UNC COMMENCEMENT 2017: Nancy Quick, PhD

Nancy Quick, PhD, completed her PhD studies and dissertation in spring 2017 thanks to mentors in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences.

UNC COMMENCEMENT 2017: Nancy Quick, PhD click to enlarge Nancy Quick, PhD

Nancy Quick, PhD, credits the diversity of mentored experiences at UNC-Chapel Hill with sparking her interest in research after enrolling as PhD student in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences four years ago. Initially, she applied her expertise in hearing loss as a research assistant under Melody Harrison, PhD, co-investigator of a study titled “Outcomes of School-Age Children who are Hard of Hearing.” Following the study, Quick connected with Karen Erickson, PhD, at the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies (CLDS), located in the Department of Allied Health Sciences, where she learned more about literacy and children with significant disabilities.

"The beauty of working with the center was they took my area of expertise and ended up folding it into the work they were doing," Quick said. She completed her PhD studies and dissertation in spring 2017.

While at the CLDS, Quick worked as a research assistant for a reading and spelling intervention that targeted struggling adolescent readers. Quick developed an assessment to evaluate their progress in spelling, which then led to a dissertation focused on spelling development among children with hearing loss. 

"I wanted to be part of contributing to the field and addressing questions we had about language and literacy development for children with disabilities," Quick said. "As a result of that, I am now really passionate about figuring out ways to support language and literacy development." 

Quick's dissertation analyzed spelling errors made by children with hearing loss in order to better understand their language strengths and weaknesses underpinning their spelling. She found that students with hearing loss apply different language strategies to spell unfamiliar words compared to their peers who are able to hear. These differing strategies suggest that children with hearing loss who struggle with spelling might require a different type of spelling intervention than children with typical hearing. 

As part of Quick's research, she also recruited children with cochlear implants to analyze their spelling patterns. Children with cochlear implants used similar spelling strategies to children hard of hearing; this suggests that regardless of severity of hearing loss, all children who experience hearing loss use similar language strategies to spell unfamiliar words. 

Ultimately, Quick hopes her research will inform the development of effective interventions in spelling for children with hearing loss that focus on identified areas of linguistic weakness. Long-term implications include enabling speech-language pathologists to identify spelling profiles of all students who struggle with spelling, and then to provide interventions that focus on identified areas of weakness. 

Quick indicated that spelling impacts other areas of written composition for school-aged children. Poor spelling skills can lead to less organized written compositions, difficulty with word selection, and grammar. Quick will use a travel award from the National Institutes of Health to present her dissertation at the Symposium on Research in Child Language Disorders in Madison, Wisconsin, this summer. Her dissertation work is funded, in part, by the Paul Hardin Dissertation Fellowship from the Royster Society of Fellows and by the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders Plural Research Award.

"When I entered this program, I really thought my primary passion was in becoming a better teacher and looking for an academic position with heavy teaching responsibilities," Quick said. "But over the course of my time here, because I had so many amazing mentored research experiences, I found that I loved research." 

Quick has also developed an interest in children who have significant disabilities in addition to hearing loss. Professionals with expertise in hearing loss are not typically included on educational teams for children with complex needs. Those educational professionals who work in severe disabilities might not be as informed about a co-morbidity such as hearing loss. 

"It looks very much like these children with complex needs who have hearing loss are under identified and underserved," Quick said.

According to Quick, as many as half of those who are identified with hearing loss don't have personal hearing technologies, such as a hearing aid, which could significantly impact their language and literacy development.

"I'm really passionate to make sure that children with complex needs and hearing loss are identified and get the appropriate intervention," Quick said. She is hopeful her research will inform teams as they approach children with co-morbidities, including hearing loss, in the future. 

Quick, who received her PhD at the May 2017 commencement, said she is astounded with how much she learned during her time as a student.

"When I look at how much was accomplished, I know it is a direct result of this program providing experiences in grant writing, study design, recruitment, data analysis and manuscript preparation," Quick said.

She credits her advisors, Harrison and Erickson, with mentorship that allowed her to complete substantial research projects to bring informative work the forefront of the field of children with hearing loss and children with significant disabilities.






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