New Professor Focuses on Helping Children with Language Disorders

Dr. Lisa Goffman

Dr. Lisa Goffman

Dr. Lisa Goffman, the newest professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, wants to help children with speech and language difficulties learn more effectively. 

Because talking is a highly complicated motor and conceptual activity, children with speech and language difficulties have problems with movement and language. Many children, with no obvious cause, have difficulty producing language. Language disorders affect more children than autism spectrum disorders, and Goffman said these children — who have poorer academic and social outcomes than their peers — are often under the radar. 

Researchers and clinicians do not clearly understand why these children have difficulties, or how to best help them. 

Goffman has spent more than two decades studying this intersection of motor and language components in children. 

“All forms of language production — including speaking, gesturing and writing — are complicated motor activities. The child has to coordinate breathing and lip, tongue and jaw movements to express desired words and sentences,” said Goffman, who studies speech and language as action. “We are interested in how these complicated and organized movements develop in young language learners and, more critically, what can go awry in children with speech and language difficulties.” 

Goffman came to UT Dallas this semester after 21 years of research at Purdue University — research that has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health. She earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at Purdue. 

Dr. Lisa Goffman

Title: professor and Nelle C. Johnston Chair in Early Childhood Communication Disorders in the School Behaviorial and Brain Sciences
Previously: professor, Purdue University
Research interests: integration of language and action into new accounts of developmental language disorders, including specific language impairment, speech-sound disorders and autism.

At UT Dallas, she has been named the Nelle C. Johnston Chair in Early Childhood Communication Disorders. She will be continuing her language and motor research, while teaching classes in early language development and disorders; speech motor, communication, and feeding disorders; and grantsmanship, among other topics. 

Goffman said she was excited about coming to UT Dallas and working with some of the top researchers in the areas of childhood speech and language impairments and speech motor control. 

“It's one of the best programs in the country in my field, and it will allow me to further develop my work at the interface of language and speech motor development and disorders,” Goffman said.

“I was also impressed by the clinical services offered by the Callier Center for Communication Disorders. There are children being treated there for speech-sound disorders, autism and language impairments. In collaboration with the outstanding clinicians and researchers at UT Dallas, our laboratory group can really make very fast progress.” 

Recently, Goffman found that the language and motor deficits in children with speech and language difficulties share common underlying principles of complex sequence learning. These results have major implications for intervention practices. Goffman and her laboratory group are applying these findings to how children learn about sounds, words, sentences and other complex actions, and to the treatment of children with speech and language disorders and those on the autism spectrum. By focusing on the core causes of language disorders, earlier identification and more effective treatment may be possible, she said. 

Goffman is a Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and serves as a grant reviewer and chair for the National Institutes of Health. In addition, she has been a journal editor and twice has received the editor’s award from the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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