December 23, 2011

Toddlers' speech perception

I was interviewed by ABC Science online yesterday about an interesting new study that has examined adults, 2- and 4-year-olds' abilities to change their vowel productions based on how they perceived their own speech output. The participants were asked to say "bed"; however, their speech was manipulated so that they heard themselves saying "bad". The adults and 4-year-olds changed their articulation of the vowel in accordance with the feedback, the 2-year-olds did not. More details are here

December 17, 2011

Factors that enhance Australian speech-language pathologists’ assessment of the speech of Cantonese-speaking children

Rebekah Lockart has finished her Masters thesis titled: Factors that enhance Australian speech-language pathologists’ assessment of the speech of Cantonese-speaking children. It has been an honour to supervise her project as part of her Master of Speech and Language Pathology in the Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics at Macquarie University, Sydney. Here is her thesis abstract:

The aim of this study was to investigate the ability of 33 Australian speech-language pathology (SLP) students to identify and transcribe typical and atypical speech in a nonnative language. Participants completed 3 tasks in an experimental within subjects design. Task 1 involved transcription of 5 English words to provide a baseline of their transcription skills. In Task 2 participants transcribed a typical Cantonese-speaking adult from an audio recording of 25 words from the Hong Kong Cantonese Articulation Test (HKCAT). The listeners transcribed an average of 59.1% consonants correctly. The participants’ average score was increased to 72.9% when a transcription scoring system was applied (2=exact match, 1=common transfer pattern, 0=incorrect). In Task 3 participants were presented with 100 audio-visual recordings of Cantonese-speaking children producing words from the HKCAT and a phonetic transcription of each word. Participants identified consonant speech sound errors and transcribed each word under 4 additive conditions: 1) baseline, 2) +recording of an adult model, 3) +information about the Cantonese phonological system, 4) all variables. In Condition 1 participants accurately identified an average of 63.8% of children’s whole word productions as correct or incorrect. Participants achieved an average transcription score of 71.2%. The accuracy of speech sound error identification and transcription was significantly improved by the provision of information about the Cantonese phonological system (69.2%, 76.1%), and further enhanced by a recording of an adult model (71.6%, 76.1%), and addition of both factors (72.8%, 79.8%). Accuracy was influenced by broad transcription skill and proficiency in LOTEs, but not by musicality or confidence in working with multilingual clients. These results indicate SLP students, with no exposure to or specific training in Cantonese, have some ability to transcribe the speech of Cantonese-speaking adults and children and identify speech sound errors made by Cantonese-speaking children.

December 16, 2011

Reviewing published and unpublished speech assessments

Over the past week, Nicole Limbrick has visited Bathurst. Jane McCormack and I are supervising her honours dissertation titled: Designs and decisions: The creation and use of informal criterion-referenced measures for assessing children with speech impairment. During the week we finalized the criteria for critiquing conceptual and operational features of speech assessments, then coded informal measures and published tests in English and other languages. We realized just how complex the task of creating a robust, valid and reliable assessment is. So often we as speech pathologists head straight for the stimulus pictures, score form, and norms, almost discarding the examiner's manual. This week has highlighted the importance of interrogating the design of the assessment measures we use to ensure the integrity of the assessments undertaken with children. It has also highlighted the innovation amongst our professional community for creating assessment measures to address gaps where there are no suitable tools available. Nicole will present some of the findings of her research at the Speech Pathology Australia National Conference in Hobart next year.
Nicole Limbrick and Sharynne at Allen House in Bathurst

December 13, 2011

October - December 2011 summary

‘Speaking my language: International speech acquisition in Australia’
Written by Kim Woodland, Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and Education for the December 2011 RIPPLE Update

