Different Languages, One World," which centers on weekly asynchronous PowerPoint presentations, which are supplemented by monthly webinars in real time that include invited international faculty who will discuss a range of topics, such as cross-linguistic transcription with Dr. Anette Lohmander from Sweden and cross-linguistic aspects of communication development with Dr. Sharynne McLeod from Australia. Student presentations and question-and-answer sessions among students and faculty at the partner universities will also be included in this format.

Participants see the new program as an important step in moving forward ASHA's long-term plan for the professions. "In 2004, ASHA's Legislative Counsel approved a strategic plan outlining future directions for action by the Association that would help ASHA, professionals, universities, and students to develop and involve themselves on a more global level, said Williams. "The exchange of knowledge and training among the four partner universities in diverse urban and rural regions within Brazil and the U.S. provides unique global opportunities to improve the training of students in communication disorders."