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. 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

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: http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/quickstats

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: www.ndp3.com
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: https://www.fulbright.com.au/alumni/profiles/2016-alumni/
Kate's Fulbright blog is here: http://katesfubrightlife.blogspot.com
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

June 1, 2017

PhD student meeting in Sydney

On June 1 my PhD students met at The Tea House in the Queen Victoria Building for our PhD meeting. We continued talking at Darling Harbour in the afternoon. It was an inspiring day where each student presented her PhD, followed by wonderful discussion where many additional ideas were generated. What a privilege it is to work with such an inspiring group of women. (Thanks Helen for organising such a great venue).
Suzanne Hopf, Ben Pham, Anniek van Doornik-van der Zee,
Anna Cronin, Helen Blake, Sharynne (Nicole was unable to attend)