Sharynne has been busy finalising two books: ‘Multilingual aspects of speech sound disorders in children’ (edited with Brian Goldstein); and ‘Listening to children and young people with speech language and communication needs’ (edited with Sue Roulstone). She also travelled to San Diego in November to meet with colleagues to conduct a content analysis of the common and unique ingredients that make up 15 interventions for children with speech sound disorders. This information will assist in building a framework to support speech-language pathologists, educators, and researchers. Sharynne then attended the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention in San Diego where she coordinated two invited sessions, and co-presented four papers. There were over 12,000 delegates attending the Convention. In early December, Sharynne co-presented a paper at a Symposium hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the University of Sydney (‘World Report on Disability: Implications for Asia and the Pacific’). The paper Sharynne presented, along with Linda Harrison, Jane McCormack, and Lindy McAllister, addressed two recommendations from the World Report on Disability: improving disability data collection; and strengthening and supporting research on disability. For more information on Sharynne’s research, please visit her blog, Speaking my languages.
Klaire, Ann Smit, Martin Ball, Peter Flipsen Jnr, Elise Baker, & Sharynne at ASHA

December 8, 2011

World Report on Disability - World Health Organization symposium

On 5-6 December I attended the a symposium hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and The University of Sydney titled: World Report on Disability: Implications for Asia and the Pacific.

Alana Officer, the executive editor of the World Report on Disability summarized the 9 major "cross cutting recommendations" of the report as:
  1. "Enable access to all mainstream policies, systems and services
  2. Invest in specific programmes and services for persons with disabilities
  3. Adopt a national disability strategy and plan of action
  4. Involve people with disabilities
  5. Improve human resource capacity
  6. Provide adequate funding and improve affordability
  7. Increase public awareness and understanding of disability
  8. Improve disability data collection
  9. Strengthen and support research on disability"
My colleagues and I presented the following paper that specifically related to recommendations 8 and 9:
  • McLeod, S., Harrison, L. J., McCormack, J. & McAllister, L. (2011, December). Prevalence, risk, impact, and unmet need of children with speech and language impairment in Australia
More information about the symposium is here
More information about the World Report on Disability is here
Video presentations from the symposium are here
Powerpoint presentations from the symposium are here

Prof Sally Hartley, Sharynne, Prof Lindy McAllister

Assessment and intervention for Vietnamese children with speech sound disorder

Today I spoke with (Skyped) two groups of students and their lecturer Janella Christie from Pham Ngoc Thach University in Ho Chi Minh City about their final year projects. These two groups of students have chosen to continue work that we discussed during their lectures in May. One group has analyzed retrospective data of 57 children with speech sound disorders to identify common phonological patterns and is aiming to develop minimal pairs intervention resources for Vietnamese. The other group is creating a new assessment to use for all children in their hospital. They will be assessing preschool children and conducting in-depth analyses of these children's phonological skills. It is exciting to see that these students are committed to resourcing the new speech therapy profession in Vietnam. I anticipate that their resources will be useful for working with Vietnamese children throughout the world as well.

November 26, 2011

International perspectives of infant-toddler education and care

Over the  past two days, I have participated in a symposium at Charles Sturt University titled Infant-Toddler Education and Care: Exploring Diverse Perspectives on Theory, Research, Practice and Policy. It has been a stimulating time of discussion with experts from around the globe. Today presenters from 6 countries described the policy and practice for early childhood education and care and their inclusion/support practices for children:
  • Liz Brooker (U.K.)
  • Claire Vallotton and Jim Elicker (U.S.)
  • Anne Kultti (Sweden)
  • Niina Rutanen (Finland)
  • Mette Gulbrandsen (Norway)
  • Linda Mitchell and Jayne White (N.Z.)
CSU staff and invited guests from infant-toddler centres and services also discussed practices and policy issues in the Australian context. Thank you to Linda Harrison, Jennifer Sumsion and Fran Press who organized this fascinating symposium. 
Invited researchers working with infants and toddlers from around the globe

November 25, 2011

Multilingual speech and language development and disorders: New book

Today I received my copy of Communication Disorders in Multicultural and International Populations edited by Dolores Battle. I was invited to co-author a chapter with my colleague Helen Grech, from Malta. Here is the reference: Grech, H. & McLeod, S. (2012). Multilingual speech and language development and disorders. In D. Battle (Ed). Communication disorders in multicultural and international populations (4th ed) (pp. 120-147). St Louis, MI: Elsevier.

