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New Grant to Fund Research to Aid People with Communication Disabilities

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

The Division of Speech Pathology and Audiology, part of the Department of Surgery at Duke University Medical Center, has been awarded a second five-year grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to continue work as a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Communication Enhancement.

The $4.75 million grant will fund a coordinated program of research, development, training and dissemination activities designed to improve technologies for people with communications disabilities. The Center's activities will focus on developing new ways to represent and organize language used in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies, developing innovative strategies for training professionals and device users, and improving assistive devices and technologies.

Approximately 2 million people in the United States have a severe communication disability and require a communication system to enable them to express themselves. These include children and adults with a range of disabilities including people with autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis.

Duke received its initial RERC funding in 1998 and established a virtual center with partners from six institutions. For this newly funded RERC, Duke will again collaborate with Augmentative Communication Inc., Pennsylvania State University, State University of New York at Buffalo, Temple University and University of Nebraska at Lincoln, as well as new partner Children's Hospital Boston.

The RERC will be led by Frank DeRuyter, Ph.D., chief of the Division of Speech Pathology and Audiology at Duke, and Kevin Caves, a rehabilitation engineer at Duke.

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