May 22, 2018

Welcoming more visitors

Today we had two more visitors in Bathurst. First, Professor Linda Harrison, who has moved to Macquarie University, was back in Bathurst to work with her PhD students and research assistants. Later in the day David Fitzsimons, the head speech pathologist in the cleft palate clinic at The Children's Hospital at Westmead popped in unexpectedly. It has been great to catch up.
Sharynne, Ben Pham, Linda Harrison, Audrey Wang, Wendy Alexander
David Fitzsimons

May 10, 2018

VietSpeech project update

Over the past few months have been working hard on our VietSpeech project. We have:
  • Created a new website
  • Submitted our ethics application to the Charles Sturt University Human Ethics Committee
  • Undertaken a systematic literature review to consider factors related to language maintenance
  • Created a questionnaire to consider Vietnamese-Australian families’ linguistic multi-competence and language maintenance
  • Discussed our research with the International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children's Speech
  • Undertaken recruitment for our VietSpeech postdoc position
  • Had a paper accepted about children's speech acquisition in 27 languages 
  •  ... and lots more.
Dr Sarah Verdon and Sharynne meeting in Albury in May

May 7, 2018

Teaching students to work with children with speech sound disorders

This semester I am teaching year 2 speech pathology students at Charles Sturt University the subject SPH201: Speech Impairment in Children and Dr Michelle Brown is running the tutorials. Most weeks I am in Bathurst and teach the class via video conference while they are 5.5 hours away in Albury. Today, I spent 5 hours with the class face-to-face in Albury. We covered phonological and motor speech interventions. We drew on chapters 13 and 14 of Children's Speech (McLeod & Baker, 2017) as well as the chapters and videos from Interventions for Speech Sound Disorders in Children (Williams, McLeod & McCauley, 2010). I was so impressed at the interest and committment of the class.

May 5, 2018

Visitors from Germany

Yesterday Irmhild Preisinger and Eiko visited Charles Sturt University and Bathurst during their 8-day visit to Australia. Irmhild has studied a Masters degree in speech-language pathology with my colleague Professor Annette Fox-Boyer at Europäische Fachhochschule Rhein/European University of Applied Sciences EUAS, Rostock, Germany. It was great to show them around the campus and city.
Irmhild and Sharynne with German speech assessments
Irmhild and Eiko enjoying meeting the kangaroos behind the university

May 3, 2018

Impact of listener familiarity and speech competence on parent ratings using the Intelligibility in Context Scale: Dutch

The following manuscript has been accepted for publication.
van Doornik, A., Gerrits, E., McLeod, S., & Terband, H. (2018, in press April). Impact of listener familiarity and speech competence on parent ratings using the Intelligibility in Context Scale: Dutch. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.

It forms a part of Anniek van Doornik's PhD studied through Utrecht University in the Netherlands (I am a co-supervisor). She presented this work at the Speech Pathology Australia National Conference last May in Sydney.

Here is the abstract
Purpose: This study investigated the effect of listeners’ familiarity on parents’ judgements of intelligibility of children with and without speech sound disorders (SSD).
Method: Participants were 67 Dutch-speaking children (48-84 months), 48 children with typically-developing speech (TD), and 19 with SSD. Item scores on the parent-rated Intelligibility in Context Scale: Dutch (ICS-NL) were compared between groups and related to naive listeners’ measurement of intelligibility (Intelligibility Rating, IR), and percentage of consonants correct-adjusted (PCC-A).
Result: Statistical analysis yielded a significant Group x Familiarity interaction on the ICS-NL items. Familiarity influenced the judgment of items representing close relationships in the SSD group more than in the TD group, resulting in relatively higher ratings in the SSD group. In the SSD group, stronger correlations were found between IR and the ICS-NL item scores that represented less familiarity. In contrast, PCC-A was only correlated with the item reflecting the least familiarity (strangers).
Conclusion: Children are more intelligible with people in close relationships due to familiarity with their child’s speech, so children’s relationships should be considered in clinical practice with respect to communicative participation. Since PCC-A was not influenced by familiarity, it may not be a reliable predictor of participation in family and community life.

May 1, 2018

Teaching ESS419: Principles of Inclusive Education

Today I had the opportunity to give a lecture about children with speech, language and communication needs to the Charles Sturt University teacher education students (K-12) in their subject ESS419: Principles of Inclusive Education.
Two of the resources we discussed were:
  • Speech Pathology Australia (2017). Speech pathology in schools. Melbourne, Australia: Author. Retrieved from
  • Sutherland, D. (2017). Developing communication skills. In Foreman, P. & Arthur-Kelly, M. (Eds.) Inclusion in action (4th ed.). (pp. 300-345). Melbourne, Australia: Cengage.  
Dr Rachael Hutchesson and ESS419 students after our lecture

Visiting Uluru

Last week Ben Pham and I had the opportunity to visit Uluru and Kata Tjuta in central Australia. It is such a special place cared for by Indigenous people for millennia.

April 21, 2018

Children’s consonant acquisition in 27 languages: A cross-linguistic review

The following manuscript has been accepted for publication:
McLeod, S. & Crowe, K. (2018, in press April). Children’s consonant acquisition in 27 languages: A cross-linguistic review. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.

