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Funded PhD Opportunity

To co-create and test the face validity of a polysyllabic intervention for 4-year-olds with indicators of persistent phonological disorder

Subject: Nursing and Health


Summary

Persistent speech sound disorder (PSSD) is a neurodevelopmental condition with a prevalence of 3.6% by 8-years-of-age (Wren et al. 2016). PSSD impacts on intelligibility, literacy, friendships, mental health and future life opportunities (Bercow: ten years on 2018). Early intervention for such difficulties is a recognised need (i.e., Dodd and Morgan 2017) and Eadie et al. (2015) show it is possible to diagnose speech sound disorder (SSD) by 4-years-of-age. Furthermore,  key predictors can identify the risk of PSSD at that early stage (McIntosh and Dodd 2008, Wren et al. 2016). Polysyllables (words of more than two syllables in length) are more demanding for the brain to process, and require proficiency in muscle co-ordination and speech sound organisation for intelligible production. This makes them more sensitive to SSD than monosyllabic words (Masso et al. 2017, Masso et al. 2016). From a theoretical perspective, polysyllables drive increased specificity of the child’s speech sound system because of their complexity (Vihman 2017, Watson and Terrell 2012). Indeed, polysyllable words are used in the effective ReST intervention for children with severe SSD underpinned by motor difficulties (Murray et al. 2015). However, most children with SSD present with a difficulty predominantly underpinned by issues processing and organising speech sounds to convey meaning (i.e., phonology) (see Bowen 2015). The potential value of intervention using polysyllables to change the child’s phonology has not been investigated to-date.

AIM:

To co-create and test the face validity of a polysyllabic intervention for 4-year-olds with indicators of persistent phonological disorder.

Objectives:

(1) To conduct a systematic review into the nature and effectiveness of interventions targeting whole words in children with severe SSD (year 1). This will be registered with PROSPERO and follow PRISMA-P guidelines.

(2) To investigate barriers and facilitators to the use of polysyllabic whole words in an intervention for 4-year-olds with indicators of persistent phonological disorder (years 1/2).

Design:  Focus groups (n=5) constituted of 2 speech and language therapists (SLTs), 2 early years educators, and 2 parents of children receiving SLT for potential PSSD (n=6).

Data analysis: Thematic analysis (3) To co-create an early intervention programme using polysyllabic words for 4-year-olds with indicators of persistent phonological disorder (years 2/3).

Design: co-production workshops (adults (n=6)) and play sessions (children (n=2)).

Procedure: Findings and evidence gathered in previous objectives will be shared and the group will: delineate content, delivery method and support materials for the programme; identify training needs for those delivering the programme; consider outcome measures to be used; and contribute to a logic model to support successful integration of the programme in context. Children and their parents will try out the activities in play sessions as the programme is developed.

Data analysis: Thematic (workshops) and behavioural (play) analyses (4) To assess the face validity of the co-created polysyllabic intervention programme (year 3).

Design: Focus group (n=1) (adults (n=6)), play session (children (n=2)). Procedure: The focus group will review the programme and children will experience core activities from it.

Data analysis: Thematic (focus group), and behavioural (play sessions) analyses.


AccessNI clearance required

Please note, the successful candidate will be required to obtain AccessNI clearance prior to registration due to the nature of the project.


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.
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Clearly defined research proposal detailing background, research questions, aims and methodology
  • A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship

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.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • 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

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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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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.

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
19th/20th March 2020


Applying

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Campus

Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses


Contact supervisor

Dr Jill Titterington


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