Study of hundreds of schoolchildren to help d

image: Dr Anja Kuschmann of the University of Strathclyde
to see Continued

Credit: University of Strathclyde

A study involving hundreds of Scottish schoolchildren aims to help identify and diagnose speech disorders in primary school-aged children.

The Variability in Child Speech (VariCS) project led by the University of Strathclyde will work with around 500 children in primary one, three and five in the Glasgow area over a three-year period.

The researchers aim to differentiate between ‘typical’ and ‘disordered’ speech on a number of different speech measures and to quantify the differences between lower performing, typically developing children and higher performing children with speech disorders. the speech.

The project team is working with the Royal College of Speech-Language Pathologists developing a web resource with a traffic light system so that therapists can enter the results of an individual child’s speech measurements and then determine if they are within the typical range.

A steering group of speech-language pathologists will help design the resource.

Principal Investigator Dr. Anja Kuschmannsenior lecturer in speech therapy at the University of Strathclyde, said: “Learning to speak is one of the most important developmental tasks and abilities vary, even in typically developing children. The big overriding question is how know what is still typical speech and where disordered speech begins?

“Understanding both the growth and variability of speech production in typically developing children is extremely important. Diagnosing speech therapists must determine which children to treat.

“Children do all sorts of unexpected things with speech and we want to figure out what’s actually good so we know what to look for if we’re looking at children with speech impairments. We need that typical data to enable meaningful interpretation of speech disorders.

“It may also include children who have had a breathing tube inserted at some point and who have a weak voice or children with a cleft palate who have facial differences. Ultimately, we want to advance our understanding of how speech difficulties in children are identified, assessed and treated.

The project team is looking to recruit schools in the Glasgow area and beyond with multilingual children included in the study.

Dr Kuschmann added: “We know very little about what elementary school children do with their speech in terms of variability. The idea is therefore to examine the development of speech in three different cohorts.

“We will ask them to tell us a story and repeat phrases and words for us, four times in three years, which means we will cover the developmental stages between five and 11 years old.”

Co-investigator Joanne Cleland, Reader in Speech and Language Pathology at Strathclyde, said: “This project reinforces the focus we have at Strathclyde on research that has real impact on people’s lives. “Speech disorders in children are a priority area for our research group because being able to communicate well with others is key to well-being.”

Associate co-researcher Jane Stuart-Smith, Professor of Phonetics and Sociolinguistics at the University of Glasgow, said: “This is a great opportunity to join Strathclyde to work on this project. The new speech data will give us an invaluable window into children’s accent variation, not only for typical and disordered speech patterns, but also to help us understand how children develop their sociolinguistic identities, so by gender. , social origin and ethnic origin, as they progress. through the key stages of primary school. “

Director of the Scottish Office of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, Glenn Carter, added: “We are delighted to support this important research. Early identification of speech disorders is essential if we are to mitigate the potential negative impact on children’s well-being, learning and future chances. We can’t wait to see search results.

The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Councilwhich is part of UK Research and Innovation.

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