UC Speech Researchers Using Technology to Chase Away 'Wabbits'
When cartoon character Elmer Fudd says "Be vewy, vewy quiet; I'm hunting wabbits," it makes us laugh.
But when real people, especially children, cannot articulate their words correctly, they are clearly at a disadvantage.
"If not corrected, it follows them all of their life,” says Suzanne Boyce, PhD, one of the principal investigators on a five-year study to determine how ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology can be utilized to tailor speech therapy to specific disorders in children, to include the most resistant speech disorder: the mis-articulation of the /r/ sound.
The study, funded at over $650,000 annually by the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, is being shared by the University of Cincinnati (UC), where Boyce is a professor in the College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS) Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, the City University of New York (CUNY), Haskins Laboratories and New York University.
According to Boyce, ultrasound technology provides visual feedback to help correct errors made when sounding out words. Additionally, MRI images from the tongue shapes of adults with correct language have also proven effective in deciding treatments, she says.
UC is an integral part of the study, she says, because ultrasound technology is already employed at UC’s Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic, which provides screening, diagnostic evaluations and a full range of treatment for children and adults with communication disorders, e.g., language delay, articulation/phonological disorders, auditory processing disorders, fluency, voice, neurogenic disorders (aphasia, apraxia, and dysarthria), augmentative communication and aural rehabilitation.
"We hope to facilitate the translation of our research into clinical practice so that a wide range of clients can begin to benefit from these technological advances,” Boyce says.
During this study, investigators will: Collect MRI images from children ages 8-11 to test the best practices using images appropriate to the learner; look at the combination of ultrasound and MRI technologies to tailor treatments; and produce educational materials to guide other clinicians working with these children..