Ms. Colleen Gargan, a doctoral student in the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences communication disorders program, was recently awarded a $2,000 Graduate Research Grant by the Organization for Autism Research (OAR). Ms. Gargan was among 11 scholars chosen from a pool of 34 applicants for this year’s grants.
[Photo: Ms. Colleen Gargan]
All applications were evaluated on three criteria: alignment with OAR’s focus on applying research to overcome the challenges of autism, soundness of research methods, and significance of the proposed project’s finding to people affected by autism.
“In keeping with OAR’s dedication to high quality research, only the best of the best were selected for funding,” the organization announced in a press release.
“I have worked with Colleen in several capacities as a master’s and doctoral student and it is not a coincidence, as she is one student that stood out among her peer group on several levels,” notes Dr. Mary Andrianopoulos, associate professor of communication disorders.
The OAR grant will fund a study titled “Evidence of Motor Speech Impairments and Abnormal Prosody in Autism Spectrum Disorder”. Ms. Gargan and her colleagues in Dr. Andrianopoulos’ lab will study the processes that contribute to speech differences in individuals with autism between the ages of 14-18 years. The researchers also aim is to establish a unique method to better assess the abilities of people with autism to control muscles and the networks associated with speech; and comprehend and use pitch, loudness, tempo, and rhythm in speech.
“A better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that contribute to these speech atypicalities will enable clinicians to better evaluate and address these differences,” explains Ms. Gargan.
OAR has held the grant competition annually since 2004, and it is open to master’s, doctoral, and postdoctoral scholars. The organization describes its mission as applying “practical research that examines issues and challenges that children and adults with autism and their families face every day.”
“I feel very fortunate that my proposal was selected for funding. This money will allow me to get a jump start on my doctoral dissertation research and I will have the opportunity to submit these preliminary findings to peer reviewed conferences and scientific journals,” says Ms. Gargan.