Federal grant to help hard-of-hearing kids from bilingual communities in Florida

ORLANDO/TAMPA—A $1.1 million grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education will enable the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando and the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa to train speech-language pathologists to help deaf and hard-of-hearing children whose first language may not be English.

Dr. Linda I. Rosa-Lugo, an associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at UCF, and Dr. Theresa Hnath Chisolm, an audiologist who chairs the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at USF, were instrumental in obtaining the federal money for their institutions.

When she was growing up in Florida, Rosa-Lugo had young cousins and neighbors with hearing loss who struggled to communicate in a world where outsiders spoke English but their families spoke Spanish. The UCF-USF collaborative grant will go toward training 40 new speech-language pathologists over the next 5 years to help youngsters like those Rosa-Lugo knew. The focus will be on children age three and younger, she said.

In an interview with UCF Today, Rosa-Lugo noted, “UCF doesn’t have any programs like this for children and USF does, so that’s why I chose to partner with them.”

The new program will help public schools comply with a new Florida law requiring them to provide deaf and hard-of-hearing students access to appropriately trained specialists. Both universities are recruiting graduate students for the program, which will begin in January.