Susan Ellis Weismer

Susan Ellis Weismer, PhD

PhD, Indiana University
Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders
Associate Dean for Research for the College of Letters and Science

Contact Information:

Waisman Center 
1500 Highland Avenue
Madison, WI 53705
608.263.8861
ellisweismer@wisc.edu
Lab Website: Language Processes Lab
Department of Communicative Disorders

Research Statement

My research has focused on investigating the developmental course and nature of language processing in typically developing children, late takers, and children with specific language impairment (SLI). I am particularly interested in exploring the relationship between language and aspects of cognitive functioning, such as working memory capacity, in children with language learning difficulties. More recent work has focused on characterizing early language abilities of toddlers on the autism spectrum and examining the overlap between late talkers with and without autism to evaluate the ‘distinct category’ versus ‘dimensional’ accounts of language disorders.

The Early Language Learning Project (conducted in collaboration with Dr. Julia Evans and Dr. Robin Chapman) is focused on examining linguistic processing abilities of toddlers with late onset of language development compared to those with typical patterns of language acquisition. In this longitudinal project we are investigating variables that predict language outcomes at kindergarten and assessing links between early limitations in linguistic processing capacity and subsequent diagnosis of SLI. This project is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIDCD). Supplemental funding for this project has also supported an investigation of dialectal characteristics of African American toddlers, based on spontaneous language samples, such that typical dialect usage can ultimately be compared to patterns observed in early language delay.

Another line of my research focuses on school-age children and adolescents with specific language impairment (SLI). These projects are part of a clinical research center, Collaboration on Specific Language Impairment (directed by Dr. J. Bruce Tomblin at the University of Iowa). This research is supported by funding from the NIH (NIDCD). The clinical research center consists of a group of researchers from various universities who are conducting an epidemiologic, longitudinal investigation of language impairment in school-age children and adolescents. The focus of my research is to explore the effect of working memory limitations on both spoken language abilities and reading comprehension. We utilized functional imaging techniques to further explore language and memory abilities in a small subset of the children from the Iowa longitudinal study. This study provides new information about brain-behavior relationships in SLI, suggesting that adolescents with SLI exhibit difficulties in attentional and memory processes during verbal tasks.

The Toddler Talk Project (conducted in collaboration with Dr. Morton Ann Gernsbacher) examines early communication and language skills in toddlers on the autism spectrum. We are currently recruiting toddlers below 3 years of age who have an autism spectrum diagnosis (autism, PDD-NOS, Asperger’s) or who are suspected of having an autism spectrum disorder. Participation involves parent completion of surveys and questionnaires about the child’s developmental history and current behavior and two in-home developmental assessments conducted by members of our research team. This work will provide further insights into the extent of overlap between various populations of children with language delay and may lead to improvements in early differential diagnosis.

Representative Publications

Ellis Weismer S, Haebig E, Edwards J, Saffran J, Venker CE. (2016) Lexical Processing in Toddlers with ASD: Does Weak Central Coherence Play a Role?. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 46(12):3755-3769.

Venker CE, Haebig E, Edwards J, Saffran JR, Ellis Weismer S. (2016) Brief Report: Early Lexical Comprehension in Young Children with ASD: Comparing Eye-Gaze Methodology and Parent Report. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 46(6):2260-6. doi: 10.1007/s10803-016-2747-z.

Gangopadhyay I, Davidson MM, Ellis Weismer S, Kaushanskaya M. (2016) The role of nonverbal working memory in morphosyntactic processing by school-aged monolingual and bilingual children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 142:171-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2015.09.025.

Haebig E, Kaushanskaya M, Ellis Weismer S. (2015) Lexical Processing in School-Age Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Children with Specific Language Impairment: The Role of Semantics. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 45(12):4109-23. doi: 10.1007/s10803-015-2534-2.

Ellis Weismer S, Kover ST. (2015) Preschool language variation, growth, and predictors in children on the autism spectrum. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 56(12):1327-37. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12406.

