Monthly Archives: August 2017

NTID Performing Arts presents “Out of the Box” with Patrick Graybill

Black background with a brown box open with various clippings and words coming out, with the words

RIT/NTID Performing Arts presents  "Out of the Box" -- a multimedia performance featuring the life stories of legendary RIT/NTID Professor Emeritus Patrick Graybill at 7:30 p.m. Sat., Sept. 9 in Panara Theatre. Written by Karen Christie and Patrick Graybill and directed by Aaron Kelstone, tickets are $35 for the performance and a reception, and $25 for the performance only. Tickets are available a the RIT University Arena Box Office or online

RIT/NTID awarded $2.6 million for first large-scale study of language outcomes in young deaf adults

Matthew Dye, in blue suit and pink tie wearing glasses w/male in blue shirt and dark tie w/electrode cap and female student.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID) in Rochester, New York, has received a $2.6 million, five-year award from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) to study the neurological, linguistic and behavioral outcomes for deaf individuals after childhood. It is the first study of its kind with college-age adults.

According to the latest data from the NIDCD, two to three out of every 1,000 children born in the United States are deaf or hard of hearing. For some of these children, being deaf can preclude typical acquisition of spoken language.

Some children use hearing aids, some learn sign language only, spoken language only, or a combination of sign and spoken language, with or without hearing aids. Still others use a cochlear implant (CI), an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the inner ear and can provide sound signals to the brain. Children with a CI may use sign language, spoken language or both. As of 2012, around 38,000 children in the United States had received a CI.

“For many of these children, a cochlear implant has permitted access to spoken language,” said Matthew Dye, an RIT/NTID researcher who is leading the grant. “However, what is perhaps most striking about spoken language outcomes following cochlear implantation is the variability.”

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there is wide variation in individual outcomes following cochlear implantation, and some CI recipients never develop useable speech and oral language skills. The causes of this variation in outcomes are only partly understood at the present time. 

“Understanding this variability is the first step in developing effective interventions to move a greater number of children towards better communication outcomes,” Dye said.

The research will be one of the first large-scale studies to examine spoken language outcomes in young deaf adults who received their implants in childhood and now are enrolled at RIT/NTID. The majority of these students will vary in terms of whether or not they use their CI, the age at which they received their CI and their primary mode of communication (spoken English, sign language, or other). The unique sample of young adults at RIT/NTID, many of whom learned sign language in infancy and use a cochlear implant, affords the possibility of examining how early exposure to American Sign Language (ASL) influences spoken language outcomes.

Dye will collaborate with researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder to establish norms for hearing college students.

“The overall aim of this project is to examine the effects of auditory development, cognitive function and multimodal language outcomes in a large group of young deaf adults,” Dye said. “The results of this study will provide much-needed and timely answers regarding the possible benefits of early cochlear implantation and early intervention with sign language that parents and policy makers seek as they determine how best to intervene with the next generation of deaf infants who are cochlear implant recipients or candidates.”

Graduate finds strength through bodybuilding

A light-skinned female with long pony-tail and in gym clothes stands with large weights

Alexandra Dunek ’14 (professional and technical communication) has been through a lot mentally, emotionally and physically.

Now, the 27-year-old deaf bodybuilder and fitness writer from Mount Laurel, N.J., is sharing her story of struggle and triumph to help inspire others who may be going through trying times of their own.

Through her Instagram account (@TipsFromAFitChick), as well as other media outlets, she is using her voice and her story to advocate for the deaf community and to encourage anybody facing challenges in their own lives to persevere.

Stronger, a short documentary released in December 2016, is one of many recent media projects to chronicle Dunek’s journey overcoming cancer, depression and an eating disorder, as well as her rise in competitive bodybuilding. The film, directed by Eliu Cornielle, with the help of director of photography Drew Saracco, is available on Vimeo.

Dunek was born in 1989 with germ cell sarcoma, a rare cancer that is most common in multiple births.

“My mother had trouble getting pregnant and miscarried before I was born, so she took fertility drugs and ended up with triplets,” said Dunek. “She was supposed to have quadruplets, but the fourth baby didn’t develop properly and instead became a tumor attached to me.”

By the age of 2, Dunek had undergone six rounds of intensive chemotherapy and won her battle with cancer. As a result of the chemo, however, she lost most of her hearing and suffered damage to her vision.

Attending RIT wasn’t always a part of Dunek’s plan.

“My mom was in a really bad car accident my senior year of high school, and I picked up some bad habits while trying to cope with her recovery,” Dunek said. “I was depressed and I started drinking and smoking regularly, and my eating habits were really unhealthy.”

Dunek was attending a local community college at the time but dropped out during her first year. Once her mother made a full recovery, she encouraged Dunek to continue her education, this time at RIT.

“I made a deal with her and agreed to visit one college of her choice,” said Dunek. “We visited RIT in spring of 2010 and I immediately fell in love with the way the school took the deaf and hearing worlds and combined them into one.”

It was during her time at RIT that Dunek became focused on her fitness and began bodybuilding. “I needed something to help me get out of my depression, and I chose the gym,” Dunek said.

Athleticism runs in Dunek’s family. Her father, Ken Dunek, was a Philadelphia Eagle during the 1981 Super Bowl.

Following graduation, Dunek began prepping for a competition of her own. She competed in her first bodybuilding national qualifier in June 2015 and placed second.

“It is important for me to tell my story,” said Dunek. “Now I have the opportunity to come forward and share my journey. I just became a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer so that I can open my own gym and inspire others to develop healthy lifestyles of their own, no matter their circumstance.”