August 15, 2017

Anna's PhD endorsement session

Today Anna Cronin presented her PhD endorsement session. This is a requirement of Charles Sturt University's PhD program - and I believe that it is a really beneficial time for gaining expert opinion/advice from others outside of the PhD supervisory team. Anna's PhD topic is: Speech and participation of toddlers with cleft palate and her abstract is below.
Sarah Verdon and I were her proud supervisors as she presented her research to an expert panel. In true CSU style, Anna was in Brisbane, Sarah was in Albury, and the panel and myself in Bathurst, with other members of the audience dialing in from across Australia. Her reviewers were Professor Jennifer Sumsion and A/Professor Sandie Wong.
Abstract: Toddlers with cleft palate are at risk of speech, language, velopharyngeal and hearing difficulties. That is, having a cleft palate may impact on many areas of a child’s life. One model that has been used to holistically describe how a child may be affected by a cleft palate is the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health – Child and Youth version (ICF-CY). Previous studies have applied the ICF-CY to children with speech impairment, as an assessment framework for working with young children with cleft palate, and to older children with cleft palate speech; however, no studies have investigated the experiences of toddlers with cleft palate in the context of this framework. The research so far has shown the extensive impact of the difference in the Body Structure (i.e., cleft palate) on children’s Body Functions (e.g., speech), Activities and Participation (e.g., communication, relationships). What has not been investigated is the impact of cleft palate early in children’s lives, as they participate in their homes and early childhood education centres.

The proposed research consists of three studies. Study 1 will describe the speech and language characteristics of 2-year-olds with cleft palate, using direct assessment of the children’s speech and language as well as play-based observations. Study 2 will investigate the impact of cleft palate on the lives of toddlers and their families. It will investigate the Activities and Participation of toddlers with cleft palate, and the experiences of their families and educators in caring for a child with a cleft through semi-structured interviews and questionnaires with families and educators of children with cleft palate. It will make use of the ICF-CY as a theoretical framework for the initial organisation of qualitative data before new themes are generated within the components of the ICF-CY. Study 3 will examine the current practices and aspirations of speech-language pathologists working with young children with cleft palate through semi-structured interviews, with a focus on those themes described by the families and educators in Study 2. The findings of this work will contribute to the research on the speech characteristics of young children with cleft palate, understanding the experiences of families of children with cleft palate, and how this understanding may be applied to provide holistic care for children with cleft palate, and their families by health and education professionals.

August 9, 2017

Meritorious Poster Award for American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Conference

Ben Phạm's 2017 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention Poster presentation titled, "Assessing Vietnamese Children's Intelligibility", has been designated as a Meritorious Poster. Only 55 from 1895 posters received this accolade. It will be presented in LA in November. Congratulations Ben!

August 4, 2017

Invited speaker at National Health Innovation and Research Symposium

I was an invited speaker at National Health Innovation and Research Symposium this week in Coffs Harbour. The program and presenters are here:
My presentation was titled: Communicating with children and families in a multilingual world
Here is my synopsis:
More than 20 per cent of Australians speak a language other than English at home. This presentation will highlight the benefits of multilingualism and provide insights from an international research program into how monolingual health professionals can successfully work with multilingual children and families.
Presenting in a session chaired by Professor Gail Whiteford
Presenting recent data from the Australian Census about
changes in the top 5 languages spoken between 2001 and 2016
The dinner speaker was Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and amongst many other topics he described the importance of free education and healthcare to a nation's wellbeing.

August 2, 2017

Communication as a human right discussed at the Australian Human Rights Commission

Today I visited the Australian Human Rights Commission with Prof. Kirrie Ballard (editor of International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology) and Gail Mulcair (CEO of Speech Pathology Australia). We met with Ed Santow, Human Rights Commissioner and Alastair McEwan, Disability Discrimination Officer to discuss the special issue of IJSLP on Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that will be published next year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the UDHR. I am the guest editor for this special issue and the submissions are currently under review.
Ed Santow, Gail Mulcair, Alastair McEwan, Sharynne McLeod, Kirrie Ballard
We also discussed the International Communication Project and the Universal Declaration of Communication Rights, as well as Speech Pathology Australia's input into the joint submission from Disabled People's Organisations Australia regarding the 18th session on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.