At the beginning of the chapter we defined multilingualism: "...a person who is multilingual is able to comprehend and/or produce two or more languages in oral and/or written form regardless of the level of proficiency, use, and the age the languages were learned." (p. 121).

We also described the complexity of defining multilingualism: "Parameters that characterize definitions of multilingualism include:
a) the number of languages known (e.g., bilingual, trilingual, polyglot, semilingual)
b) the age and timing of the acquisition of each language (e.g., simultaneous or sequential acquisition)
c) proficiency in each language (e.g., minimal skill, functional, proficient in daily life, proficient in all contexts including educational/academic/professional contexts)
d) domains of language knowledge and use (e.g., perception/comprehension vs. production)
e) language output mode (e.g., oral vs. signed vs. written)
f) language(s) spoken within the community (e.g., majority vs. minority languages)"

The appendix includes a comprehensive list of studies of typical and atypical speech and language acquisition by multilingual children.

November 24, 2011

"Different Languages, One World": Online seminar to Brazil and USA

Two universities from the US: East Tennessee State University and the University of Northern Iowa  and two universities from Brazil: Universidade Federal de Santa Maria and Universidade de São Paulo-Baurú are involved in a cross-collaborative program designed to promote research into communication disorders across languages and cultures. The initiative has been described in the November 21, 2011 issue of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association magazine, the ASHA Leader here.

I have been invited to present a lecture and run a question/answer session in the "Different Languages, One World" series across 4 time zones and 3 continents. I will be focusing on international speech acquisition, and am looking forward to this exciting collaboration.

November 23, 2011

Speech-language pathologists’ knowledge of consonant production

A special issue of Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics has just been published to celebrate Martin J. Ball's 25 years of editorship of the journal. The special issue contains papers from around the world addressing all aspects of clinical linguistics and phonetics.
I was invited to write an article for the special issue, and I chose to triangulate three topics that have been central to Martin's research contributions: transcription, instrumentation, and education.
Here is the reference:
McLeod, S. (2011). Speech-language pathologists’ knowledge of tongue/palate contact for consonant production. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics, 25(11-12), 1004-1013.
Here is the abstract:
"Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) rely on knowledge of tongue placement to assess and provide intervention. 175 SLPs who worked with children with speech sound disorders (SSD) drew coronal diagrams of tongue/palate contact for 24 English consonants. Comparisons were made between their responses and typical English-speaking adults’ contact established by electropalatography. SLPs were most accurate for consonants with no contact (h, p, f); then velar consonants (g, k, ng). The remaining consonants were rarely accurate (from most to least accurate: l, t, r, z, n, sh, s, zh, y, v, th(voiceless), d, m, b, w, th(voiced), ch, j). SLPs demonstrated good knowledge of contact along the midline, but poor knowledge of contact along lateral margins of the palate. Importantly, SLPs did not show awareness of: lateral bracing (horse-shoe contact) for alveolar consonants (t, d, n, s, z); the groove for s, z, sh, zh; or posterior lateral contact for most other consonants. Accuracy was not influenced by: length of time as SLP, location of SLP training, location of current workplace, proportion of caseload with SSD or childhood apraxia of speech, amount of time spent reading, or exposure to electropalatography. Awareness of coronal tongue placement for consonant production needs targeting in SLP education."

November 21, 2011

American Speech-Language-Hearing Convention, San Diego, CA, USA

From 17-19 November, I attended the American Speech-Language-Hearing Convention, in San Diego, CA along with 12,000+ other delegates.

