(Pittsburgh, PA)—(October 31, 2012)—The Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA), the only national non-profit public charity exclusively dedicated to the needs and interests of children with apraxia of speech and their families, has selected three proposals to receive funding through its Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) Research Grant Program.
Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a very challenging and complicated speech disorder in children, making it difficult or impossible for children to accurately produce sounds, syllables and/or words despite having a good understanding of language. The CAS Research Grant Program was established in 2006 as a means to improve the long term speech, language, and communication outcomes for children affected by CAS.
A CAS research grant was awarded to Dr. Maria Grigos, Associate Professor of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, to support her study, “Speech Motor Learning in Childhood Apraxia of Speech.” Her research will investigate changes in articulatory control that underlie speech motor learning in children with CAS.
“We anticipate that this project will reveal differences in the speech motor learning strategies displayed by children with CAS and children with typically developing speech and language skills,” said Dr. Grigos.
Dr. Grigos will combine perceptual and kinematic methods to identify the speech production strategies children with CAS use, while learning novel words. Children will produce experimental tokens under practice and feedback conditions designed according to Principles of Motor Learning (PML). These principles have been used to identify the structure of practice and type of feedback that result in long-term retention of therapeutic targets and generalization to untreated targets. The study will examine both short and long-term learning effects and will employ a faded feedback schedule while children practice the experimental tokens.
“While this is not a treatment study, information regarding speech motor learning in children with CAS will provide valuable insight regarding therapeutic strategies for the acquisition of novel targets and maintenance of gains,” Dr. Grigos explained.
According to Dr. Grigos, future work may compare changes in speech motor control between children who receive feedback on all productions, as compared to a faded feedback schedule. Additional research allows for extending the length of time that children are studied to better replicate the therapeutic process and changes that children may experience over the course of therapy.
A second CAS research grant was awarded to Dr. Susan Rvachew, Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University in Quebec. Dr. Rvachew’s study, “Comparison of Alternative Pre-Practice Conditions in Treatment of Childhood Apraxia of Speech Using a Single Subject Randomization Design,” will be conducted in collaboration with her co-investigator Dr. Caroline Erdos at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and speech-language pathologists at the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre. Dr. Rvachew will modify the Integral Stimulation treatment approach that is commonly used to target production of core vocabulary words. Two conditions of “pre-practice” will be added to the treatment – input procedures that strengthen the child’s perceptual representation of target words, and secondly, procedures that include visual cues and chaining to assist the child in creating a speech motor plan for the target words. This study will investigate whether children with different psycholinguistic profiles will respond differently to the different pre-practice conditions.
“Children with CAS are at particular risk for slow progress in speech therapy and subsequent problems at school. We believe that the effectiveness of intervention for CAS may be enhanced by the addition of pre-practice procedures that attend specifically to the children’s perceptual or articulatory representations for words,” said Dr. Rvachew. “Furthermore, we have suggested that treatment procedures should be individualized to the specific nature of the child’s underlying psycholinguistic profile. If these hypotheses can be support, outcomes for these children may be significantly improved both in the short and the long term.”
A third CAS research grant was awarded to Jenya Iuzzini, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for her research project, “Optimal Diagnostic Criteria for CAS in School-aged Children: A Multilevel Approach.” The Neurogenetic Communication Disorders Consortium (a collaboration between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Munroe-Meyer Institute for Genetics and Rehabilitation) also supports Dr. Iuzzini’s project. In Dr. Iuzzini’s previous research, she and colleagues developed and tested a standardized procedure for measuring “segmental inconsistency” (i.e., inconsistency in production of a speech sound within and across words and word-positions), and established cut-off scores for differentiating preschool-aged children with CAS, from children with other types of speech sound disorders. In this project, Dr. Iuzzini will extend her previous work to older, school-aged children. The extension will test a variety of quantitative measures to determine which features, tasks, and levels of analysis (i.e., transcription-based, kinematic, acoustic) are most effective in identifying CAS in school-aged children who have experienced treatment and/or evidence of a changing symptom profile.
“It is anticipated that this study will identify several novel measures of speech that can be used by clinicians and researchers to facilitate the diagnosis of CAS,” said Dr. Iuzzini. “In addition, we expect that instrumental measures of speech will provide added sensitivity and evidence to support distinct etiologies for CAS and phonological disorders. Reliable diagnostic procedures will promote accurate identification of CAS, which will increase access to and further the development of appropriate treatments.”
All three CAS research grants were awarded through a competitive application process managed by CASANA’s Research Review Committee. Funds for CASANA research projects are generated by the efforts of volunteers and donors in the Walk for Children with Apraxia of Speech events held across the United States and Canada.
The Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA), founded in 2000, strives to improve the systems of support in the lives of children with apraxia so that each child is afforded their best opportunity to develop speech and to achieve to their potential. CASANA works toward this mission through promoting national awareness of childhood apraxia of speech; providing high quality information and support to families and professionals; conducting multiple educational workshops, webinars and conferences each year; and supporting as well as funding apraxia research. For more information on CASANA and Childhood Apraxia of Speech, visit the Apraxia-KIDS website at http://www.apraxia-kids.org.