It was a productive and inspirational meeting focused on communication as a human right for all people.
Prof Sharynne McLeod, Prof Kirrie Ballard, Gail Mulcair (CEO, Speech Pathology Australia)
Tweet from the Australian Human Rights Commissioner

August 1, 2017

3 Minute Thesis (3MT)

On 12th July, Helen Blake was among 8 PhD candidates who were the finalists in the 3MT @ CSU Final in Wagga. Helen’s presentation was titled Intelligibility Enhancement. Congratulations to the winner, Cara Wilson and all the finalists, whose presentations showcased the diversity of research at CSU. ​Congratulations also to Helen who showcased her work on Intelligibility Enhancement.
3MT finalists and judges (Helen is third from right)

July 31, 2017

Anna attends the Churchill Medallion Dinner

On 28th July, Anna Cronin was an invited guest at the 2017 Medallion Dinner held by the Churchill Fellows Association of NSW. Fifteen fellows were presented with a medallion to celebrate the completion of their Churchill Fellowship. Congratulations Anna! The details of Anna's Churchill Fellowship are here.

July 27, 2017

Beautiful Fiji

As well as the beautiful people described in my earlier blog posts - Fiji is also a beautiful place.

July 23, 2017

Visiting Suzanne in Fiji

Over the past few days I have been vising Suzanne Hopf and her family in Fiji. It has been a pleasure to spend time with them - and to reflect on all she accomplished during her PhD. Suzanne was working on her paper based on Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recorded this video (here). This photo includes the symbol of communication in Fiji - the conch (trition) shell.
Suzanne and Sharynne in Fiji

July 20, 2017

Volunteering in the Yasawa Islands of Fiji

Over the past 2 weeks, my daughter and I took leave to volunteer at a school and preschool in the Yasawa Islands of Fiji. We joined a team from Australia who were building a playground at Namara Village School (see here). It was a fantastic opportunity to apply some of the knowledge I have gained from Suzanne Hopf's PhD studies about Fijian children's communication. We loved our time with the children and teachers. The children loved the playground, crafts, stories and activities. A video about our experience is here.
Sharynne singing with the Kindergarten children
Sharynne about to show the school children how to throw frisbees
The opening of the playground
Photographs have been used with permission.

July 5, 2017

Presentation to the Utrecht Summer School

Tonight I gave a presentation to students at the Utrecht Summer School in The Netherlands via Skype. The presentation was titled "Introduction to a cross linguistic procedure for intelligibility evaluation (ICS)". Dr Mieke Beers and Anniek van Doornik-van der Zee run the summer school each year and this year the students were from The Netherlands, Austria, United States, Kazakhstan, the Philippines and China. They were very attentive and asked excellent questions. It was a pleasure to speak to these future speech-language pathologists from around the world.

Fulbright Fellowship Lecture at CSU by Dr Kate Crowe

Dr Kate Crowe has just returned from the US following her Fulbright Fellowship. She has been a PhD student, postdoctoral scholar, and sessional lecturer at Charles Sturt University (CSU) over a number of years.

Today Kate presented a lecture to CSU titled:
Why potatoes aren’t vegetables: Things I’ve learnt from my Fulbright Fellowship 
Participants attended in person in Bathurst, and via video conference from Albury, Shepparton, Newcastle, Blue Mountains, and other parts of the state.

Head of School Carol Burgess presenting Dr Kate Crowe with
a gift from CSU to congratulate her on her Fulbright Fellowship
Here is the abstract of her presentation
Dr Kate Crowe left Charles Sturt University in August 2016 to become a Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology (NY). The Fulbright program is the flagship international educational exchange program of the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. After spending nearly a year immersed in U.S. culture, Kate has returned to share her experiences of life and research. In this talk she will describe the research she has conducted to better understand how students with hearing loss process language and how the Fulbright program encourages collaborative research and understanding. She will also share stories about creating cultural bridges, and what happens when these bridges don’t quite meet in the middle. For example, why a potato may not be a vegetable (and how this confuses your research results)? What happens to squirrels in winter? What exactly is a cheesehead?
Kate is an Adjunct Research Fellow at Charles Sturt University (Australia) and a member of the International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children’s Speech. Kate has worked as a speech pathologist, academic, and researcher in a range of early childhood, school, and tertiary settings. Her research and clinical interests include communication choice and development for children with hearing loss, particularly children who use sign, live in multilingual environments, and/or have complex communication needs. Kate currently works with college-aged students who are deaf and is exploring linguistic and cognitive factors which inform how we teach deaf learners.

