Helping others get it, gets COSD's Lanter a SCHEV Rising Star Outstanding Faculty Award nomination

RU COSD Assistant Professor Elizabeth Lanter

RU COSD Assistant Professor Elizabeth Lanter is Radford University’s nominee for a 2014 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Rising Star Faculty Award (OFA).

To children trapped in an autistic condition, Elizabeth Lanter, assistant professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COSD), is a freedom fighter working to liberate them.

Lanter, a state and nationally certified speech pathologist (SLP,) is Radford University’s nominee for a 2014 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Rising Star Outstanding Faculty Award (OFA).

"Communication - it’s huge and can't be overemphasized," said Lanter.  "In our field not only are we working with patients or clients who are having terrible problems communicating, but we are communicating with our colleagues, insurance companies, the educators who work with these children daily and the culture in which the children are immersed. Most importantly, we are communicating with their families who are feeling so many burdens, including blame.  At the end of the day, we want to get to them all."

One of many ways Lanter and her colleagues at RU are working to help those experiencing communication challenges is by focusing on their literacy skills. Lanter just recently ran the Language and Literacy Summer Institute. The institute helped 24 preschool to middle school children with varied exceptionalities or deficiencies in language and literacy bolster their oral and written language skills. The summer program reflects Lanter's clinical skills and training that go beyond children with autism to include all children with language challenges.

Whitney Morris, a graduate student in the RU's speech language pathology department, worked with Lanter at the Language and Literacy Summer Institute. She said, "She is the embodiment of the COSD faculty who really want us to succeed. They are always teaching, challenging and encouraging us."

RU COSD Assistant Professor Elizabeth Lanter in classroom

COSD Assistant Professor Elizabeth Lanter helps RU students prepare to help those experiencing communication challenges.

Working across disciplines

Lanter describes her work - as a clinician, teacher and researcher -  as 'strongly situated within a larger, cross-disciplinary context and extending beyond the bounds of speech language pathology."

"Maladaptive communication is communication, but troubled children just can't find the words or conventional ways to share what is going on. We try and understand them and work towards giving them a conventional way to communicate," she said.  "We look at their culture, age, community and developmental stage for clues because it is more than just a speech thing."

Since her arrival at RU in 2008, Lanter has published, presented and engaged in research with 18 different RU students.  Her research is based upon a solid foundation established as a doctoral candidate at UNC Chapel Hill during which she won several awards, including the James J. Gallagher Dissertation Award, Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Award and a Smith Graduate Research Grant.

Her research efforts at RU have resulted in four peer-reviewed publications as first author. They have appeared in Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, a journal of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) and Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, a cross-disciplinary journal for teachers, trainers and parents of persons with autism or other pervasive developmental disabilities among others. She has contributed a chapter to the upcoming fourth edition of the Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders and made four oral presentations and 12 poster presentations at peer-refereed state, national and international professional conferences in the dynamic speech pathology field. Her article, "Promoting Literacy in student with ASD: The basics for the SLP" is frequently listed among the 50 most-read within its respective journal according to the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) and her article in this journal titled "Emergent Literacy in Children with Autism: an Exploration of Developmental and Contextual Dynamic Processes' was identified as a key research article by the online Psychology Progress.

Lanter's grant proposals have garnered over $100,000 in funding from sources like the Virginia Department of Education and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.

In a challenging field

"The field is more than helping children say their L's and R's," said Ken Cox, Dean of the Waldron College of Health and Human Services.  "Dr. Lanter's expertise crosses into language development and literacy and her strength is her experience working with children with autism and Asperger's syndrome . . . as big a challenge as any faced by a practitioner. She gives the students in our program a distinct advantage in preparing them to work in a challenging environment."

To Lanter, it is ironic that she is in the field.  She recalls an interview for a SLP job in which she was confidently responding to queries until her questioner posed a question about working with autistic children. Lanter immediately said, "No, I can't do that.  It is too frustrating and I feel powerless to help."

The admission turned out to be a defining moment.  Shortly thereafter, Lanter embraced the challenge and declared autism to be the subject of her doctorate.

"It is so challenging to accept the idea that there are no right answers," she said. "We don’t have the disabilities that our patients have, so our understanding of them has to be more than just prescriptive."

Empathy and compassion are vital for a practitioner in the field and she cautions against the urge to think there will be a clean, simple answer to the complex, confusing problem that confronts the victim, the practitioner and the family.

"I am helping people get how to get it," she said of her work in the field and in the classroom.   "Experience is the best teacher and through research and practical experience I want my students to get it intellectually and emotionally."

Winners of the Outstanding Faculty Award will be honored at a special ceremony at the State Capitol in February.

Radford University is a comprehensive public university of more than 9,900 students. RU serves the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation through a wide range of academic, cultural, human service, and research programs. Well known for its strong faculty/student bonds, innovative use of technology in the learning environment and vibrant student life on a beautiful 191-acre American classical campus, Radford University offers students many opportunities to get involved and succeed in and out of the classroom. The university offers 69 degree programs at the undergraduate level, and 21 master's programs and three doctoral programs at the graduate level. A Division I member of the NCAA and Big South Athletic Conference, Radford participates in 19 varsity sports—11 for women and eight for men. Since 2005, the university has secured approval and funding for nearly $300 million in capital projects, including both new construction and renovation.

Learn more about Radford University at

Sep 27, 2013
Don Bowman
(540) 831-7523