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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Saint Louis University
  • Terra Edwards
  • (206) 478-9566
  • Diane Brentari
  • Jenna Gorlewicz
  • Deanna L Gagne
Award Date:07/07/2020
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 196,564
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 196,564
  • FY 2020=$196,564
Start Date:08/01/2020
End Date:01/31/2022
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.075
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:RAPID: Navigating Social Distancing with DeafBlind Children: Protactile Language Acquisition in an Online Learning Environment
Federal Award ID Number:2038042
DUNS ID:050220722
Parent DUNS ID:050220722
Program Officer:
  • Joan Maling
  • (703) 292-8046

Awardee Location

Street:221 N. Grand Blvd.
City:St Louis
County:Saint Louis
Awardee Cong. District:01

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Saint Louis University
County:Saint Louis
Cong. District:01

Abstract at Time of Award

Blanket directives to practice social distancing, while crucial to slowing the spread of COVID-19, do not take into account vulnerable populations such as DeafBlind children, who are at risk for social isolation and lack of critical language exposure. COVID-19 creates an immediate need for innovative and effective models of inclusive distance learning. This project will find ways to support language acquisition and cognitive development for the coming school year without increasing epidemiological risk. Conducting this research now stands to broaden our understanding of language, while also establishing models for education in populations that are disproportionately impacted by social distancing. Over the past decade, groups of DeafBlind adults in the United States began communicating directly with one another via reciprocal, tactile channels—a practice known as "protactile". These practices are leading to an emergent grammatical system that has yet to be acquired by any DeafBlind children. This project introduces a cohort of DeafBlind children to skilled protactile signers by combining video technology, a wearable haptic device designed for this project, and communication facilitators in the childrens’ homes. This hybrid approach will be evaluated as a remote learning environment to allow DeafBlind children to continue their learning at a distance consistent with slowing the spread of COVID-19. This approach will enable an analysis of the effects of the acquisition process as protactile language is transmitted from DeafBlind adult signers, who knew American Sign Language before protactile language, to DeafBlind children, who are acquiring protactile language as a first language. It is predicted that DeafBlind children will follow the general course of first language acquisition and will develop core lexical items earlier than verbs with componential morphology, thereby diverging from the path that adult signers have taken, creating forms with componential morphology before creating core lexical items. It is also predicted that the lexical forms created by children will adhere to protactile phonological principles more broadly than the forms created by adult protactile signers, whose application of protactile phonological principles is more restricted. If confirmed, the findings will show how DeafBlind children can acquire and expand language under conditions of social distancing, thereby modeling one way that education within vulnerable populations can be facilitated, while continuing to slow the spread of COVID-19 This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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