July 4, 2017

Cluster randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of computer-assisted intervention

The latest Sound Start Study article has just been published:

McLeod, S., Baker, E., McCormack, J., Wren, Y., Roulstone, S. Crowe, K., Masso, S., White, P., & Howland, C. (2017). Cluster randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of computer-assisted intervention delivered by educators for children with speech sound disorders. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-S-16-0385
Members of the Sound Start Study Team (+Yvonne Wren and Paul White)
Here are the details of our other Sound Start Study publications: 
Crowe, K., Cumming, T., McCormack, J., Baker, E., McLeod, S., Wren, Y., Roulstone, S., & Masso, S. (2017, in press). Educators’ perspectives on facilitating computer-assisted speech intervention in early childhood settings. Child Language Teaching and Therapy. doi:10.1177/0265659017717437
Masso, S., Baker, E., McLeod, S., & Wang, C. (2017). Polysyllable speech accuracy and predictors of later literacy development in preschool children with speech sound disorders. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-S-16-0171
Masso, S., McLeod, S., Baker, E., & McCormack, J. (2016). Polysyllable productions in preschool children with speech sound disorders: Error categories and the Framework of Polysyllable Maturity. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 18(3), 272-287. doi:10.3109/17549507.2016.1168483
Masso, S., McLeod, S., Wang, A. & Baker, E., & McCormack, J. (2017). Longitudinal changes in polysyllable maturity of preschool children with speech sound disorders. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics, 31(6), 424-439. doi:10.1080/02699206.2017.1305450
McCormack, J., Baker, E., Crowe, K., Masso, S., McLeod, S., Wren, Y., & Roulstone, S. (2017). Implementation fidelity of a computer-assisted intervention for children with speech sound disorders. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 19(3), 265-276. doi:10.1080/17549507.2017.1293160
McLeod, S., Crowe, K., & Shahaeian, A. (2015). Intelligibility in Context Scale: Normative and validation data for English-speaking preschoolers. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 46(3), 266-276. doi:10.1044/2015_LSHSS-14-0120
McLeod, S., Crowe, K., Masso, S., Baker, E., McCormack, J., Wren, Y., Roulstone, S., & Howland, C. (2017). Profile of Australian preschoolers with speech sound disorders at risk for literacy difficulties. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties. Advance online publication doi:10.1080/19404158.2017.1287105
McLeod, S., Crowe, K., McCormack, J., White, P., Wren, Y., Baker, E., Masso, S., Roulstone, S. (2017). Preschool children’s communication, motor and social development: What concerns parents and educators? International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. Advance online publication doi:10.1080/17549507.2017.1309065
Wren, Y., McCormack, J., Masso, S., McLeod, S., Baker, E. & Crowe, K. (2016, in press). Digital tools to support children’s speech and language skill. In S. Danby, M. Fleer, C. Davidson & M. Hatzigianni (Eds). Digital childhoods: Technologies in children’s everyday lives. Dordrecht, Germany: Springer.

July 3, 2017

Dr Sarah Verdon's CSU postdoc begins

Today Dr Sarah Verdon begins a 3-year Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the Faculty of Science at Charles Sturt University. She was one of 5 people across all fields of science to receive this position (166 people applied!). Congratulations Sarah - we look forward to seeing (and using) the research that you generate from this postdoc.

June 30, 2017

NAIDOC week: Our Languages Matter

2 July to 9 July is NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week.
Here is how our CSU Head of Campus, Professor Chika Anyanwu has described its significance:
NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year’s theme is Our Languages Matter. The aim is to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.

As a University whose ethos is built on Yindyamarra Winhanganha, ‘the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in’, I would like us to join in celebrating the achievements and contributions that our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made in our lives: as custodians of the land and waters that have nurtured and made our lives in the region worth living in; as custodians of wisdom through their spirituality, rites and song lines; as custodians of the languages which have held their culture for thousands of years and enriched ours as a result, and as intellectuals who have made enormous educational, entrepreneurial and cultural contributions which have nurtured, and continue to nurture future generations.

June 27, 2017

The joy of working with PhD students

Over the past few weeks I have had such an inspirational time working closely with my PhD students: Ben, Helen, Nicole, Anna, and Suzanne. They are such a dedicated group of women working on important topics. Most of my students live in other cities; however, we meet for 2-hours per week, email multiple times, and plan face-to-face intensive times for working on specific components of their PhD. Last week I spent two days with Ben Phạm interpreting data regarding Vietnamese children's speech acquisition. This week Anna Cronin is in Bathurst and we are finalising her PhD proposal focusing on two-year-olds with cleft palate. She has learned from conversations with Professor Linda Harrison, Jenny Dwyer, Ben, and Jessica. I am so fortunate to have a job working with people who can change the world.
Brainstorming by the fire with Anna
Ben and Sharynne analysing data about Vietnamese consonants
Web conferencing with Nicole McGill, Anna Cronin, Kate Crowe, Helen Blake

Top 5 languages spoken in Australia

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released the 2016 census data today. For the first time, Vietnamese is one of the top 5 languages spoken in Australia (Ben will be pleased). The top 5 languages are: Mandarin (2.5%), Arabic (1.4%), Italian (1.2%), Cantonese (1.2%), and Vietnamese (1.2%). Greek is no longer in the top 5. The number of people who only spoke English at home has decreased to 72.7%. Here is my summary
Census QuickStats are here:

June 22, 2017

CSU News: Waiting for speech pathology grant

Today Charles Sturt University published a news release about our new NSW Health Translational Research Grant we have received with local speech pathologists Emily Davis, Katrina Rohr, Angela Roberts and Kate Miller and my PhD student Nicole McGill.
The news release is here
NSW Health's announcement about the grant is here 
The Western Advocate's story is here
I also had the opportunity of sharing information about the project on ABC radio. We are looking forward to beginning the project.
CSU's tweet about the media release
 Earlier blog posts about our grant are here

June 13, 2017

Three Minute Thesis - Helen Blake

Today Helen Blake participated in the Charles Sturt University heats of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT). Congratulations Helen - who made it through to the CSU finals.

Supporting children’s speech with the Nuffield Dyspraxia Programme

Today Dr Pam Williams presented a seminar titled "Supporting children’s speech with the Nuffield Dyspraxia Programme" at the Bathurst Community Health Centre. The presentation was supported by Charles Sturt University and the Western Local Health District. The seminar was presented via videoconference and was attended by people dialing in from 21 sites across NSW, Queensland, Victoria, and USA.

 The Nuffield Dyspraxia Programme is widely used across the world to support children with childhood apraxia of speech/developmental verbal dyspraxia. More information is available here:
Dr Pam Williams with the speech pathologists from Bathurst and Orange Community Health Centres
Here is some more information about Dr Williams. It was such an honour to have her visit the Central West of NSW.
Dr Pam Williams is a certified practising speech and language therapist who works at the Nuffield Hearing & Speech Centre, Royal National Throat Nose & Ear Hospital, London. Pam has spent much of her working life at the Nuffield Centre and is currently employed as a Consultant Speech & Language Therapist and Team Manager for Developmental Disorders. She was involved in creating the original Nuffield Centre Dyspraxia Programme, published in 1985, co-edited the current NDP third edition with her colleague Hilary Stephens, and has overall responsibility for NDP3’s ongoing development.
Pam is primarily a clinician, who assesses and treats children with severe speech impairments. However, she has lectured widely in UK and Ireland on the subject of NDP and developmental verbal dyspraxia/childhood apraxia of speech. She is also an honorary lecturer in the Division of Psychology & Language Sciences at University College London. Pam was a member of the working party who produced the RCSLT Policy Statement on Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia, published in November 2011. She is also a former chair of the UK Dyspraxia Foundation Charity. She was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists in 2013, in recognition of having carried out work of special value to the profession.
Pam carried out her doctoral studies at the University of Sheffield on a part-time basis while continuing to work at the Nuffield Centre and was awarded her PhD in May 2016. Pam’s thesis was supervised by Professors Joy Stackhouse and Bill Wells and investigated diadochokinetic skills in children aged 4-7 years with speech difficulties.

Katrina, Pam, Angela, David, Sharynne and Emily enjoying Australian desserts

June 11, 2017

Pam Williams' visit to Bathurst

Pam Williams (from the Nuffield Hearing and Speech Centre, UK) has visited Bathurst over the long weekend - so we have been able to enjoy her company and the local scenery together.

Pam Williams and Sharynne at Jenolan Caves
Sharynne, Ben Pham and Pam Williams chatting about Pam's research

June 8, 2017

Children's speech assessments (including the Intelligibility in Context Scale)

While Anniek van Doornik-van der Zee has been visiting me at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, we have been discussing children's speech assessments. We met with the Intelligibility in Context Scale (ICS) co-authors (Prof Linda Harrison and A/Prof Jane McCormack) to discuss the digitisation of the ICS. We also met with Ben Pham to discuss computerisation of picture naming tasks and the excellent work being undertaken in the Netherlands.
ICS authors and collaborators: Linda Harrison, Jane McCormack,
Anniek van Doornik-van der Zee and Sharynne
Ben Pham, Anniek van Doornik-van der Zee and Sharynne discussing speech assessments

June 5, 2017

Waiting for speech pathology: Device versus advice?

We have been awarded a NSW Health Translational Research Grant titled: "Waiting for speech pathology: Device versus advice?" worth over $290,000. The grant will be implemented within the Bathurst and Dubbo Health Service Speech Pathology Departments.
The investigators on the team are: Emily Davis (Bathurst), Sharynne McLeod (CSU), Katrina Rohr (Bathurst), Angela Roberts (Bathurst), Nicole McGill (CSU), and Katherine Miller (Dubbo) with additional support from Speech Pathology Australia. We are looking forward to working together over the next two years on this important project.

The official NSW Health announcement of the grant (5 June) is here and here 
 Here is the abstract:
The NSW Department of Health Clinical Excellence Commission has indicated that “access” to services is one of their major areas of complaint including “availability of specialist services such as speech pathology”. Similarly, one of three areas of concern highlighted in the 2014 Australian Government Senate Inquiry into speech pathology was “the long waiting lists in the public system”. Until availability of speech pathology services meet demand, it is important to provide appropriate care while children are waiting for speech pathology services. Over many years speech pathologists have been providing advice regarding speech and language stimulation for parents and children while waiting for direct intervention. In this information-rich age, parents also turn to the internet using devices to support their child. This study will be the first of its kind in the world to determine the effectiveness of “advice versus device” while children are waiting for speech pathology services. Stage 1 will involve developing an evidence-based parent-friendly website to support active waiting for speech intervention. Stage 2 will involve 122 3- to 5-year-old children on speech pathology waiting lists randomized to one of three conditions: (1) Advice: advice about speech and language stimulation (usual practice for waiting list), (2) Device: provision of a website to stimulate speech and language skills, (3) Therapy: speech and language therapy provided by a speech pathologist (usual practice for therapy). Speech, language, and communication participation outcomes will be measured pre- and post-intervention by an independent speech pathologist blinded to the condition. Parent concern and engagement during each condition will be measured. The outcome of this study will inform speech pathology practice regarding appropriate care while waiting for speech pathology services, and the extent of gains that may be anticipated under each condition (device, advice, therapy). If the outcomes are positive, the website and speech pathology advice packages will be freely available to families across NSW.
A previous blog post showing us working on the grant application is here.
Sharynne, Katrina Rohr, Emily Davis at Bathurst Community Health
Mary Gornik (Speech Pathology Australia) with Nicole McGill, Sharynne, and Ronelle Hutchinson (SPA)

Kate Crowe's Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar Program has finished

Last week Kate Crowe finished her Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar Program working with Professor Marc Marschark at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
Here are the details about her Fulbright Program:
Kate's Fulbright blog is here:
Prof Marc Marschark and Dr Kate Crowe at Rochester Institute of Technology
At the conclusion of her Fulbright she wrote:
I wasn’t sure where my Fulbright journey would take me, but at the outset I imagined that it would end at a tangible destination. A list of submitted journal papers. Conference papers to present. Future research projects in preparation. A checklist of tasks to indicate a successful scholarship. However, as I check the final items off the list, I am overwhelmed by a feeling that these tangible outcomes are not the destination that I thought they were. As Henry Miller said, “one’s destination is never a place, but a new way of looking at things”. That is where my Fulbright journey has taken me. To a world that is bigger and brighter, more challenging and more rewarding than I knew. A world full of new friends, new ideas, and of exciting possibilities that I will be exploring for the rest of my life.  
During her Fulbright program she:
  • collected data for five studies examining: 1. Semantic fluency skills of students who were Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing (DHH), hearing, and users of English and/or American Sign Language. 2. Students’ perceptions of word typicality related to category membership. 3. Students’ categorization skills and their cognitive flexibility in re-categorizing words. 4. The speech intelligibility of DHH college students. 5. The sign intelligibility of American Sign Language users
  • engaged with university research staff in project planning, data collection, analysis, and dissemination for other research projects, some involving international collaboration
  • attended American Sign Language 1 and 2 subjects (non-credit subjects)
  • attended the Fulbright Enrichment seminar hosted in San Diego
  • gave presentations at the American Speech-Language-Hearing association conference (Philadelphia), and keynote presentations at the Teaching Deaf Learners conference (Amsterdam) and the European Cochlear Implant Users association symposium (Helsinki).
Congratulations Kate - we are really proud of your achievements - and the fact that RIT has invited you back for next year.
Kate, Prof Marc Marschark and the RIT team

