PhD theses in progress
Children with unilateral hearing impairments – Early screening, and follow-up of and support for speech and language development
Anna Kiviniemi-Pulli, MA, Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
In recent years, a growing research and clinical interest has emerged on how to diagnose and habilitate unilateral hearing impairment (UHI) in children. Research base for clinical decision making has been heterogeneous with both detected and no impact of UHI on children’s development reported. The aim of this doctoral dissertation is to explore how UHI in children is currently detected in Finland, and to describe the habilitation path following the UHI diagnosis. Additionally, UHI children’s parents are surveyed on what kind of information needs they have on interaction and speech and language development of their child. In the study, a cohort of children with UHI will be followed up in the areas of hearing, speech and language development, and social-emotional development.
Facial expression recognition and production as a part of communication skills in children with autism spectrum or attention deficit disorders
Tuuli Saari, MA, Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
This doctoral dissertation aims to explore the connection between the facial expressions and emotion recognition in children with autism spectrum disorders or ADHD and explore the possibilities of two different intervention methods (digital games) for emotion recognition based on visual and auditory or visual and kinetic information. Children’s emotion production abilities will also be compared to relevant linguistic and cognitive background factors. Abilities of typically developing children are used as age references. Additionally, effectiveness of language intervention on children’s emotion recognition and other socio-emotional skills is explored.
Emotion recognition difficulties in children with neurodevelopmental disorders and improvement of skills with the help of a digital game
Joanna Löytömäki, MA, Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
Children with neurodevelopmental disorders (such as autism spectrum disorders, ADHD and developmental language disorders) often have problems in emotion recognition and in social relationships. The aim of this dissertation is to find out which linguistic and cognitive factors are related to emotion recognition difficulties in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. It is also explored how uniform the information about their difficulties is when the information is obtained from parents and professionals and what is the effectiveness of the Tunne-etsivät (The Emotion Detectives Game) in practicing emotion recognition from face and voice.
Efficacy of auditory training on central auditory processing disorder in children with specific language impairment (SLI)
Leena Ervast, Phil. Lic., Specialised Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
The term specific language impairment (SLI) refers to children who have significant difficulties in learning and mastering their native language at the expected rate and age despite normal cognitive development. One potential risk factor for SLI is poor central auditory processing disorder (CAPD). The aim of this study is to investigate central auditory processing in Finnish preschool children with SLI and to assess the effect of intensive computer-based training on CAP.
Inhibitory control and audiovisual perception in children with specific language impairment (SLI)
Elisa Heikkinen, MA, Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
Inhibitory control is an ability to inhibit and stop reactions and to protect reactions from competing stimuli. Well-functioning visual and auditory skills, and the ability to focus on relevant information are prerequisites for normal language development. Poor inhibitory control and audiovisual perception might be factors behind language learning difficulties. The aim of this study is to investigate the development of inhibitory control and audiovisual perception in healthy children, and in children with specific language impairment.
Speech, language and learning and their risk factors among school-aged children born preterm
Minna Heikkinen, MA, Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
As preterm birth may be associated with health and educational problems, the research interests in this study are to investigate what kind of results altered brain development after birth might cause in long-term neurodevelopment in 8-to 9 -year-old children. Delays may include, for example, neuromotor, cognitive, language, and literacy deficits. The data will be gathered as part of a prospective, longitudinal cohort study of very preterm children born in the Oulu University Hospital during the years 1998-2001 (n= 163). The children will be examined using neurological and cognitive evaluations, brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and language tests. The study will be held in co-operation with the Department of Pediatrics.
Central auditory processing (CAP) and musical training
Kaisu Heinänen, MA, Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
Language and music perception are based on equal acoustical characteristics, their underlying neural structures and processes being considerably overlapping. The training of musical skills during early age has been shown to have an impact on central auditory processing (CAP). The main aim of the present study is to find out what kind of effect the early musical training has on CAP and development of language skills.
Classification of childhood speech sound disorders
Anna-Leena Martikainen, Phil. Lic., Specialised Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
Children with speech sound disorders (SSD) of unknown origin compose a heterogeneous population. Speech difficulty may manifest itself in various forms from a single speech sound error to highly unintelligible speech, or even lack of speech. Grouping children with SSD to clinical subtypes is essential for making a more precise diagnosis and for choosing the most effective intervention method. This study investigates the speech characteristics and the underlining abilities of speech production, i.e. oral and verbal motor abilities, speech perception, and phonological awareness both in children with typical speech development and children with SSD. The main aim is to find out if there are distinct developmental profiles among children with SSD. This knowledge would be useful in differentiating speech disorders.
Linquistic and learning abilities at the age of 8−10 years in children with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)
Lea Partanen, MA, Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
IUGR is recognized to be a risk for non-optimal neurological development and poor learning skills later at school-age. The aim of the present study is to compare linquistic and learning abilities of IUGR children and their appropriate-for-gestational-age control children (AGA) at the age of 8 -10 years. The data is part of a prospectively collected cohort of children born with IUGR (n=95) in 1998–2003 in the University Hospital of Oulu and AGA controls (n=36).
Language development and specific language impairment (SLI) in children with immigrant background
Sini Smolander, MA, Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
About 5 % of the Finnish population do not speak Finnish or Swedish as their mother tongue/first language. By clinical observation, children with Finnish as a second language are referred to language assessments and diagnosed as having SLI much more often than are children with Finnish as their first language. However, this should not be the case, since multilingual environment in itself is not considered a risk factor for SLI. On the other hand, explaining all difficulties in language acquisition as stemming from the added difficulty of having to acquire two languages, could lead to underdiagnosing of SLI. There is a need to find out what the typical patterns of second language acquisition in children with immigrant background are. There is also a need to discover the best clinical markers of SLI in these children. The purpose of this study is also to find out what the most suitable direct and indirect assessment tools for diagnosing SLI are. This study is a part of a broader Helsinki SLI study which makes it possible to examine the effect of different background variables on different SLI phenotypes. This study is instrumental in developing SLI diagnostics to be used with multilingual populations. It aims to reduce the learning difficulties encountered by children with immigrant background, and thus to enhance their integration into Finnish society by enabling them to have better employment opportunities in the future.
Phonological and lexical skills and speech intelligibility in children with hearing aids or a cochlear implant
Anna-Kaisa Tolonen, MA, Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
Hearing impairments are known to pose a risk for children’s speech and language development. However, there are still relatively few studies on the speech and language development of children with hearing impairments acquiring Finnish. This study aims to investigate and compare the phonological and lexical skills in children with hearing aids or a cochlear implant. In addition, the speech intelligibility of these children will also be assessed. This study is part of an ongoing research project ‘Speech perception and speech and language development in children with unilateral and/or bilateral cochlear implant(-s) and bilateral hearing aids’ funded by the Academy of Finland.
Screening weak language skills early – findings from the norming study of the Finnish short-form version of the CDI
Suvi Vehkavuori, MA, Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
Recognizing delayed language skills early is challenging. In addition, more information on the relationship between early and later language skills is needed. This study aims to get new information on early language development with two screening methods. The role of the size and composition of early lexicon as predictors of later language skills is also analyzed. The participants are 80 healthy, full-term Finnish children. Their language skills are assessed at 1;0, 2;0 and 3;6 years of age. Different aspects of language development are analyzed and different types of methods are used in order to get representative information on language development. The present study provides new information on screening language skills early as well as on the role of early lexical skills as predictors of later language skills. This study is part of the ongoing norming study of the Finnish short form version of the Communicative Development Inventory
Development of pragmatic skills in children with hearing impairment
Krista Wallenius, MA, Speech and Language Therapist, PhD student
Pragmatic skills are known to be related to children´s self-image and peer relationships. However, very little is still known about the development of pragmatic skills of hearing impaired children. Moreover, there are currently very few published studies on the pragmatic development of hearing impaired children acquiring spoken Finnish. The purpose of the present study is to compare the development of pragmatic skills of children with cochlear implant(s) to that of children with hearing aids. Also, the pragmatic development of children with hearing impairment will be compared to that of children with normal hearing. This study applies the theory of Cognitive Pragmatics, and is a part of an ongoing research project ‘Speech perception and speech and language development in children with unilateral and/or bilateral cochlear implant(-s) and bilateral hearing aids’ funded by the Academy of Finland.