School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences

COMD STRATEGIC PLAN

The Strategic Plan of the program in Communication Disorders is a component of and supports the achievement of the mission, goals, and ideals of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and The University of Texas at Dallas. The Strategic Plan of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences identifies three broad goals consonant with the mission and strategic plan of the University.

  1. Enhance the health, education, and quality of life of children and families
  2. Understand the mind and brain
  3. Create and implement technology that repairs and strengthens human abilities

Each goal incorporates strategic initiatives developed and approved by the faculty and presented to the University as part of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences periodic self-study. Each initiative will guide the School and its programs for the next five years. The specific roles and responsibilities of the masters program in Communication Disorders follow the summary descriptions of the School’s strategic initiatives.

Enhance the Health, Education, and Quality of Life of Children and Families

Center for Children and Families

The School will develop a new Center which will focus faculty expertise in child development and developmental disorders on interdisciplinary research, student training, and community service for the benefit of underserved children and families.

The program in Communication Disorders will play a pivotal role in the design and implementation of child and family assessment clinics and in the staffing of these clinics. Graduate students will receive enhanced opportunities for training in a multidisciplinary setting with children and families who represent the increasing cultural and linguistic diversity of the Dallas Metroplex.

Autism Initiative

The Callier Center has served children on the autism spectrum for nearly 40 years. However, the number of children identified as having disorders on the autism spectrum has dramatically increased as have the number of facilities engaged in identifying and treating the disorder. A collaborative program joining the UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders and the Center for BrainHealth, UT Southwestern Medical School, and Children’s Hospital of Dallas will link the diagnostic, treatment, and referral system at each institution and a major research effort on causes, differential diagnosis, and outcomes of autism spectrum disorders.

The Program in Communication Disorders and the UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders will take a lead role in the design and implementation of coordinated, diagnostic, treatment, and referral services. The model project will provide the foundation for enhanced speech, language, and developmental options and establish a permanent service network for children on the autism spectrum and their families.

Understanding the Mind and Brain

Neuroscience and Cognitive Neuroscience Expansion

Neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience are disciplines which intersect all of the School’s programs. Applications of neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience, including advanced neuroimaging techniques, to address issues in aging, developmental disorders, and cognitive learning are all areas targeted for expansion. Enhanced collaborative relationships with the clinical and basic science departments of UT Southwestern Medical Center will provide greater faculty and student access to laboratories and clinical populations.

The interdisciplinary field of translational cognitive neuroscience has a growing role in the innovative diagnostic and treatment procedures in communication disorders. For example, application of neuroimaging now offers more than differential diagnosis. It can be used to inform clinical decision, monitor treatments, predict outcomes, and guide development of innovative treatments based on brain function in normal and atypical cognition. Incorporating advances in translational cognitive neuroscience into the masters curriculum through new courses, additions to existing courses, and opportunities for student research participation will enhance the students’ preparation in a variety of areas of pediatric and adult neurogenic disorders.

Math Science

The University’s desire to address the issues of the acquisition and improvement of math skills provides an opportunity for the School to make a significant contribution in resolving a national problem. The School will focus on a cognitive neuroscience approach to math skill acquisition using its expertise in neuroimaging, early education, and learning disorders and its close relationship with local public and private schools.

Uncovering parallels in the acquisition of math skills and language/literacy acquisition may help advance both fields. Faculty through their knowledge and expertise in cognitive learning styles, reasoning, and learning disability are positioned to offer significant contributions in educational domains in addition to language and literacy.

Creating and Implementing Technology which Repairs and Strengthens Human Abilities

Collaboration with the Department of Bioengineering

The School has supported activities at the intersection of neuroscience and biomedical device creation for some time. Development of a neuroengineering subspecialty in conjunction with bioengineers will encourage research and applications of technology in the field of neuroprosthetics and the development of interdisciplinary graduate training in the field. The investment in bioengineering has the potential to increase the School’s involvement in mutually beneficial relationships with start-up and establish high tech companies in the area.

Applications of technology designed to overcome communication disorders requires extensive field and laboratory testing by clinicians and scientist working in close collaboration. The model for such activities is already establish through the UTD Advanced Hearing Research Center at Callier Center for Communication Disorders and their research on the impact of cochlear implants on auditory perception and speech and language development in children with implants. Further activities focused on high-tech augmentative and assistive technology will expand the School’s impact and allow for enhanced experience for graduate students in the high-tech realm of intervention in communication disorders.

Acquiring the Resources to Accomplish the Strategic Plan

Historically, the School has maximized its resources through faculty excellence, carefully-guided and coherent growth, agile responsiveness to opportunities, and unusual efficiency achieved by sharing faculty and curricula, and linking programs with the School’s high-profile research centers. The strategic initiatives proposed, however, cannot be accomplished through excellence and efficiency alone. The challenge for the School is to acquire the support, internally and externally, to open new faculty lines and renovate and expand the School’s aging and increasingly cramped physical facilities. This will require a combination of University funds, in part supported by increased enrollment, and continued effectiveness in acquiring support from extramural sources (federal, private, and non-profit) and private sector partnerships.

The program in Communication Disorders already operates high profile academic and clinical programs which underpin the School’s initiatives and provide a visible example to the community of the impact of the School’s activities on persons with disabilities. The University has committed development personnel to assist the program in conjunction with the Callier Center for Communication Disorders to share its message and accomplishments with those who may choose to offer support. Equally important negotiations are underway to access funding for renovation and expansion of the program’s facilities which will allow for activities such as the Autism initiative to be brought to fruition.