Mahr T, McMillan BT, Saffran JR, Ellis Weismer S, Edwards J. (2015) Anticipatory coarticulation facilitates word recognition in toddlers. Cognition. 142:345-50. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2015.05.009.

Kover ST, Ellis Weismer S. (2014) Lexical characteristics of expressive vocabulary in toddlers with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research. 57(4):1428-41.

Venker CE, Ray-Subramanian CE, Bolt DM, Ellis Weismer S. (2014) Trajectories of autism severity in early childhood. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 44(3):546-63.

Ellawadi AB, Ellis Weismer S. (2014) Assessing gestures in young children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research. 1;57(2):524-31.

Hess C, Zettler-Greeley C, Godar SP, Ellis-Weismer S, Litovsky RY. (2014) The effect of differential listening experience on the development of expressive and receptive language in children with bilateral cochlear implants. Ear and Hearing. 35(4):387-95.

Kover ST, Davidson MM, Sindberg HA, Weismer SE. (2014) Use of the ADOS for Assessing Spontaneous Expressive Language in Young Children with ASD: A Comparison of Sampling Contexts. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research. 57(6):2221-33. doi: 10.1044/2014_JSLHR-L-13-0330.

Davidson MM, Ellis Weismer S. (2014) Characterization and prediction of early reading abilities in children on the autism spectrum. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 44(4):828-45.

Venker CE, Eernisse ER, Saffran JR, Weismer SE. (2013) Individual Differences in the Real-Time Comprehension of Children with ASD. Autism Research. 6(5):417-32. doi: 10.1002/aur.1304.

Weismer SE, Venker CE, Evans JL, Moyle MJ. (2013) Fast Mapping in Late-Talking Toddlers. Applied Psycholinguists. 1;34(1):69-89.

Haebig E, McDuffie A, Ellis Weismer S. (2013) The contribution of two categories of parent verbal responsiveness to later language for toddlers and preschoolers on the autism spectrum. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. 22(1):57-70.

Haebig E, McDuffie A, Ellis Weismer S. (2013) The contribution of two categories of parent verbal responsiveness to later language for toddlers and preschoolers on the autism spectrum. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 43(9):2218-27. doi: 10.1007/s10803-013-1763-5.

Ray-Subramanian CE & Ellis Weismer S. (2012) Receptive and expressive language as predictors of restricted and repetitive behaviors in young children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 42(10):2113-20.

Venker CE, McDuffie A, Ellis Weismer S, Abbeduto L. (2012) Increasing verbal responsiveness in parents of children with autism:a pilot study. Autism. 16(6):568-85.

Ray-Subramanian CE, Huai N, Ellis Weismer S. (2011) Brief report: adaptive behavior and cognitive skills for toddlers on the autism spectrum. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. May;41(5):679-84.

Venker CE, McDuffie AS, Ellis Weismer S, Abbeduto L. (2011) Increasing Verbal Responsiveness in Parents of Children With Autism: a Pilot Study. Autism. 16(6):568-85. doi: 10.1177/1362361311413396.

Ellis Weismer S, Gernsbacher M, Stronach S, Karasinski C, Eernisse E, Venker C, & Sindberg H. (2011) Lexical and Grammatical Skills in Toddlers on the Autism Spectrum Compared to Late Talking Toddlers. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 41 (8), 1065-1075.

Ellis Weismer S, Lord C, Esler A. (2010) Early language patterns of toddlers on the autism spectrum compared to toddlers with developmental delay. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Oct;40(10):1259-73.

Leonard LB, Ellis Weismer S, Miller CA, Francis DJ, Tomblin JB, Kail RV. (2007) Speed of processing, working memory, and language impairment in children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Apr;50(2):408-28.

Moyle MJ, Ellis Weismer S, Evans JL, Lindstrom MJ. (2007) Longitudinal relationships between lexical and grammatical development in typical and late-talking children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Apr;50(2):508-28.