University of Montana professor awarded $4.5 million grant | Local

A University of Montana professor earned a $4.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health after scoring the highest rank possible on a proposal to study language and dyslexia in children.

“I am thrilled that our international team’s years of collective and collaborative research efforts are receiving such recognition and large-scale external funding,” said Julie Wolter, professor and chair of the UM Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, in a statement.

“This work is essential to developing effective national testing and teaching practices to assess, treat and prevent dyslexia in children with and without developmental language disorders.”

Wolter said the other collaborators are at Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions, University of South Carolina, and the Royal Holloway University of London.

UM announced the grant in a news release this week and noted it follows a $1.25 million award Wolter received in 2016 from the U.S. Department of Education for a project in collaboration with UM’s Rural Institute of Inclusive Communities. That project trains people in rural Montana and tribal communities to become speech-language pathologists. 

The current grant will fund research for five years “to investigate how children who struggle to talk develop the ability to read and write,” according to the news release.

Wolter grew up in Billings and left Montana in the 1990s to pursue a graduate degree in speech-language pathology. At the time, UM did not have such an offering. UM “re-initiated” its graduate and related undergraduate programs in 2008.

Recently back in Montana, Wolter described her colleagues at UM as “innovative, thriving and committed to serving children and adults statewide with language, literacy and communication disorders,” the news release said.

“It is my passion and goal to address the critical shortage in the speech-language pathology health profession field, specifically in rural Montana areas,” Wolter said in a statement. “I feel honored to have the opportunity to work at the University of Montana, where I believe my service, teaching and research may provide immediate impacts on a large scale.”

In the release, UM noted that in competitive research, “often less than 10 percent of national applications are even considered for review.”