University of New Mexico Associate professor Cathy Binger will lend her expertise to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at its annual conference

Binger, a faculty member in the UNM Speech and Hearing Sciences Department, is contributing to a panel discussion about augmentative communication titled Talking without Speaking: Transcending Communication Boundaries with Technology. Her portion of the discussion focuses on finding a voice for children with profound speech disorders. 

“We certainly need to keep exploring continually-evolving technologies – but unlocking communication for these children isn’t about finding a single key,” Binger said. “There is no single solution the unraveling complex communication issues for children who have severe speech impairments. Our panel will explore some of the complexities, and known solutions, of unlocking the combination lock that is communication.” 

During the last 185 years, the AAAS annual meeting has become a time for scientists, researchers, media and other multi-disciplinary entities to come together and learn about critical scientific milestones. Each year, the community of leading scientists, educators, policymakers and journalists gathers to discuss cutting-edge developments in science, technology, and policy. It’s marketed as the world’s largest general scientific gathering, with more than 200 events in one week, including panel discussions, keynote speakers and symposia. AAAS also publishes the peer-reviewed academic journal Science

This year the AAAS conference taking place in Washington D.C. from Feb. 14 – 17, 2019. 

Binger will share the stage with panelists Aimee Dietz (University of Cincinnati) and Jonathan Brumberg (University of Kansas). The trio bring a diverse pool of research to the discussion, including accessing language after a stroke and evolutions in technology that are aiding, restoring, and unlocking communication for people with communication disorders. Last year, Binger, along with University of Central Florida colleague Jennifer Kent-Walsh, was awarded a National Institutes of Health grant to study how therapy, combined with technology, can help children with speech disorders communicate more effectively. 

Across the country, developmental or acquired communication disorders impact millions of people of all ages. Those with disorders are significantly more limited in their ability to communicate. Brain injuries and disorders like autism and cerebral palsy can leave them silent, unable to find or form words.

Developments in technology are creating more avenues to help people use augmentative and alternate communication. The panel discussion will focus on these emerging high- and low- tech solutions that are opening doors for those with communication disorders. 

“In some ways, the technology is the easy part,” Binger adds. “Families often purchase communication apps and then wonder what went wrong – why isn’t this working? To truly help people become successful communicators, we need to focus on all three ‘TIPz for Communication:’ Technology, Instruction, and Personalization. Technology provides the voice, instruction teaches everyone how to use that voice, and personalization ensures the best fit for everyone.”