MISSOULA – Dr. Julie Wolter, department chair and professor in the University of Montana Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, recently received a perfect score on her National Institutes of Health grant to study language development and dyslexia in children.

In the competitive research funding world of NIH, where often less than 10 percent of national applications are even considered for review, Wolter learned that her team’s research scored the highest rank possible, earning the $4.5 million grant.

Julie Wolter (UM Photo)
Dr. Julie Wolter (UM Photo)

The NIH R01 grant will fund Wolter’s reading and language research in young elementary schoolchildren. The purpose of the five-year funded research is to investigate how children who struggle to talk develop the ability to read and write.

“I am thrilled that our international team’s years of collective and collaborative research efforts are receiving such recognition and large-scale external funding,” Wolter said. “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 is no stranger to securing funding for research that serves the needs of school-age children with language and literacy disorders in Montana. In 2016 she was awarded a $1.25 million U.S. Department of Education grant, which is a collaboration with UM’s Rural Institute of Inclusive Communities. The grant funds and trains individuals in rural Montana and tribal communities to become speech-language pathologists and serve the speech, language, communication and literacy of individuals with such disorders throughout the state.

A practicing speech-language pathologist herself, Wolter grew up in Billings and moved away from Montana in the 1990s to pursue her graduate degree in speech-language pathology, as UM did not have a related training program at that time.

The speech-language pathology graduate program and related undergraduate communication sciences and disorders programs were reinitiated in 2008. Wolter recently returned to the state as an accomplished and established researcher and academician to become an active leader in UM’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders.

Wolter said her colleagues are innovative, thriving and committed to serving children and adults statewide with language, literacy and communication disorders.

“It is my passion and goal to address the critical shortage in the speech-language pathology health profession field, specifically in rural Montana areas,” she said. “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.”

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