Danika Pfeiffer, PhD, began her Monarch journey in Old Dominion University’s speech-language pathology and audiology program in fall 2023, and hit the ground running at Olympic Marathon speed. Just a few months into her Monarch journey, she received the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (ASHFoundation) new investigators research grant, an award of $10,000. Dr. Pfeiffer's project, titled "Emergent Writing Profiles of Preschoolers with Developmental Language Disorder," is aimed at understanding language disorders which cannot be explained by medical conditions.

To assist her in this research, Dr. Pfeiffer recruited first-year graduate student Alexis Clark. Alexis, who completed her undergraduate degree at North Carolina A&T, brings a passion for working with preschoolers and a strong desire to contribute to research in the field of speech-language pathology. Alexis aspires to help those who struggle to advocate for themselves and hopes the findings of this research will fill a gap in the current understanding of developmental language disorders for this age group. Currently collaborating with Dr. Pfeiffer on writing the abstract, Alexis sees this opportunity as a stepping stone towards her long-term goal of balancing practice and research.

Together, Dr. Pfeiffer and Alexis are recruiting 20 sites around Hampton Roads, including preschools, speech therapy centers, and daycares, to conduct testing sessions on 4 and 5-year-olds assessing language, early literacy, hearing, and cognition. Using play-based methods, these assessments aim to evaluate children's writing skills, including their ability to write their name, recognize letters, and write words. Their objective is to develop profiles of children with language disorders, ultimately enhancing evaluation tools for speech-language therapists. This study will continue until December, at which point they will present their findings at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) conference.

In addition to their ongoing research, as well as teaching classes, Dr. Pfeiffer was also chosen for ASHA's Lessons for Success program, where she will receive intensive grant writing training. This opportunity aligns with her commitment to expanding her research endeavors and contributing to the field of pediatric speech therapy.

Dr. Pfeiffer's leadership and Alexis's enthusiasm epitomize the spirit of excellence within ODU's speech-language pathology program, promising advancements that will benefit both current and future generations.