David Hajjar

Assistant Professor, Speech Language Pathology and Audiology


Dr. Hajjar encourages undergraduate and graduate students to engage in research related to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).


Participation in Active Recreation: Perspectives of Adults with Developmental Disabilities Who Use AAC


Poster presentation accepted for ASHA 2020.

This poster describes original research in the area of participation in active recreation for people with developmental disabilities who use AAC. Recreation can have a positive impact on individuals with complex communication needs in areas such as improving quality of life and increasing social interaction. Five adults with developmental disabilities who use AAC contributed to an online focus group sharing their experiences about their participation in activities such as skiing, kayaking, cycling, and competitive team sports. Results revealed that individuals who use AAC value recreation and enjoy a diverse range of activities. After a thematic analysis was conducted, six primary themes emerged: types of recreational activities, communication, barriers, supports, benefits, and recommendations.

Julia Cohen, UG Research Assistant

SLPA student

Julia Cohen, SLPA Major

Julia is a SLP major and psychology minor. She has served on the E-Board for the Random Acts of Kindness Club as well as a dance team on campus. Julia supports other IC students as a tutor for students in both SLP and psychology classes. Outside of school, she enjoys exploring Ithaca's natural beauty and finding fun places around town to visit. Julia has volunteered as a student research assistant in Dr. Hajjar's AAC research lab since Fall 2018 and will graduate from IC in May 2021.

Isabelle Michaud, UG Research Assistant

SLPA student at Ithaca College

Isabelle Michaud, SLPA Major

Isabelle Micaud has volunteered in Dr. Hajjar's AAC Research Lab as a student research assistant since the Fall 2018 semester. She is a SLPA major and minors in Education Studies. In 2021, Isabelle received the HSHP Dean's Award, which is given to the SLPA student with the highest GPA in the senior class. In addition to her academic work, Isabelle is involved in club field hockey, Circle K, and the National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association (NSSLHA).  Isabelle is  planning to attend graduate school in speech-language pathology and would like to work with the pediatric population in an educational or medical setting.

file-outline Participation in Active Recreation: Perspectives of Adults with Developmental Disabilities Who Use AAC - asha-2020postercanceledduetocovid.pptx.pdf (1.02 MB)


Enhancing Communication Using Visual Scene Displays (VSDs): Supporting Partners & People who use AAC to Capture, Edit, & Share

visual scene display

An example of a visual scene display (VSD) created with the application Snap Scene™ from Tobii DynaVox. 

An 8-year girl with autism and her mother, participated in case study research with Dr. Hajjar and graduate student, Katie Mulkerin. The study received Institutional Review Board approval from Ithaca College and followed all ethical standards for research. With permission from the adaptive ski program in central NY, the research team joined the student during an adaptive ski lesson. The researchers captured her experience by gathering personalized photos and video throughout the lesson. Video and photos were also taken with cameras from the students’ perspective.  After the digital media was collected and edited,  the  focus of the study shifted to determining how to effectively share photos. The research team used various applications to create and edit visual scene displays (VSDs) to support sharing. 

Visual Scene Displays (VSDs)

visual scene display

Example of a visual scene display with 'hot spots' denoted by circles.

A visual scene display (VSD) is an intervention for people who use AAC. VSDs support language development and overall expressive and receptive communication. VSDs can be created using commercially available software and applications. This VSD is from an adaptive skiing lesson. The application Snap Scene ™ from Tobii-Dynvox was used to create the VSD from a personal photo. When the person who uses AAC selects the circle areas by pointing, voice output will produce an audible message to communicate a question, comment, or response. 

Katie Mulkerin, B.S., Graduate SLP Student

SLP student

Katie Mulkerin, B.S.; Graduate SLP student 

Katie Mulkerin is a SLP graduate student from Branchburg, NJ. She graduated from the IC SLPA undergraduate program in May 2020 with minors in Deaf Studies, Education, and Outdoor Pursuits. She has always enjoyed the close-knit community at Ithaca and the opportunities available to learn from other disciplines. Katie loves any chance to get outside and explore, making Ithaca a great fit for the past few years! After graduate school, Katie plans to become a traveling SLP in order to work in a variety of settings as a clinician and continue to work as an outdoor educator.  For now, she supports the work of the AAC Research Lab as a graduate assistant.  Katie has learned to create visual scene displays using different types of applications and software programs.