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Nelson honored by speech-language-hearing association

by Jeanne Baron

Dec. 5, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Dr. Nicki Nelson.
KALAMAZOO--A speech-language pathologist at Western Michigan University has received the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's highest award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the field of communication sciences and disorders.

Dr. Nickola "Nicki" Nelson, professor of speech pathology and audiology, received one of ASHA's 2011 Honors of the Association Awards during the organization's annual convention Nov. 18, in San Diego.

The honor goes to association members known worldwide for a lifetime of innovative clinical practice, insightful and rigorous research, outstanding teaching, creative administration, effective legislative activity, or other professional contributions.

"Nelson has been an innovator in speech-language pathology for more than 35 years as a teacher, mentor, editor, researcher, clinician and provider of professional services ..." ASHA said in announcing her selection. "Her work has had a profound influence on the therapeutic connection of language, literacy, reading and writing for numerous scholars and speech-language pathologists."

The organization also cited Nelson for leading by example and being a role model for her students, as well as for conducting rigorous, insightful research during a prolific career that has resulted in six books, dozens of book chapters and journal articles, and seven tests in child language.

A WMU faculty member since 1981, Nelson focuses her research on school-age language and literacy disorders. Those investigations involve curriculum-relevant language assessment and intervention, along with efforts in conjunction with doctoral students to extend interdisciplinary evidence-based interventions across populations and contexts.

Nelson collaborated on the Pediatric Test of Brain Injury, published in 2010 as the first standardized test for children with traumatic and other forms of acquired brain damage. That same year, she was awarded a four-year grant of nearly $2 million from the U.S. Department of Education to validate the Test of Integrated Language and Literacy Skills, which evolved from her collaboration on the pediatric brain-injury test.

Her research has led to no fewer than 25 funded projects to develop and examine curriculum-relevant best practices for serving children in schools, including the Writing Lab Approach to Language Instruction and Intervention.

Nelson has served as director of WMU's doctoral program in interdisciplinary health for the past 11 years. From 2005 to 2008, she was the Charles Van Riper Professor in the University's Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology and since 2006, she has been editor of Topics in Language Disorders, a double-blind peer-reviewed topical journal.

She also is a fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities, as well as a recipient of the Kleffner Lifetime Clinical Career Award from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation.

Nelson earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in communication disorders and sciences from Wichita State University in 1968, 1969 and 1973, respectively.