CSD’s Newest Faculty Member Awarded $557,000 NIH Grant

November 6, 2014

Jonathan Preston G’02, G’08 may be new to the Syracuse University faculty, but he’s no stranger to the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD). Preston first stepped onto campus as a graduate student 13 years ago. Today, he is not just an alumnus of one of the College of Arts and Sciences’ leading graduate programs; he’s also a professor.

Jonathan Preston

Jonathan Preston

Preston has received a three-year, $557,000 grant from the National Institute on Deafness Research and Other Communication Disorders (part of the National Institutes of Health) to study the treatment of articulation disorders in children. The method he’s utilizing is so cutting-edge that national media outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal, have already taken notice.

“We use ultrasound to get real-time images of the tongue, and then we show children what they are doing when they make certain speech sounds,” says Preston, who most recently served as an assistant professor at Southern Connecticut State University. “The ‘r’ sound is one of the most common speech errors among children with speech difficulties. With the ultrasound, we can help them see what shape their tongue is making and then cue them to do something differently with the tongue. This way, they can see if they are making the right tongue shape and can adjust their tongue position accordingly to achieve clearer speech.”

Participants range from 10-14 years old and receive 14 free speech therapy sessions in return for their participation.

Preston’s colleagues say his research has the potential to provide relief to children suffering from a variety of speech disorders.

“Jonathan was one of our best graduate students, so we were thrilled to hire him this year as a CSD faculty member,” says Karen Doherty, professor and chair of CSD. “It comes as no surprise that more than a decade after he graduated from our Ph.D. program in speech pathology, he has become a leader in his field. The treatment research Jonathan is doing provides hope to the lives of thousands of children who struggle with the articulation of words on a daily basis.”

Preston directs CSD’s Speech Production Laboratory, which evaluates and treats a variety of speech production issues. Much of his work there addresses speech sound misarticulations in children. He and his research team, which includes graduate and undergraduate students, rely on an array of research tools, including phonetic transcription, ultrasound imaging of the tongue and acoustic analysis.

Preston is also a co-principal investigator of another NIH study, being conducted in Connecticut, New York and Ohio. The five-year, multi-million dollar project focuses on how ultrasound treatment may successfully translate into clinical practice.

Preston is a certified speech-language pathologist whose research involves the assessment and treatment of speech sound disorders. Also a member of the college’s neuroscience faculty, he earned a Ph.D. and master’s degree from Syracuse in speech-language pathology.