December 27, 2012

Factors that enhance English-speaking speech-language pathologists’ transcription of Cantonese-speaking children’s consonants

The following manuscript has been accepted for publication
Lockart, R. & McLeod, S. (2012, in press December). Factors that enhance English-speaking speech-language pathologists’ transcription of Cantonese-speaking children’s consonants. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.
Purpose. The aim was to investigate speech-language pathology students’ ability to identify errors and transcribe typical and atypical speech in Cantonese, a non-native language.
Method. Thirty three English-speaking students completed three tasks in an experimental within subjects design.
Results. Task 1 (baseline) involved transcribing English words. In Task 2 participants transcribed 25 words spoken by a Cantonese adult. An average of 59.1% consonants was transcribed correctly (72.9% when Cantonese-English transfer patterns were allowed). There was higher accuracy on shared English and Cantonese syllable-initial consonants /m,n,f,s,h,j,w,l/ and syllable-final consonants. In Task 3 participants identified consonant errors and transcribed 100 words spoken by Cantonese-speaking children under four additive conditions: 1) baseline, 2) +adult model, 3) +information about Cantonese phonology, 4) all variables (2 and 3 were counterbalanced). There was a significant improvement in identification and transcription scores for conditions 2, 3 and 4 with a moderate effect size. Increased skill was not based on listeners’ proficiency in speaking another language, perceived transcription skill, musicality, or confidence with multilingual clients.
Conclusion. SLP students, with no exposure to or specific training in Cantonese, have some skills to identify errors and transcribe Cantonese. Provision of a Cantonese-adult model and information about Cantonese phonology increased accuracy.

December 19, 2012

Speech sound disorders in a community study of preschool children

The following manuscript has been accepted for publication
McLeod, S., Harrison, L. J., McAllister, L. & McCormack. J. (2012, in press December). Speech sound disorders in a community study of preschool children. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.

Purpose. To undertake a community (non-clinical) study to describe the speech of preschool children identified by parents/teachers as having difficulties “talking and making speech sounds” and compare those who had and had not accessed the services of a speech-language pathologist (SLP).
Method. Stage 1: Parent/teacher concern regarding speech skills of 1,097 4- to 5-year-old children attending early childhood centers was documented. Stage 2a: 143 children identified with concerns were assessed. Stage 2b: Parents returned questionnaires about service access for 109 children.
Results. The majority of the 143 children (86.7%) achieved a standard score below the normal range for the percentage of consonants correct (PCC) on the Diagnostic Evaluation of Articulation and Phonology (Dodd, Crosbie, Holm, & Ozanne, 2002). Consonants produced incorrectly were consistent with the late-8 phonemes (Shriberg, 1993). Common phonological patterns were: fricative simplification (82.5%), cluster simplification (49.0%)/reduction (19.6%), gliding (41.3%), and palatal fronting (15.4%). Interdental lisps on /s/ and /z/ were produced by 39.9% of children, dentalization of other sibilants by 17.5%, and lateral lisps by 13.3%. Despite parental/teacher concern, only 41/109 children had contact with an SLP. Children who had contact with an SLP were more likely to be unintelligible to strangers, express distress about their speech, have a lower PCC and a smaller consonant inventory compared to the group who had not contacted an SLP.
Conclusions. There are a significant number of preschool-aged children with SSD who have not had contact with an SLP. These children have mild-severe SSD and would benefit from SLP intervention. Integrated SLP services within early childhood communities would enable earlier identification of SSD and access to intervention to reduce potential educational and social impacts.

December 17, 2012

More media attention about the lack of speech pathologists in Australian schools

Last night my colleagues from Melbourne were featured on Australian television calling for one speech pathologist in every Australian school:

December 11, 2012

Media attention regarding Sound Start research grant

Our recent ARC Discovery grant success has been picked up by The Australian newspaper's IT section. The reporter Jennifer Foreshew has written a story about our project titled: SoundSorter will get the toddlers talking. Her news item was in response to the Charles Sturt University media release about recent early childhood research grants. It is exciting to see an acknowledgment of the important issues about children's speech and language acquisition in a section of the newspaper that does not traditionally cover this topic.

