Skip Navigation
January 2012

From the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER)

NCSER Grantee Receives the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's Highest Award

Nickola Nelson
Nickola Nelson, a speech-language pathologist at Western Michigan University and an NCSER grantee, received an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) 2011 Honors of the Association Award. She was recognized for her lifetime contributions to the field of communication sciences and disorders.

Nelson's research focuses on school-age language and literacy disorders. These studies involve curriculum-relevant language assessment and intervention, and efforts to extend interdisciplinary, evidence-based interventions across populations and contexts. ASHA praised her influence on the therapeutic connection of language, literacy, reading, and writing for scholars and speech-language pathologists, as well as her serving as a role model for students and conducting rigorous and insightful research during her prolific career.

As part of this body of work, Nelson has been working on completing the development of a child language measure through a 4-year grant from NCSER. Under this project, she is validating the Test of Integrated Language and Literacy Skills (TILLS), which evolved from her collaborative efforts in developing the first standardized test for children with traumatic and other forms of acquired brain damage. The TILLS will be used for identifying whether a student has a primary language impairment or language-based learning disability, and for developing profiles of students' language and literacy strengths and weaknesses. The test will assess both spoken and written language, be curriculum relevant and inform instruction, and be easy and efficient to administer.

Nelson notes that "the funding that our research team received to complete the standardization of the Test of Integrated Language and Literacy Skills and associated parent/teacher/student rating scales makes it possible to finalize our tools and gather scientific evidence about the typical development of sound/word and sentence/discourse level knowledge across spoken and written modalities in the school-age years from 6 through 18. The outcome will be a nationally standardized test that builds on more than 20 years of clinical research addressing questions about the nature of difficulties experienced by students who struggle with academic and social communication and how to assess them. We are studying populations with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual developmental disabilities, and hearing loss, and students at risk for learning disabilities related to reading and writing."

According to Nelson, this project makes it possible for her "to move closer to realizing career goals to help teachers and special service providers collaborate to provide more effective curriculum-relevant services to meet all students' individualized needs." She also noted that this project was part of the body of work that ASHA recognized when honoring her with the award.