Speech pathology research unveils understanding of speech impediments

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Kristin Pelczarski, assistant professor of family studies and human services, conducts research under the College of Human Ecology to bring insight into speech impediments.

“We are trying to find differences in a person’s language coding in order to better understand the disorder,” Pelczarski said.

For instance, eye-tracking is one way to unveil causes behind stuttering. Because stuttering is a motor disability, eye trackers can reveal a lot about how a person who stutters assembles their words by looking at what their eyes are doing while they speak.

“The eye does amazing things,” Pelczarski said. “You can tell how challenging a task is based on how dilated the pupil gets which helps us separate the disorder from the motor system.”

Pelczarski said she works specifically with people who stutter because she wants to learn more about the disorder and provide people in her study with a sense of belonging.

“We have a local chapter of the National Stuttering Association here in Manhattan which is a self-help group,” Pelczarski said. “Not trying to fix their speech, but giving them the idea that they are not alone which can be really powerful.”

Pelczarski is not alone in her research, working with both graduate and undergraduate students selected through an application process.

“My assistants can do any range of things, depending on what projects I have going on,” Pelczarski said.

Pelczarski’s office is located in the Campus Creek Complex, which provides therapy to both students and community members with speech, language and hearing impairments.

“Whether it’s your work, education or your social life, the centerpiece of all of that is your ability to communicate,” Robert Garcia, clinical associate professor, said. “Anything that impairs your ability to communicate is going to have negative impact on your quality of life.”

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