We believe that this will be a landmark publication - providing the most comprehensive cross-linguistic account of consonant acquisition ever undertaken in the world.

Here is the abstract:
Purpose: To provide a cross-linguistic review of acquisition of consonant phonemes to inform speech-language pathologists’ expectations of children’s developmental capacity by (1) identifying characteristics of studies of consonant acquisition, (2) describing general principles of consonant acquisition, and (3) providing case studies for English, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. Method: A cross-linguistic review was undertaken of 60 papers describing 64 studies of consonant acquisition by 26,007 children from 31 countries in 27 languages: Afrikaans, Arabic, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Jamaican Creole, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Maltese, Mandarin (Putonghua), Portuguese, Setswana (Tswana), Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Turkish, and Xhosa. Results: Most studies were cross-sectional and examined single word production. Combining data from 27 languages, the majority of the world’s consonants were acquired by 5;0 (years;months). By 5;0 children produced at least 93 percent of consonants correctly. Plosives, nasals, and non-pulmonic consonants (e.g., clicks) were acquired earlier than trills, flaps, fricatives, and affricates. Most labial, pharyngeal, and posterior lingual consonants were acquired earlier than consonants with anterior tongue placement. However, there was an interaction between place and manner where plosives and nasals produced with anterior tongue placement were acquired earlier than anterior trills, fricatives, and affricates. Conclusion: Children across the world acquire consonants at a young age. Five-year-old children have acquired most consonants within their ambient language; however, individual variability should be considered.
Here is a graphic we have created to summarize the English consonant acquisition data

April 17, 2018

Chatting with colleagues

This morning my colleague Dr Tamara Cumming organised a morning tea so that the people in our building (who work in different departments) all had a chance to chat with one another. It was a happy occasion where we shared our interests. Events such as this are so important for collegiality and wellbeing.

April 14, 2018

Media attention regarding our teacher-child relationships paper

The following journal article has been profiled by Charles Sturt University's media department this week:

Wang, C., Harrison, L. J., McLeod, S., Walker, S., & Spilt, J. L. (2018). Can teacher–child relationships support human rights to freedom of opinion and expression, education and participation? International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 20(1), 133-141. doi:10.1080/17549507.2018.1408855

It is freely available (open access) here:

The CSU media release is here:

Cen (Audrey) has been interviewed about the journal article here:
The article and media release also has received attention on social media too:

Here is Audrey's summary of our findings that she presented on the radio (and available at Kudos
Communication is a fundamental human right. We believe it is important for children, especially children with speech and language difficulties to have the ability to express themselves and debate in the public domain. Therefore, we wanted to study what factors are helpful for children with speech and language difficulties to overcome these challenges. In this particular research, we studied teacher-child relationships. We all remember or know teachers who made us feel valued, loved, warm and safe. We are more likely to share our feelings/experience with them and have a warm affectionate relationship. This positive relationship provides children a wonderful language context to freely express themselves and develop language skills. This can be especially important for children with speech language difficulties.

We analysed the data from a government collected dataset called Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. It is a study that spanned a number of years. In this study, we were able to examine teacher-child relationships when children were 4-5 years, then  6-7 years, then again 8-9 years and finally 10-11 years. The total number of participants is over 4000.

We found a few interesting findings:
  1. First of all, we have good news.  For both children with speech language difficulties and children without speech language difficulties, the majority had consistently higher levels of closeness and consistently lower levels of conflict with their teachers over time.
  2. However, children with speech and language difficulties tend to have slightly higher levels of conflict and lower levels of closeness with their teachers over time, compared to children without speech language difficulties.
  3. An important and interesting finding is that children with speech and language difficulties who had positive relationships with teachers did better on all the outcomes compared to children who had NO speech language difficulties but had negative relationships with their teachers. This suggests that teacher-child relationship quality matters and a positive relationship is an important buffer against the negative effects associated with speech and language difficulties. The outcomes we examined in this study include children’s literacy and language skills, their sense of school belongingness, their peer relationship quality and their school engagement.
There are a few suggestions for teachers, parents and schools:
  1. Forming positive relationships need to start early. This is because early close relationships with teachers can put children at a low conflict trajectory with their teachers; equally importantly, it helps children who started school with moderate/high initial levels of conflict to be on a trajectory of decreasing conflict.
  2. One aspect to note is that children with speech language difficulties may have difficulties expressing themselves, understanding concepts and social cues. They have also been shown to have reduced capacity to understand their emotional experiences, express their needs effectively, and regulate their behaviours. Therefore, some of these children may appear more disruptive and show behavioural issues in the school environment. It is important to look beyond the behaviour issues and investigate whether the underlying cause could be speech and language difficulties. There are certain tools out there for teachers and family to make this identification.  My colleagues Prof. Sharynne McLeod and Prof. Linda Harrison have developed a very short, easy to use checklist, called Intelligibility in Context scale to help with early identification. This scale can be found at CSU’s website:
  3. There are free speech pathology services provided at local hospitals and community health centres that families can access. Families and schools can also go to the Speech Pathology Australia website to type in their postcode to locate local speech pathology service.