David Hajjar

Associate Professor, Speech Language Pathology and Audiology
School: School of Health Sciences and Human Performance


Review the project descriptions to learn about how undergraduate and graduate students have supported the AAC Research Lab at IC. Students work on projects based on their interest in AAC and availability to commit to the project. Please contact me if you are interested in learning more about current opportunities.

RESEARCH PROJECT: Adults with Developmental Disabilities who Engage in Active Recreation

Project title: 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 was a SLPA major and psychology minor at Ithaca College. She 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 volunteered as a student research assistant in Dr. Hajjar's AAC research lab from Fall 2018 until May 2021. Julia graduated in May 2021 and currently works for the Ithaca City School District. 

Isabelle Michaud, UG Research Assistant

SLPA student at Ithaca College

Isabelle Michaud, SLPA Major

Isabelle Micaud volunteered in Dr. Hajjar's AAC Research Lab as a student research assistant since the Fall 2018 semester. She was a SLPA major and minored 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 currently attending graduate school in speech-language pathology at the University of Pittsburgh. 

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

RESEARCH PROJECT: Enhancing Communication with Visual Scene Displays: Supporting Partners and People who use AAC to Capture, Edit, & Share

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.

Image developed using GoVisual™, Attainment Company 

This research will be presented as a 1-hour pre-recorded oral session at the ASHA 2021 Hybrid Convention. To find this session, look for session #2050V.

Session Description:

This presentation will share clinical observations and original case study research. The presenters will discuss how speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can support individuals who use AAC, to collect, edit, and share photos as visual scene displays(VSDs). VSDs show promise in AAC research as an effective intervention approach with beginning communicators and people with aphasia; however, are inconsistently used across clinical settings. The presenters will describe the process of capturing recreational media, storing and editing photos, and developing VSDs for different purposes of communication. Personalized digital media was collected during recreational activities and developed into VSDs using commercial applications such as SnapScene and GoVisual. Examples of VSDs will be shared to demonstrate how students may use these in educational and home environments. 

Visual Scene Displays (VSDs)

A visual scene display (VSD) is a type of digital 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. The VSD shown above is from an adaptive skiing lesson. The application Snap Scene ™ from Tobii-Dynvox was used to create the VSD from a personal photo captured during the lesson. When the person who uses AAC selects the highlighted circles, 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, M.S., CF

Katie Mulkerin was 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! During her time as a graduate student she supported work in the AAC Research Lab as a graduate assistant.  Katie has learned to create visual scene displays using different types of applications and software programs. Katie graduated from IC in May 2022 and now works as an SLP in Philadelphia, PA. 

Hajjar & Mulkerin, 2021_Oral Pre-recorded Presentation_ASHA 2021

RESEARCH PROJECT:  Perspectives from Parents About Their Adolescents and Young Adults with Complex Communication Needs. 

Collaborative Research with Faculty from Moravian University and the University of Wisconsin- Madison & the Waisman Center

Research happening in our 100th year!

This research project involves a cross institutional research collaboration between three faculty members at three different colleges/universities in the NY, PA, and midwestern region. Dr. Hajjar and his team of students will work in collaboration with Dr. Eric Sanders from Moravian University, Department of Speech-Language Pathology, in Bethlehem, PA and Dr. Jennifer Seale from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the Waisman Center.  

The project will involve undergraduate and graduate students from the three institutions of higher education. One goal of the project is to provide students with an opportunity to conduct 1:1 semi-structured interviews. Interviews will be conducted with parents of adolescents and/or young adults with complex communication needs. The aim of the research is to gain the perspectives of parents about their journey supporting their adolescents and young adults who use AAC. The research team would like to gain a better understanding of the past, current and future role of AAC and the importance of communication and participation in the lives of adolescents and young adults across educational, community and vocational settings. Interview topics will focus on parent collaboration with professionals and the general public, parent knowledge and skills related to AAC systems & funding, and overall best practices and recommendations from parents about supporting communication across a range of settings and partners. 

Students from Ithaca College who are supporting the project.

Julia Shuman, SLP student at Ithaca College

Julia Shuman, SLPA major at Ithaca College 

Julia Shuman is currently a SLP graduate student at Ithaca College.  She is excited  to continue her education at IC after receiving her bachelors degree here in SLPA. She has volunteered in Dr. Hajjar’s AAC Research lab since Spring 2021 and is now a graduate assistant in the lab. 

Yakira Jack, SLPA student at Ithaca College

Yakira Jack, SLPA student at Ithaca College. Yakira graduated from IC in May 2022. 

Yakira Jack graduated from IC in May 2022.  She has compassion for helping others and strives to do so in all of her endeavors. 

photo of Margot Stern, SLPA student at Ithaca College

Margot Stern, SLPA student at Ithaca College 

Margot Stern is a SLPA major with a minor in Aging Studies. She hopes to attend graduate school and work with the pediatric population. Outside of school, Margot loves any opportunity to get outside and explore Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region. Margot is excited for the opportunity to be a part of the AAC lab with Dr. Hajjar and learn more about the research process. 

Research Poster Presentation at ASHA 2022

Title: Funding Considerations to Support Participation, Engagement and Communication for Adolescents and Adults Who use AAC.  

ASHA Logo for 2022 Convention, New Orleans, LA


Abygail Marx, Jennifer Seale, Eric Sanders, & David Hajjar


Thursday, November 17th from 10:30-noon (session #9010). 


Navigating the world of funding mechanisms for individuals who use AAC that are transitioning from school or are adults can seem overwhelming and daunting. Parents are often left without support or guidance for how to help their children secure funding for the services and communication equipment that they need. This poster presentation will highlight important funding strategies, considerations, and resources for this population. Additionally, this information will be supplemented with the results of a qualitative study that investigated the perspectives of parents regarding funding for their children who are transition-age or adults. In particular, the challenges, successes, and recommendations for navigating this system will be addressed.

Research Project: Supporting AAC Funding for Autistic Children 

4 college students

SLPA Students: Jenna Krause, Julia Young, Margot Stern, & Frances Bu

The students collaborated with Laura Kuo, health sciences librarian at Ithaca College and Lew Golinker, Esq., Director of the Assistive Law Center,  to gather research about the use of AAC intervention with autistic children. The data base of research studies will be available to support children with complex communication needs and their caregivers to acquire speech generating devices and other AAC technology.