Skip to navigation | Skip to content

Speech & Hearing Science :: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Department of Speech & Hearing Science
College of Applied Health Sciences


The overarching goal of Dr. DeThorne's research is to understand the factors that influence children's communicative competence in everyday contexts. Grounded within transactional and situated approaches to communication, Dr. DeThorne's work is designed to examine the complex interplay between human biology and environmental factors on how children use and develop language.

Case Studies in Everyday Communication Practices

TomThis project utilizes ethnographic methods to examine the communicative practices among teachers, clinicians, and peers when interacting with children who have marked language differences or disorders. To date we have focused on a) the social interactions of a preschool-age child with autism who utilized a speech-generating device in his classroom setting and b) the teacher-child interactions of three children from varied cultural-linguistic backgrounds within the classroom. Results have highlighted the importance of presumed competence, flexible multimodality, and cultural-linguistic awareness.

RoboBuddies: Design and Development of Innovative AAC

woman with laptop talking to studentTogether with Dr. Julie Hengst from SHS and colleagues in Engineering and Computer Science, this project has focused on the use of case study data (interviews and observation) to direct development of new augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies. Whereas AAC has been traditionally viewed as a linguistic prosthetic to replace an individual's impaired speech, this project is working to design technologies that serve as a support for the dynamic interaction, akin to a human translator. With support from the Illinois Graduate College IN3 (Hasegawa-Johnson, PI), this project has focused to date on the development of communication profiles via observed differences in the frequency and nature of disruptions, repetitions/formulations, object use, and interactional discourse resources. This project has also been supported in part by two Focal Point grants (Hengst, PI) through the Graduate College, with information available here:

Use of Computerized Feedback for Children with ASD

Girl on computer This collaborative project with the departments of Special Education (Halle) and Computer Science (Karahalios) is focused on the use of multi-modal feedback to facilitate children's production of multisyllabic words and phrases. Specifically, our team has developed a software project that provides graphic representation of speech production in terms of loudness, pitch, rate, and syllableness. With funding support from the University of Illinois Research Board and Autism Speaks (#5744), we are currently evaluating the effectiveness of this software in comparison to a social skills intervention and to a more traditional tool within the context of speech-language intervention. Key findings are published here:

WRRP: A Twin Study of Child Development

Girl on computerFunded by the NICHD, the Western Reserve Reading Project (WRRP) is a longitudinal study focused on the development of reading and related cognitive abilities in 350 twin pairs from kindergarten through fifth grade. Centered at Ohio State University (Petrill, PI), this multisite project includes interdisciplinary collaborations with Case Western University (Thompson) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Deater-Deckard). Our Illinois branch focused on understanding the extent and nature of genetic and environmental influences on children's language development and disorder, including the extent to which such factors may overlap with reading development. Sample publications include:

  • Harlaar, N., DeThorne, L.S., Smith, J.M., Betancourt, M.A., & Petrill, S.A. (2016). Longitudinal effects on early adolescent language: A twin study. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 59(5), 1059-1073.
  • DeThorne, L.S., Harlaar, N., Petrill, S.A., & Deater-Deckard, K., (2012). Longitudinal stability in genetic effects on children's conversational language productivity. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 55, 739-753.
  • DeThorne, L.S., Deater-Deckard, K., Mahurin-Smith, J., Coletto, M., & Petrill, S.A. (2011). Volubility as a mediator in the associations between conversational language measures and child temperament. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 46, 700-713.
  • DeThorne, L.S., Petrill, S.A., Schatschneider, C., & Cutting, L. (2010). Conversational language use as a predictor of early reading development: Language history as a moderating variable. Journal of Speech-Language-Hearing Research, 53, 209-223.
  • DeThorne, L.S. & Hart, S.A. (2009). Use of twin design to examine evocative gene-environment effects within a conversational context. European Journal of Developmental Science, 3(2), 175-194.

Additional Sample Publications

  • DeThorne, L.S., & Channell, R. (2007). Clinician-Child Interactions: Adjustments in Linguistic Complexity. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 16, 119-127.
  • DeThorne, L.S., Johnson, C.J., Walder, L., & Mahurin-Smith, J. (2009). When "Simon Says" doesn't work: Alternatives to imitation for facilitating early speech development. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 18, 133-145.
  • Mellman, L., DeThorne, L.S., & Hengst, J. (2010). "Shhhh! Alex has something to say.": AAC-SGD Use in the Classroom Setting. Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 19, 108-114; doi:10.1044/aac19.4.108
  • King, A.M., Hengst, J.A., DeThorne, L.S. (2013). Severe speech sound disorders: An integrated multimodal intervention. Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 44, 195-210.
  • DeThorne, L.S., Hengst, J., Fisher, K., & King, A. (2013). Keep your eye on the prize: Implementing AAC within the broader context of communicative competence. Young Exceptional Children, 14, 39-50.
  • Smith, J.M., DeThorne, L.S., Logan, J.A.R., Channell, R.W., & Petrill, S.A., (2014). The impact of prematurity on language skills at school age. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 57, 901-916.
  • Kraft, Shelly Jo, & DeThorne, L.S. (2014). The brave new world of epigenetics: Embracing complexity in the study of speech and language disorders. Current Developmental Disorders Reports, 1(3), 207-214.
  • Bogue, E., DeThorne, L., & Schaefer, B. (2014). A psychometric analysis of childhood vocabulary tests. Contemporary Issues in Communication Science and Disorders, 41, 55-69.

Copyright © College of Applied Health Sciences