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Idaho State University

Meridian professors working to improve outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing

February, 28, 2019

MERIDIAN – Two Idaho State University-Meridian researchers have received a $290,000 grant from the Philadelphia-based Oberkotter Foundation to help parents of Idaho children who are deaf or hard of hearing to better understand a child’s needs at an early age.

Meridian professors working to improve outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing

Associate professors and researchers Gabe Bargen (left) and Kristina Blaiser reviewing assessments in the HATCH Lab at ISU-Meridian.

Kristina Blaiser and Gabe Bargen, co-principal investigators and associate professors in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, will spend the next three years on the project. 

“This grant is meant to use assessment to improve outcomes for kids with hearing loss across the state,” said Blaiser, a speech-language pathologist. 

Identifying hearing loss and language needs as early as possible provides the best opportunity for treatment and benefits to children, said Bargen, an audiologist.“Especially if you want them to be with their peers, to be with their buddies and to be on the same playing field (as children with normal hearing),” she said. 

The grant also enables the professors to hire students to help with data analysis and the development of data visualization tools to illustrate assessment results in terms easily understood by a parent or layperson. Blaiser said often times assessment tools can be so technical that parents are forced to use Google or other resources to interpret the results, which can hinder a child’s progress.  ISU researchers aim to resolve that issue by creating infographics that allow parents to visually see their child’s data and compare their child’s assessment to developmental norms. 

Students sitting and computer

Student researcher and speech-language pathology student Kaitlyn Counts is grateful for theopportunity to work on the project.  “We hope parents can use the information to help their child communicate to the best of their ability,” she said. 

Blaiser and Bargen want their assessment tools to be accessible online regardless of where a family lives in Idaho. Not only will parents have access to results and information that they can easily comprehend, but they can then use resources provided in order to reach goals with their child and produce better outcomes. The enhanced assessment tools will also be utilized in training clinicians. 

The Oberkotter Foundation is a national nonprofit organization committed to supporting parents and caregivers who have chosen listening and spoken language for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Blaiser and Bargen belong to the Idaho Collaborative Assessment Project or ICAP—state and community organizations that have partnered with ISU to provide services for kids with hearing loss. 

Blaiser is also founder of the HATCH lab—which stands for Helping Adults Talk to Children—at ISU-Meridian. Created about three years ago, the lab provides intervention services to families with children who have hearing loss, and collaborates with community stakeholders who serve children who are deaf and hard of hearing in the Treasure Valley.

Photo at right: Students Rachel Reiber (sitting), Cassandra Arias (left) and Kaitlyn Counts are helping compile data for the study.