SCSD Research Spotlight: Dr. Kaitlin Lansford

Dr. Kaitlin Lansford, SCSD Assistant Professor

Dr. Kaitlin Lansford brought her passion for research to the School of Communication Science & Disorders at Florida State in 2012, specializing in dysarthria classification and perception.  Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder that occurs in children and adults subsequent to stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and muscular dystrophy, and Dr. Lansford became interested in it as she worked to complete her clinical Master’s degree at Arizona State University (ASU).

During this clinical training, Dr. Lansford learned that many patients with dysarthria are not candidates for traditional therapy due to the progressive nature of their disease, and accordingly became interested in ways that the communicative burden could be shifted from the patient to the communicative partner.  This interest led her to become involved with ASU’s Motor Speech Disorders Lab to learn more about how listeners cope with dysarthric speech, which is often unintelligible.   Her experiences in the lab as a clinical graduate student sparked her interest in research, prompting her to pursue a doctorate degree at ASU and eventually begin research at Florida State University.

Dr. Kaitlin Lansford with students

Dr. Lansford is actively seeking to identify a new method for classifying dysarthria in adults.  Currently, dysarthria classification is built around symptomatology associated with a damaged component of motor control.  This method is limited: lesion location is not always known, not all speakers with similar sites of damage sound the same, and there is a good deal of perceptual overlap among the dysarthria subtypes.  Thus, dysarthria classification challenges practitioners and clinicians alike.  Dr. Lansford is working on improving classification by building a scheme that is based on perceptual speech features that unite speakers with dysarthria, irrespective of lesion location.

Her proposed system also improves upon the existing method by relating more directly to identification of potential treatment targets.  While still in the early stage, Dr. Lansford has begun to conduct preliminary studies and is actively seeking suitable research subjects in the local area.  She is also taking advantage of new technologies, such as video conferencing, to expand her search and observe subjects from several states away.

Dr. Lansford also brings her passion for research and especially dysarthria research to her students. Building upon her previous experiences as a student involved in research, she encourages undergraduates to join her as research assistants or participants.  This practice engages them in learning and creating new knowledge about dysarthria while learning about research.  Her prestigious initial career award from the American Speech and Hearing Foundation provided external funding to support her research.