Speech and language: risk factors and disorders

Cost Action IS1406, Enhancing children’s oral language skills across Europe and beyond: a collaboration focusing on interventions for children with difficulties learning their first language

The main objectives of the Action are to increase the effectiveness of interventions for children with Language Impairment and improve understanding of the context in which those interventions are delivered. The Action is coordinated by a Management Committee (MC), under which Working Groups (WGs) are set up.

Chair of the Action:

  • James Law, Newcastle University, UK

Finnish MC members:

  • Professor Sari Kunnari, University of Oulu
  • PhD, docent Marja Laasonen Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki
  • MC Substitute Members: MA, doctoral student Anna-Kaisa Tolonen, University of Oulu and MA, doctoral student Sini Smolander, Helsinki University Hospital and University of Oulu


  • Horizon 2020

Nonword repetition and narrative skills in children with developmental language disorder

This study is part of a broader Helsinki Longitudinal SLI study (HelSLI). The aim of the study is to investigate the possible groups differences in NWR and narrative skills in four groups on children: monolingual  and sequentially bilingual children with typical development and monolingual and sequentially bilingual children with developmental language disorder. Furthermore, the study investigates how age, language exposure and other language skills are associated with NWR and narrative skills.

Research team:

  • Professor Marja Laasonen
  • Professor Sari Kunnari
  • MA, SLT Sini Smolander
  • MA, SLT Anna-Stina Sevon


  • Professor Laurence Leonard, Purdue University, Usa


  • Academy of Finland, Helsinki University Central Hospital and Kela

Further information:

Speech, language, learning and communication skills in preterm children – follow-up studies in different cohorts

The aim is to assess speech, language, learning, and communication skills, and their background factors in preterm children at different ages in hospital and population based study cohorts. In addition, the possible effect of different treatments during the neonatal intensive care will be studied, and regarding the school-age children, the possible medical risk factors will be evaluated. There are altogether over 400 preterm children in the different cohorts at the moment. In addition, the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986, which includes 9457 children, will be studied. Also, the effect of communication problems on academic skills and later behaviour at school age will be studied.

Main researcher:

  • PhD, university researcher, SLT Anneli Yliherva


  • Dept. of Pediatrics, Institute of Health Sciences, University of Oulu, Finland
  • Dept. of Pediatrics, Imperial College, London, UK
  • King’s College, London, UK
  • Institute of Education, University of London, UK
  • Dept. of Interdisciplinary Studies in Professional Practice, School of Community and Health Sciences, City University, London, UK
  • School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  • School of Public Health and Clinical Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK


  • University of Oulu, university researcher 2008-2010, scholarship for international collaboration 2009-2011

Predictors of late language emergence (LLE) and factors influencing later linguistic outcomes

Late language emergence (LLE), Late language emergence (LLE) refers to a situation where otherwise healthy children require more time to begin talking. It is typically benchmarked at the 24-month age level. Because the reasons behind LLE are relatively unexplored, the primary objective of this project is to gain understanding of the predictors of LLE – and early linguistic development in general – and also to shed light on the prognosis. Special emphasis is put on children’s social-emotional development and the mother–child interaction. Furthermore, the project aims to implement a multifactorial framework to explain LLE. Since LLE increases the risk for persistent language-learning problems and its prevalence is estimated to be even as high as 20%, a better understanding of the characteristics of LLE is critical. This kind of knowledge may help in preventing later learning difficulties and contributing to more equal opportunities for individuals with LLE in reaching their individual potential.

Project leader:

  • Professor Sari Kunnari

Research team:

  • PhD, postdoctoral researcher Leila Paavola-Ruotsalainen
  • Professor, MD, PhD Hanna Ebeling
  • MD, PhD Jaana Alakortes
  • MA, SLT, PhD student Katariina Rantalainen


  • Professor, PhD Päivi Pihlaja, University of Turku
  • Professor, PhD Alice Carter, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA
  • Irma Moilanen, Professor (emerita), MD, PhD


  • Eudaimonia Institute, Key Project funding

The norming study of the short, Finnish versions of the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories

Recognizing weak language development early (i.e. ≤ 2 years) in clinical work is challenging. One reason for this is that the measures which can be used for early screening are scarce. The main aim of the present study project is to adapt and to norm the short form versions of the Communicative Development Inventories to Finnish. The study group is 80 full-term children whose language development will be followed longitudinally from nine months of age up to the age of five years.

Project leader:

  •  Docent Suvi Stolt


  • MA Suvi Vehkavuori
  • MA Eija Aalto
  • BA Elina Simula
  • BA Annika Lehto


  • PhD, Katri Saaristo-Helin, University of Oulu


  • Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation