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Funded PhD Opportunity

The development of an intervention targeting non-meaningful speech in children with neurodevelopmental difficulties

Subject: Nursing and Health


Summary

Across the first year of life typically developing infants gradually begin to crack the code of their native language leading to production of meaningful speech at around 1 year of age (Stoel-Gammon 2011). Strong associations have been found between the development of non-meaningful speech (vocalisations and babbling) and subsequent meaningful speech and language for children with typical development. This link is even more notable for those children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCNs) (Stoel-Gammon 2011) underpinned by a range of neurodevelopmental difficulties i.e., hearing impairment, intellectual difficulties, and being a ‘late talker’ (see Stoel-Gammon 2011 for review).

There is little research available on how therapy to develop non-meaningful speech may support subsequent acquisition of first words in such children (McLeod and Baker 2017). However, research into this early stage of non-meaningful speech indicates that development of the child’s phonological/speech system impacts more on lexical/vocabulary acquisition, than vice versa (Stoel-Gammon 2011). Many programmes focusing on early acquisition either do not target this early stage of communicative development, or predominantly focus on the bidirectional influence of parent/child interactions, prelinguistic milieu teaching and focused stimulation. Such programmes can be effective in supporting the development of interactional skills, intentional communication and receptive language (e.g., the Hanen Programme (the Hanen Centre 2016)). However, Stoel-Gammon (2011) indicates that at this early stage of development, it could be valuable to directly target phonological/speech acquisition alongside lexical/vocabulary acquisition and parent interaction.

The overall aim of this study is to develop an intervention targeting the development of non-meaningful speech in children with neurodevelopmental difficulties which will support subsequent development of first words and intelligible speech.

The objectives of the study are as follows:

1.To investigate the evidence base, and current recommended practices/programmes used to support communicative development for children with neurodevelopmental difficulties who either are not using, or are predicted not to use, first words at two years of age.

2.To co-produce an intervention that will support development of non-meaningful speech in children with neurodevelopmental difficulties who are either not using, or are predicted not to use, first words at two years of age.

3.To assess the face validity of this intervention with parents, pre-nursery teachers, health visitors and SLTs.

For each objective above the following methods will be used:

1. A systematic review investigating the effectiveness of current programmes used to support children with neurodevelopmental difficulties who are not using, or are predicted not to use, first words at two years of age.

2. Focus groups and 1:1 interviews with parents of children with neurodevelopmental difficulties, SLTs, health visitors and specialist pre-nursery teachers to identify what they feel works in their context with the children they know.

3.LOGIC modelling to support co-production of an intervention which will support children with neurodevelopmental difficulties who are not using, or are predicted not to use, first words at two years of age.

4.Investigation of the face validity of the programme by parents of children with neurodevelopmental difficulties, SLTs, health visitors and specialist pre-nursery teachers.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Professor Stenver Lin

Ulster University has very enhanced independent  learning.  I strongly recommend my students to go abroad to broaden their vision to get  new motivation.  I tell them that when studying at Ulster University, they will receive an abundance of knowledge, new experiences and strong technology to enhance their life.

Professor Stenver Lin - PhD Radiology

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Profile picture of Professor Chein Huei Kao

I am currently the Director for the Department of Nursing-midwifery and Women's Heath at NTUNHS.  I studied at Ulster University for 3 years and it was a very happy time.  Ulster is very good for study, not only in academic work but it also shows you how to be a good teacher.

Professor Chein Huei Kao - PhD Health Science of Nursing

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 19 February 2018

Interview Date
20th or 21st March 2018


Applying

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Contact supervisor

Dr Laurence Taggart


Other supervisors

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