This morning, the Sound Start research team met for over an hour via Skype (linked with Bristol UK, Bathurst, Sydney, and Albury) to discuss the modifications of the Phoneme Factory Sound Sorter software for Australian children, and other aspects of the research so that we are ready to begin in the new year.

Preparing for Jamaica

In January Dr Karla Washington from the University of Cincinnati (UC) and I are heading to Jamaica to work with researchers from the Jamaican Language Unit and the University of the West Indies to study children's speech and language acquisition. Karla's involvement in this project was recently profiled by UC here.

December 8, 2012

Faculty of Education paper of the year 2012 award

We have just learned that our paper is a joint winner of the Charles Sturt University Faculty of Education paper of the year 2012:

McCormack, J., Harrison, L. J., McLeod, S., & McAllister, L. (2012). A nationally representative study of the association between communication impairment at 4–5 years and children’s life activities at 7–9 years, Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 54, 1328-1328.

The other winning paper is:
MacDonald, A., & Lowrie, T. (2012). Developing measurement concepts within context: Children’s representations of length. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 23(1), 27-42.

December 7, 2012

A systematic review of cross-linguistic and multilingual speech and language outcomes for children with hearing loss

The following manuscript has been accepted for publication
Crowe, K. & McLeod, S. (in press, December, 2012). A systematic review of cross-linguistic and multilingual speech and language outcomes for children with hearing loss. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 

ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to systematically review factors affecting the language, speech intelligibility, speech production, and lexical tone development of children with hearing loss who use spoken languages other than English. Relevant studies of children with hearing loss published between 2000 and 2011 were reviewed with reference to a) methodologies used, b) children’s outcomes, c) factors affecting children’s outcomes, and d) publication quality. The review included 117 studies describing 20 languages. Monolingual children were described in 109 and multilingual children were described in eight. Performance outcomes were frequently associated with earlier age of hearing loss diagnosis, intervention, amplification, and less severe hearing loss – a finding similar to studies of English-speaking children. Studies frequently did not report or include information about participant characteristics, blinding of researchers, and reliability. Cross-linguistic comparison of children’s outcomes across studies was not possible due to differences in the outcomes assessed, assessment and analysis methods, and participant characteristics. There is a need for cross-linguistic comparisons of the speech and language outcomes of children with hearing loss but there is little scope for this using existing published research. Few studies described the outcomes of multilingual children with hearing loss.

Early childhood development for Indigenous children

While in Sydney I attended a Closing the Gap Clearinghouse event titled: Early childhood development: Understanding the evidence to inform parenting, early learning programs, and access to services for Indigenous children. The Closing the Gap Clearinghouse is a clearinghouse for evidence-based research on overcoming disadvantage for Indigenous Australians. The event was chaired by Associate Professor Karen Martin from Griffith University.   

The papers that were presented were:
  • Early learning programs that promote children’s developmental and educational outcome by Professor Linda Harrison (Charles Sturt University) and Associate Professor Sharon Goldfield (Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children's Hospital and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) 
  • Parenting in the early years: Effectiveness of parenting support programs for Indigenous families by Dr Robyn Mildon (Parenting Research Centre)
  • Improving access to urban and regional early childhood services by Dr Daryl Higgins (Australian Institute of Family Services)
Afterwards, members of the Collaborative Research Network in Early Years Education had lunch with Associate Professor Karen Martin from Griffith University who is the Deputy Chair of the steering committee for the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children. We had a rich conversation about the importance of Indigenous knowledge to understanding our world.
Front: Felicity McArdle (QUT), Karen Martin (Griffith U), Lysa Dealtry (CSU)
Back: Sarah Verdon, Linda Harrison, Sharynne McLeod (CSU)