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.
If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.
Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)
The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £14,777 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.
The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 14,777 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.
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