June 3, 2017

Anniek's visit to Australia

It has been a pleasure to have Anniek van Doornik - van der Zee visiting Australia. I am a co-supervisor for her PhD that she is undertaking through Utrecht University. We have enjoyed working together and exploring the unique Australian fauna, landscape and southern skies. The kangaroos at Charles Sturt University have been particularly welcoming.
Sharynne, Ben, Anniek and Suzanne visiting the Three Sisters at Katoomba
Sharynne and Anniek at Evan's Crown
The Southern skies showcased Jupiter's pearl necklace and Saturn's rings
(thank you Niall for sharing your telescope and taking these photos of what we saw)

June 2, 2017

Congratulations Suzanne - PhD submission today

Today Suzanne Hopf submitted her PhD titled Supporting Fijian Children's Communication.
She undertook her PhD via distance education and for most of the time lived in Fiji. I am so proud of her as her PhD contains eight journal articles and one book chapter - but more importantly provides the most comprehensive documentation ever undertaken of Fijian children's communication and services to support them. I am also proud of her because she completed it through cyclones, floods, and being a mother of two lovely children (who just won medals in the Fijian swimming championships!). Congratulations Suzanne!
Suzanne with her supervisors: Audrey Wang, Sarah McDonagh and Sharynne

Here is her abstract:
The purpose of this doctoral research was to identify and create culturally and linguistically appropriate support for children’s communication in Fiji that could be used to inform practices of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and other communication specialists. This doctoral research describes a mixed-methods study that was conducted in four stages and is presented as a series of nine publications.
Stage 1 (Papers 1 and 2) involved reviewing policy documents and literature regarding the historical support available for people with communication disability (PWCD) in Fiji. Factors influencing specialist services for PWCD in Fiji included a range of barriers (e.g., geographical and financial) and drivers of change (e.g., adoption and implementation of international conventions). The reviews also revealed the presence of a variety of agents of delivery of intervention in Fiji including visiting internationally qualified SLPs, disability care workers, and traditional healers.
Stage 2 (Papers 3 and 4) involved a survey of 144 Fijians to determine community beliefs, attitudes, and practices for supporting PWCD. Participants’ beliefs about the cause of communication disability were analysed thematically revealing that beliefs clustered around three themes: (1) internal causes: impairment, disorder or disease states of the body; (2) external causes: environmental and personal factors; and (3) supernatural causes: fate or curse. Attitudes towards PWCD placed restrictions on PWCD’s participation in Fijian society.
Stage 3 (Papers 5, 6, and 7) involved a study of 75 students (35 in year 1 and 40 in year 4) and their caregivers and teachers from a multiracial, multilingual, urban primary school to gather context-specific knowledge about the communication environment, and the speech, language, and literacy use and proficiency of Fijian children. These Fijian students and their conversational partners were linguistically multi-competent using between one and five languages. Proficiency in the students’ main language and English was reported to be higher compared to proficiency in other additional languages. On measures of direct assessment of English language and literacy proficiency, raw scores were correlated with academic performance, the students’ main language status, and/or their father’s education.
Stage 4 (Papers 8 and 9) began the work of developing culturally and linguistically appropriate resources and assessments for the children in Stage 3. A contrastive review of the phonological features of two Fiji English dialects (Fijian Fiji English and Fiji Hindi Fiji English) was conducted to assist SLPs in the assessment of speech production. Additionally, the Intelligibility in Context Scale was validated for the Fijian context to provide a simple parent-report screening tool about the success of communication within the children’s environments. The findings of this research acknowledge the social, cultural, and linguistic capital of Fiji to inform provision of services to PWCD.
Recommendations from this doctoral research include the need to: (1) develop culturally appropriate assessments and interventions that acknowledge Fijians’ belief systems, build on communities’ communication strengths, and involve partnership with the diverse agents of intervention in Fiji, and (2) consider the cultural and linguistic environment and the purpose of communication when assessing multilingual children in Fiji.
Suzanne with her fan club: Sarah, Audrey, Ben, Suzanne, Sharynne, Anniek, Lisa