My colleagues and I coordinated the following invited sessions:

  • McLeod, S. & Goldstein, B. A. (Coordinators) Cross-linguistic and multilingual aspects of speech sound disorders in children (Invited 2 hour seminar)
  • McLeod, S., Staley, B., & Battle, D. (Coordinators)  SLP university programs in developing countries: Culturally sustainable approaches (Invited 2 hour seminar).

I co-presented the following papers:
  • McLeod, S. Multilingual speech assessment and analysis.(Paper as part of invited seminar)
  • Goldstein, B. A. & McLeod, S. Typical and atypical multilingual speech acquisition. (Paper as part of invited seminar)
  • Baker, E. & McLeod, S. SLPs’ assessment and intervention practices for childhood speech sound disorders. (Technical paper)
  • Washington, K. N., Thomas-Stonell, N., McLeod, S., Warr-Leeper, G. Parents’ and SLPs’ perspectives on communication and participation skills. (Poster)
 It was a stimulating convention. A time for learning, discussion, celebrations, and continuing friendships.

Presenters in the seminar on multilingual children with speech sound disorders: Brian Goldstein, Karla Washington (Jamaican Creole), Seyhun Topbaş (Turkish), Christina Gildersleeve-Neumann, Helen Grech (Maltese), Sharynne McLeod, Carol To (Hong Kong Cantonese), Raúl Rojas (Spanish), David Ingram, and Raúl Prezas (Spanish)

Presenters in the seminar on SLP university programs in developing countries: Sharynne McLeod, Marie Atherton (Vietnam), Ken Bleile (Nicaragua), Bea Staley, Kartini Ahmad (Malaysia), Karen Wylie (Senegal). Mary Wickenden (Sri Lanka) and Julie Marshall (Uganda) presented their papers by proxy.

Larry Shriberg, Marc Fey (ASHA Honors awardee), Sandy Fey, and Sharynne McLeod after the ASHA Awards Ceremony

Ingredients for working with children with speech sound disorders

Sharynne, Lynn Williams, Rebecca McCauley and Elise Baker
Can you bake a cake without chocolate?
Can you bake a cake without flour or eggs?
What are essential ingredients? What are active ingredients?

Lynn Williams (East Tennessee State University), Rebecca McCauley (Ohio State University), Elise Baker (The University of Sydney) and I spent a productive 3 days at Mission Beach, San Diego during November. During our time together we conducted a content analysis of the common and unique ingredients that make up 15 phonological interventions for children with speech sound disorders that were documented in Interventions for Children with Speech Sound Disorders. Currently there are 48 different documented interventions for children with speech sound disorders. We chose the interventions with the highest levels of evidence of effectiveness. It was a privilege to have this time together to think about effectiveness of intervention for children with speech sound disorder, and to develop a framework to assist speech-language pathologists, their university educators, and researchers  to consider common and unique ingredients. We are currently writing up our work, and hope it will be published at some stage.
Lynn Williams, Rebecca McCauley and Elise Baker
conducting the content analysis of interventions

November 15, 2011

Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) Research Conference

Jane McCormack presented the following paper on our behalf at the recent conference in Melbourne: Growing
Up in Australia and Footprints in Time - The Combined Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) and
Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC) Research Conference

McCormack, J., Harrison, L. J., McLeod, S., & McAllister, L. (2011, November). Correspondence
between communication impairment in early childhood and outcomes at school.  

The conference was attended by policy makers, researchers, and practitioners.
The paper received attention from the national media as well as other sources:

November 4, 2011

David Crystal talks about "The Fascinating First Year"

Children Draw Talking art exhibition
On 1 November, the  Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit and University of the West of England's Social Science in the City ™ hosted a lecture in Bristol UK by the world-famous linguist Professor David Crystal. Professor Crystal's topic was ‘The Fascinating First Year’. The focus was on early phonetic development, and on the distinctive nature of parent-child interaction.

Professor Sue Roulstone and Professor David Crystal
The event was attended by over 270 people and also profiled our Children Draw Talking art exhibition. It was held as part of the UK National Year of Speech, Language & Communication: