Research Seminar Programme

Upcoming seminars

(Jump to previous seminars:  2012-2013,  2013-20142014-20152015-2016)

Developing AAC software: how did the evidence base inform the development of the new symbol software ‘Snap + Core First’?

Speaker: Emily Webb (Tobii Dynavox)
Venue: Seacole 151
Date: 17 May 2017, 3-4 pm

Abstract:  Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) refers to systems which support or replace spoken or written communication. This include voice-output communication aids (VOCAs) or Speech Generating Devices (SGDs), many of which use specialist software to facilitate and develop communication for a wide range of client groups. ‘Snap + Core First’ is the new symbol software from Tobii Dynavox. Designed to maximise engagement, literacy and growth for individuals with communication difficulties at all ability levels, it has been extensively developed using a wide evidence base.This presentation will discuss the current research, clinical expertise and client/caregiver values that informed and shaped the content and organisation of ‘Snap + Core First’. The evidence base explores communication strategies for emergent communicators, language organisation techniques, language development and human cognition theories, as well as discussing the natural limitations of AAC use and strategies to overcome these limitations. A Q&A session with the Tobii Dynavox research and development team (via Skype link) will also be provided as part of this session.


Communication and people with profound and multiple learning disabilities; in search of evidence-based practice

Speaker: Professor Juliet Goldbart (Research Institute for Health and Social Change, Manchester Metropolitan University)
Venue: Seacole 151
Date: 26 April 2017, 3-4 pm

Abstract: The evidence base for speech and language therapy is an important part of persuading commissioners that SLT services are worth funding. Sackett's (2000) definition of evidence-based practice as comprising the best available evidence, expert clinical opinion and the views and values of service users is helpful in recognising the importance of different sources of "evidence." Children and adults with profound and multiple learning disability (PMLD) are a low prevalence group, but they are very diverse. They have high levels of communication disability and are likely to need support in most or all aspects of everyday life. This paper will explore different aspects of evidence to support speech and language therapy services for children and adults with PMLD, and to identify both the best approach from available evidence and gaps in the research base.


Goldbart, J. and Caton, S. (2010). Communication and people with the most complex needs: What works and why this is essential. London: Mencap

Goldbart, J., Chadwick, D. and Buell, S. (2014). Speech and language therapists' approaches to communication intervention with children and adults with profound and multiple learning disability. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. 49(6), 687-701.

Sackett, D. L. (2000) Evidence-based medicine: how to practice and teach EBM. Vol. 2nd. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

What do parents of children with dysphagia think about their Multi-Disciplinary Team?

Speaker: Emma (Jebson) (Department of Speech and Language Therapy, Royal Free Hospital, London)
Venue: Seacole 351
Date: 8 March 2017, 3-4 pm

Abstract: This study was completed to seek the experiences and perspectives of parents caring for children with dysphagia, with an emphasis on their experiences working within their child’s MDT.  Data was collected through face-to-face interviews with 14 participants via semi-structured questionnaire, and analysed qualitatively.  All participants expressed a desire to be involved with the MDT; they identified factors which they felt had facilitated and inhibited collaboration, and described their responses to the barriers they faced. Reflecting on times when collaboration had not occurred, participants described a negative impact on the wellbeing and quality of life of their child and family.

The educational experiences and outcomes of young people who stammer

Speaker: Dr. Helen Jenkins (Birmingham City University, Department of Speech and Language Therapy and Rehabilitation)
Venue: Seacole 303
Date: 11 January 2017, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Helen is a Speech and Language Therapist who is currently a Lecturer and Head of Department at Birmingham City University. She has recently completed her PhD thesis which explored the educational performance of young people who stammer and their lived experiences of stammering in their educational environment. This research used a mixed methods quantitative – qualitative design, involving an initial survey with thirty-five young people who stammer to investigate their history of stammering, educational choices and school results. To provide a deeper understanding of their lived experiences, interpretative phenomenological analysis was then used to explore the data from individual semi-structured interviews with a sub-sample (n=16) of YPWS. In this seminar Helen will share some of the findings from her research.

Turning Pages together: Evaluating a prison based adult peer to peer reading programme, using a mixed methods approach

Speaker: Dr. Thomas Hopkins (Birmingham City University, Department of Speech and Language Therapy and Rehabilitation)
Venue: Seacole 312
Date: 7 December 2016, 3-4 pm

Abstract: This presentation will include findings from a national evaluation of Shannon Trust’s programme. is a new programme specifically designed to support adult beginner readers studying in peer learning contexts. This longitudinal study, incorporates focus groups and individual semi-structured interviews with male and female adult prisoners situated within varying category prisons across England and Wales. The study explores readers’ accounts of learning to read with Turning Pages as well as mentors’ experiences of supporting and scaffolding the learning process and aims to achieve a holistic understanding of literacy interventions, their value to adult education generally and within the prison context specifically. We also reflect on the complex nature of undertaking mixed method literacies research with adult beginner readers and the experience of researching in multi-disciplinary teams within the context of secure environments.

If it is not dysphagia, then what is it? Factors leading to eating selectivity in children

Speaker: Dr. Maria Pomoni (School of Psychology, University of Birmingham)
Venue: Seacole 302
Date: 2 November 2016, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Although Speech Language Therapists (SLTs) play an important role in the treatment of swallowing and feeding problems across many populations, there are cases of children referred to SLT or Child Psychology Services with eating difficulties such as extreme food selectivity or food rejection not related to swallowing, problems and/or dysphagia. The speech-language literature has yet to contribute to the growing body of research regarding the eating difficulties in this population. This talk will review the possible factors leading to selective eating and food rejection and will present data collected in an effort to investigate eating behaviour in a sample of 151 children (77 girls and 74 boys) aged between 3.5 and 14 years.

Previous seminars

Using different methods to communicate: how adults with severe acquired communication difficulties make decisions about the communication methods they use and how they experience them

Speaker: Helen Paterson (The Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, London)
Venue: Seacole 302
Date: 28 October 2015, 3-4 pm

Abstract: This talk will present the findings of qualitative research performed with a group of adults with acquired communication difficulties. The aim of the study was to explore how adults with severe acquired communication difficulties experience and make decisions about, the different communication methods they use. This was a qualitative study and some interesting findings were revealed including adults with acquired communication difficulties finding digital communication (e.g. email and social media) and mainstream technologies (e.g. iPads) beneficial in communicating with others. The findings have implications for AAC technology development, and for speech and language therapy service delivery.

Illusory Recovery? Long-term outcomes of children with early language delay

Speaker: Dr. Emma Hayiou-Thomas (University of York)
Venue: Seacole 312
Date: 18 November 2015, 3-4 pm

Abstract: The concept of ‘illusory recovery’ has been widely adopted by both researchers and clinicians for over 20 years. Many children who are late talkers seem to resolve their language difficulties by the age of 4 or 5, but it’s still not clear whether they are still likely to experience at least some difficulties later on, either in oral language or literacy. The current study addresses this question by focusing on a large group of children (N = 373) who were late talkers at the age of 2, but whose language skills were in the normal range at the age of 4. We compared this group of children to a group who were matched on vocabulary level at age 4, but who didn’t have a history of late talking. These two groups were indistinguishable in their subsequent oral language and literacy skills up to and including age 12. We conclude that late talking itself is most likely not a risk factor for later problems, but a child’s language skills at the age of 4 can be a useful indicator of spoken language and reading skills throughout childhood. 

Embedding research and practice into routine clinical practice

Speaker: Professor Victoria Joffe (RCSLT and City University, London)
Venue: Seacole 202
Date: 16 December 2015, 3-4 pm

Abstract: The critical appraisal of research, its application to clinical practice and the ability to gather data to evaluate practice are core requirements for practising speech and language therapists (SLTs), as recognised by the standards of proficiency set by the Health and Care Professions Council in the UK. The training and awareness-raising of these essential skills start early in the initial education of SLT students, but their advancement continues as an important part of professional development for the SLT. There has been an increased awareness in the area of clinical research and practice in the field of Speech and Language Therapy, both in the UK and internationally. The session will explore the role of clinical research in the process of health care practitioners, with specific reference to speech and language therapists, and the role of the clinical practitioner in selecting, appraising and producing clinical research. The presentation will outline the increased exposure given to the area of clinical research and evidence-based practice by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, the professional body for SLTs in the UK, including an evaluation of recent initiatives, for example, recruitment of a research manager, and research champions. The key drivers for practice will be discussed and opportunities and barriers for embedding research in routine clinical practice will be explored. Key areas of further need for support in evidence-based practice in student and practising SLTs for the profession will be identified. The potential impact of strengthening SLTs understanding and use of clinical research in routine clinical practice to improve outcomes for service users will be highlighted and ways of facilitating the use of evidence to shape clinical decisions will be presented.

Dysphagia therapy in stroke: a survey of speech and language therapists and exploring the use of sEMG biofeedback

Speaker: Dr Sally Archer (Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London)
Venue: Seacole 312
Date: 10 February 2016, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Dysphagia is common after stroke and is known to lead to outcome. there is a paucity of evidence for dysphagia therapy to guide treatment decisions. This talk will present a series of related studies in this area. A national survey was conducted to investigate Speech and Language Therapists’ approaches to dysphagia therapy with stroke patients. The results give a valuable insight and highlight variability in practice and discrepancies between reported approaches and recommendations from existing evidence and clinical guidelines. There is a need for more research and measures to guide practice. Further studies outlined in the talk provide good evidence of the potential benefit of surface Electromyography (sEMG) biofeedback for acute stroke patients. Incorporating this tool in therapy should encourage patients to work harder during swallow exercises, therefore enhancing the treatment delivered.

Stuttering and other communication disorders: Evidence from birth cohorts

Speaker: Jan McAllister (University of East Anglia)
Venue: Seacole 312

Abstract: Britain is a world leader in birth cohorts, that follow several thousand individuals from around the time of their birth and throughout their lives. These studies are usually community-based, which means that their participants are recruited in the wider community rather than the clinic. This means that they can answer particular kinds of research questions that other studies may not be able to, and vice versa. This talk will give a brief overview of the kinds of data that are available in such for researching speech, language and communication (see and will focus specifically on some research investigating stuttering that has used the data.

Concordance, Safety & Enjoyment:  Working with Eating, Drinking & Swallowing Problems with People with a Learning Disability

Speaker: Darren Chadwick (University of Wolverhampton)
Venue: Seacole 312
Date: 18 May 2016, 3-4 pm

Abstract: In this talk I will talk about some of the work I have been involved with around managing eating, drinking and swallowing problems in people with intellectual disabilities.  This will involve thinking about the prevalence of dysphagia in people with learning disabilities and considerations in the training that Speech and Language Therapists provide to people and their carers when attempting to promote safer practice.  Finally we will consider issues of choice, exclusion and risk taking around mealtimes for people with intellectual disabilities using the example of giving oral tasters to people who are none-orally fed.

Why does dyslexia run in families

Speaker: Dr Elsje van Bergen (University of Oxford and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 13 May 2015, 3-4 pm

Abstract: In this research seminar Elsje will discuss two related questions: ‘Why does dyslexia run in families?’ and ‘Why do children differ in their accuracy and speed of decoding print?’. First, she will present findings from a longitudinal study with children with and without familial risk. Family-risk studies can identify precursors of dyslexia by comparing young children who do and do not go on to develop dyslexia.

Next, she will show how we can quantify heritability of reading ability. If siblings within identical twin pairs have more similar reading scores than siblings within fraternal twin pairs, then reading ability is partly genetically influenced. Is this the case and what does that mean?

Finally, Elsje will present new findings from a study called ‘Reading fluency: like parent like ?’, for which we tested the reading ability of hundreds of parents and children in the science museum.

Report-based measures for capturing listening difficulties

Speaker: Johanna G. Barry (MRC Institute of Hearing Research, Nottingham Clinical Section)
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 4 March 2015, 3-4 pm

Abstract: “Research or clinical assessment of children’s listening and cognitive skills provides a of ability on abstract tasks that are putatively tapping into underlying constructs of interest. The tasks provide considerable information about differences in ability to perform tasks, but less insight into how these differences impact on everyday functioning. 

"Parental report-based measures can supplement such information by providing insight into a child’s ability to function in every . However, these measures need to be carefully designed if they are to be useful. This means items should not only be informative about difficulty but should also be easy for respondents to understand as well as minimally susceptible to their individual response biases. 

"In this talk, I will describe some work we have done at the MRC Institute of Hearing Research to develop a questionnaire to support the assessment of children referred because of suspected auditory processing disorder. I will begin by presenting results of a study which demonstrates how questionnaire design impacts on observation. 

"I will then review the approach we took to developing our questionnaire (the ECLiPS – Evaluation of Children’s Listening and Processing Skills), before reviewing results from studies where we have used the ECLIPS to screen for listening difficulties as part of our endeavour to validate the questionnaire.”

Clinical assessment of speech intelligibility

Speaker: Professor Nick Miller (Newcastle University)
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 4 February 2015, 3-4 pm

Abstract: The prime aim in developmental and acquired motor speech disorders is to improve or maintain spoken intelligibility. But what is meant by intelligibility and what are the optimum ways to it to inform therapy content and to assure that outcome measures are valid, reliable and sensitive to the types of change encountered?

This forms the central theme of the talk. It will look at different ways of measuring intelligibility, their strengths and weaknesses. It will focus on diagnostic intelligibility testing and how this can provide sensitive measures that deliver a wealth of diagnostic and intervention relevant information. 

The talk will address essential variables to be aware of in applying and interpreting such assessments, or indeed any measures of intelligibility – including of assessments, speaker and listener effects and controlling for situational variables.

The development of phonological knowledge in young children

Speaker: Anne Hesketh (University of Manchester)
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 3 December 2014, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Phonological awareness (PA) and phonological representations (PRs) have both been identified as key predictors of literacy success. Yet substantial debate remains about their relationship and about the relative influence of vocabulary growth and orthographic knowledge on their development.

Testing theoretical predictions can be difficult because of the cognitive demands of  PA measures, therefore we have developed a series of tasks which are accessible by young children in order to assess their phonological knowledge. 

We have collected both cross-sectional and longitudinal data on 'implicit' and explicit measures of phonological representation alongside assessments of vocabulary and letter-sound knowledge on children aged 3;2-5;2. In we have data on performance at both the and phoneme level and have controlled for global similarity, allowing a more comprehensive test of current theoretical accounts than has been previously possible. 

The results show that while vocabulary is a key predictor representation on implicit tasks, letter-sound knowledge is a key predictor of explicit phoneme awareness. The results are consistent with the view that children’s phonological representations may be restructured independent of literacy, but that letter-sound knowledge is needed for children to gain explicit access to phonemes.

Refining our understanding of developmental dyslexia: is ‘co-morbidity’ important?

Speaker: Professor Joel Talcott (Aston University, Birmingham)
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 5 November 2014, 3-4 pm

Learning disabilities such as reading disorder (dyslexia) are among the most frequent diagnoses of childhood and therefore impact significantly on both societal quality of life and the economies that support them. Although there is general agreement on how children and adults with reading difficulties can be identified in an assessment setting, the array of symptoms that accompany the problems in literacy so broad that it is now accepted that there is no such thing as ‘pure’ dyslexia. 

One of the potential reasons for the large individual differences in the manifestation of dyslexia is its very high overlap with other disorders of childhood. Over one-half of children with diagnoses of dyslexia would also be expected to satisfy diagnostic criteria for another learning disability or developmental disorder. 

The prevalence of this overlap, or ‘co-morbidity’, exceeds that which would be expected if the co-occurrence between separate conditions was random. This common feature of developmental dyslexia impact significantly both on how we refine our understanding of the mechanisms involved in reading development and also how best practice for assessment in identifying and supporting those with impaired literacy skills can be developed.

The Language, Literacy and Communication Skills of Young Offenders and Non-Offenders: A Mixed Methods Study

Speaker: Tom Hopkins (Birmingham City University)
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 15 October 2014, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Research has identified youth offenders (YOs) as having low language, literacy, and communication abilities. However, the causal relationship between language and offending is unknown and may be due to other confounds such as socio-economic status (SES) and reduced educational attendance. 

Further, the standardised tests often used in studies of YOs may not be the most appropriate for this population (Bryan, 2007) and the perception YOs have their own language literacy and communication skills as well as the experiences they have communicating within the youth justice system, their schools and with their friends and family is (Sanger, 2003). 

This talk describes the investigation into the association between language, communication, literacy, and behaviour in young offenders using 1) appropriate quantitative methods of assessment to establish levels of performance and 2) qualitative interviews in order to examine how language limitations affect social interaction.

A randomised controlled trial on parent-mediated communication-focused treatment in children with autism

Speaker: Vicky Slonims (St Thomas' Hospital, London)
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 21 May 2014, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Autism is a severe, highly heritable, neurodevelopmental disability, with an estimated prevalence of about 1% for the broad autism spectrum. Impairments in social reciprocity, communication, and behaviour have a profound effect on children’s social development into adulthood.  

Recent studies have used designs and theory to determine the focus of intervention and measurement. The PACT study is currently the largest test of a parent-mediated communication-focused intervention for children with autism. 152 children with core autism (aged 2 years to 4 years and 11 months) were randomly assigned to the Preschool Autism Communication Trial (PACT) intervention or treatment as usual at three specialist centres in the UK. 

Our primary outcome was of autism symptoms ADOS-G and secondary outcomes were measures of parent-child interaction, child language, and adaptive functioning in school. After adjustment for centre, sex, socioeconomic status, age, and verbal and nonverbal abilities the severity of symptoms was reduced by 3·9 points (SD 4·7) on the ADOS in the treatment group and 2·9 (3·9) in the group assigned to treatment as usual, (non-significant result) ES of –0·24 (95% CI –0·59 to 0·11). 

effect was positive for parental synchronous response to (1·22, 0·85 to 1·59), child initiations with parent (0·41, 0·08 to 0·74) and for parent-child shared attention (0·33, –0·02 to 0·68). Effects on directly assessed language and adaptive functioning in school were small. Interpretation: PACT intervention did not improve autism symptoms over treatment as usual however, a clear benefit was noted for parent-child dyadic social communication. 

These results are discussed in relation to field of PCI intervention in childhood autism and implications for future treatments. Finally a brief description of a current RCT of PCI intervention in infant siblings at risk of autism (iBASIS) and information about a of the original cohort (PACT 7-11).  Research has identified youth offenders (YOs) as having low language, literacy, and communication abilities.

However, the causal relationship between language and offending is unknown and may be due to other confounds such as socio-economic status (SES) and reduced educational attendance. Further, the standardised tests often used in studies of YOs may not be the most appropriate for this population (Bryan, 2007) and the perception YOs have their own language literacy and communication skills as well as the experiences they have communicating within the youth justice system, their schools and with their friends and family is (Sanger, 2003). 

This talk describes the investigation into the association between language, communication, literacy, and behaviour in young offenders using 1) appropriate quantitative methods of assessment to establish levels of performance and 2) qualitative interviews in order to examine how language limitations affect social interaction.

A public health approach to speech, language and communication needs in children

Speaker: Professor James Law (Newcastle University) 
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 2 April 2014, 3-4 pm

Abstract: “ I will start by asking with SLT services meet criteria for being a public health service in the UK. This is not simply a matter of professional co-location – schools, health visitors and of course now public health services all falling within the purview of local authorities. Rather it is whether SLCN is a population issue either in terms of social determinants or in terms of inequalities of access to services.

"I will then go on to look at some “public health” approaches to delivering services, especially the few with the better underpinning evidence base identified in the What Works for SLCN , and ask how compatible these are with the conventional approach to recording in the NHS. The session will end with a discussion of how compatible such approaches are in the current funding environment where service rationalisation tends to lead to professional retrenchment rather than the development of innovative practice.”

Understanding auditory processing impairments in developmental dyslexia; experimental challenges and considerations

Speaker: Caroline Witton (Aston University, Birmingham) 
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 5 March 2014, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Differences in sensory sensitivity, especially for auditory stimuli, have been implicated in a number of developmental disorders, including developmental dyslexia. Despite decades of research, the significance of these auditory processing impairments remains unclear.

This talk will discuss some of the evidence for the association of auditory processing disorders with dyslexia, but will also evaluate the potential pitfalls of the methods which have been used to measure sensory thresholds in this population. I will explore how neuroimaging, specifically magnetoencephalography (MEG) may be able to provide new insights into the neurophysiological basis of the association between auditory processing and reading disability.

Language learning: how sleep can improve your vocabulary

Speaker: Professor Gareth Gaskell (University of York) 
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 5 February 2014, 3-4 pm

Abstract: I will explore the possibility that learning a word involves several stages that take place over an extended period of time. Many aspects of acquiring a new word, such as becoming familiar with its sound or meaning, are effectively immediate. However, some more subtle aspects of word learning appear to be slower.

I will discuss adult and developmental studies suggesting that sleep has a role to play in consolidating the slower emerging and look at the components of sleep that might be responsible. Finally, I will present some initial results intended to investigate whether sleep and consolidation are implicated for language acquisition in developmental populations

An evidenced-based approach to speech and language therapy in Parkinson's disease

Speaker: Professor Carl Clarke (University of Birmingham) 
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 8 January 2014, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Professor Clarke will describe the results of his team’s systematic reviews of the effectiveness of speech and language therapy in Parkinson's disease. He will go on to describe the ongoing pilot randomised controlled trial of two forms of speech and language therapy versus no therapy in patients with Parkinson's disease and communication problems.

Overlaps between 'specific' language impairment and autism spectrum disorders: where does it come from and why does it matter

Speaker: Dr Courtenay Frazier Norbury (Royal Holloway, University of London) 
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 11 December 2013, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Language outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are hugely variable. No current theoretical accounts of ASD can adequately explain this variability. In this talk, I discuss the evidence that language impairment in ASD represents a co-occurring condition, which shares causal origins with other neurodevelopmental disorders. I then consider the implications for diagnosis and treatment.

‘He’ll grow out of it, won’t he?’ The characteristics of older children’s speech when they have – and haven’t – ‘grown out of it’

Speaker: Yvonne Wren (Frenchay Hospital, Bristol) 
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 6 November 2013, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Language outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are hugely variable. No current theoretical accounts of ASD can adequately explain this variability. In this talk, I discuss the evidence that language impairment in ASD represents a co-occurring condition, which shares causal origins with other neurodevelopmental disorders. I then consider the implications for diagnosis and treatment.

Communication and self-esteem in adults with Down syndrome

Speaker: Professor John Clibbens (Birmingham City University) 
Venue: Seacole 145
Date: 16 October 2013, 3-4 pm

Abstract: This presentation will briefly review what is currently known about language and communication abilities in people with Down syndrome, and will then present some results of a recent study looking at the relationship between communication ability and self-esteem in this population (IJLCD, in press).

It is estimated that 50%-80% of people with intellectual disabilities experience difficulties in communicating. Previous research with other populations that typically experience difficulties with communication has shown a link with self-esteem, yet the relationship has not previously been investigated in people with Down syndrome.

The study employed a mixed methodology: quantitative measures of self-esteem and communication were used, alongside thematic analysis of data collected using semi-structured interviews. Major themes within the data supported the hypothesis that a relationship between communication and self-esteem may exist for adults with Down syndrome. Clinical and research implications of the findings will be considered.

Which aspects of learning are affected in specific language impairment?

Speaker: Professor Dorothy Bishop (University of Oxford) 
Date: 22 May 2013, 3-4 pm

Abstract: By definition, children with specific language impairment have a selective problem in language learning despite generally unremarkable development in other areas. Several theories have been proposed as to why language learning poses such a problem. 

One theory attributes language learning problems to problems in auditory perception, whereas others propose some specific problem with a specialised language-learning mechanism. I will describe a set of studies we have done comparing different kinds of learning for both verbal and non-verbal materials.

Very basic classical conditioning and motor learning seem unaffected in children with SLI, but they have problems learning implicit sequences, both for words or stimuli. Our results have implications for intervention, but it is challenging to translate them directly into practice.

Evaluating complex interventions: a practical example of the mixed methods approach

Speaker: Audrey Bowen (University of Manchester) 
Date: 10 April 2013, 3-4 pm

Abstract: The recently completed ACT NoW study was commissioned by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme to determine the clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and service users’ views of enhanced early communication therapy for people with aphasia or dysarthria after stroke compared with an attention control (AC).

The ‘technology’ under evaluation was a best-practice, flexible intervention offered by NHS Speech and Language therapists and provided as needed up to a maximum of three times per week for up to 16 weeks. The setting was 12 English NHS hospital and community stroke services that had been re-organised to provide continuity across the patient pathway, avoid long waiting lists on discharge from the phase of care and offer enhanced amounts of therapy.

The intervention included support for informal carers as well as the person with stroke. A mixed methods research approach was used including nesting a qualitative study of 32 individual interviews within a phase III trial that randomised 170 adults with aphasia or dysarthria soon after admission to hospital with a stroke.

To investigate whether the intervention per se provided added benefit to time spent with a therapist 85 of the participants were randomly allocated to receive attention control i.e. offered similar amounts of time with an employed visitor (rather than a speech and language therapist). Control participants did not receive any form of communication support or advice. The primary RCT outcome was blinded, functional communicative ability 6 months post randomisation on the Therapy Outcome Measure activity subscale (TOM).

Secondary outcomes were participants’ own perceptions on the Communication Outcomes After Stroke scale (COAST); carers’ perceptions of participants from part of the Carer COAST; carer well-being on Carers of Older People in Europe Index and quality-of-life items from Carer COAST. Serious adverse events (SAEs) were recorded. Qualitative interviews provided the views of both the person with stroke and their informal carers.

This presentation will discuss the results from the perspectives of different stakeholders, using both the RCT and qualitative methods, including the benefits of this mixed methods approach to provide a depth to the data and help explore some of the reasons underlying the controversial findings.

When your native language is foreign-accented: L1 attrition in the speech of bilingual monozygotic twin sisters

Speaker: Robert Mayr (Cardiff Metropolitan University) 
Date: 6 March 2013, 3-4 pm

Abstract: The effects of the native language on attainment in a second language have been well documented (Ellis 2008, Saville-Troike 2012). The opposite scenario, however, i.e. the effect of the L2 learning experience on native language proficiency has only recently received systematic attention in the literature.

This phenomenon, termed L1 Attrition, refers the non-pathological decrease in proficiency in a previously acquired language (Köpke & Schmid 2004; Schmid and has interesting clinical implications. In this talk, I will present the case of a 62-year-old bilingual monozygotic twin from the Netherlands who emigrated to the United Kingdom 30 years ago. Changes in L1 accent were assessed by comparing her speech to that of her identical twin sister who remained in the L1-speaking environment, thus providing a unique control setting.

A battery of tests was carried out to examine the twin sisters’ L1 Dutch and L2 English pronunciation, with acoustic analyses of vowels and voice onset time (VOT) the focus of this talk. The results indicate pervasive changes to the twin’s L1 accent in both areas examined, with attrition presenting in the form of cross-linguistic assimilation patterns.

Interestingly, her L1 vowel space exhibited a systematic increase in first formant frequency, confirming claims that L1 and L2 sounds may be related to each other at a system-wide level (Chang, 2010, 2012; Guion, 2003). The findings presented here raise interesting questions about the conditions required for L1 attrition to take effect, and, more generally, about explanatory accounts on the interaction of phonological systems in bilinguals (e.g. Best & Tyler 2007; Escudero 2005; Flege 1995).

Dysarthria therapy for children with cerebral palsy

Speaker: Lindsay Pennington (Newcastle University) 
Date: 6 February 2013, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Children with cerebral palsy often have dysarthria, which limits the intelligibility of their speech. At Newcastle University we have been researching the effectiveness and acceptability of an intensive therapy that focuses on breath support, phonation and speech rate. The therapy is showing promise as a line of treatment within a total communication approach. In the I will describe the therapy. I will also present our current research findings on the effects of the therapy on children’s voice and on the intelligibility of their speech, and describe our moves towards a randomised controlled trial.

Muscle Tension Dysphonia – are we missing a trick?

Speaker: Professor Paul Carding (Newcastle University) 
Date: 9 January 2013, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Hyperfunctional dysphonia (or muscle tension dysphonia) is the most common type of voice disorder and the one that is most frequently treated by speech therapists. Are some people more likely to get this problem than others? What might predispose a person to this type of voice disorder?

Do we understand all of the common risk factors? This presentation will revisit the concepts that underpin dysphonia and propose a reconfiguration of the standard theoretical model. I will also propose the inclusion of a new (or very old) pathogenic factor and present some new data to support my proposal. This data may have implications for our theoretical understanding of the disorder and consequently how we might design treatment to remedy it.

Assessing language learning in contexts of language disabilities: What are the implications for Dynamic Assessment?

Speaker: Deirdre Martin (University of Birmingham)
Date: 5 December 2012, 3-4 pm

seminar takes the opportunity to look at a socio-cultural approach to assessing language learning and in particular dynamic assessment (DA) of children with language disabilities. Key socio-cultural concepts will be briefly introduced, and data and findings discussed from recent studies with DA in contexts of monolingual-English language disabilities. The relationship between DA and other approaches to language assessment in contexts of language disabilities will be discussed from key perspectives:

  • language assessment and intervention: 'learnt content' and 'process of learning'
  • Diagnosis as a cultural practice and diagnostic purposes of assessment
  • Ethical and policy implications of the roles of assessor and assessed, and 
  • Implications of DA for multilingual language disabilities

The ‘Child Talk – What Works’ programme

Speaker: Sam Harding (Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit, Frenchay Hospital, Bristol)
Date: 7 November 2012, 3-4 pm

Abstract: Child Talk - What Works - is a research programme to develop a model of intervention for preschool children with primary speech and language impairments. Sam will talk about the aims and findings to date of this fascinating programme of study including the views of what works from the perspectives of speech and language therapists, early years practitioners, parents and the children themselves.

She will introduce the way forward and let you know how you can engage with the next steps. Sam Harding is the senior researcher on the ‘Child Talk – What Works’ programme, a research psychologist with master degrees in Psychological Research Methods, and Health Psychology.

She is currently undertaking a Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. Sam calls upon a unique mix of psychology methods and frameworks to answer research questions, having undertaken work across diverse fields including; hyperbaric medicine, chronic respiratory disease, maxillofacial cancer, and most recently speech and language.

Children's Speech and Literacy Difficulties: What have we learned from using a psycholinguistic framework?

Speaker: Professor Joy Stackhouse (University of Sheffield) 
Date: 3 October 2012, 3-4 pm

Abstract: This talk will describe the psycholinguistic framework devised by Joy Stackhouse and Bill Wells and how it has been used to investigate the relationship between spoken and written language.

Findings from case studies and a longitudinal study of children’s speech and literacy development (age range 3-7 years) will be used to examine identification of children; predict speech and literacy outcomes in young school-age define resolved speech difficulties. There will be a particular focus on speech difficulties, phonological awareness, auditory discrimination, word learning, and spelling. Implications for practice will be discussed, eg assessment, intervention, and training.