University speech pathologist Norris helping evolve the field

Changes are abound in the way speech pathology and education intermingle, and a University professor is a catalyst in the movement.

Janet Norris, speech-language pathology professor, is conducting research and working with students at Highland Elementary as part of the new Speech and Language Support for All, or SALSA, Initiative to improve reading and writing skills.

Norris said rhyming is one example of a phonemic awareness task, or an activity that helps children grasp the sounds connected with letters. She is conducting experiments on preschoolers. Half of the children will be taught how to sound out words using sound blending while the other half uses rhyming.

The goal of the experiment is to see if rhyming is a bridge in helping children to learn how to sound out words or if it doesn’t have any benefits, she said. Norris thinks rhyming is a logical segue into spelling, but there isn’t enough reliable research, which is why she’s conducting her own.

The state’s education department developed a task force to define the speech pathologist’s role and to research ways they can deliver speech and language services through the context of literacy, she said.