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Senior Research Speech & Language Therapist/NIHR Research Fellow
My research interest in children's speech development and disorder has evolved following a clinical career working with children and adults with various types of speech, language and communication needs. I carried out my initial training at the University of Manchester and started my career working for North Mersey Community Trust before moving to Bristol to work with both the United Bristol Healthcare Trust and North Bristol NHS Trust in a variety of clinical and management roles.
My main area of interest is in the field of persistent speech disorder and more specifically, in developing a better understanding of the causes and characteristics of children who have this difficulty. Currently, while many children present with various degrees of delay in the development of their speech sound system in the early years, some resolve spontaneously while others respond to intervention and a third group continue to have ongoing problems into their school years. There is a strong evidence base to show that these children who have persistent problems are at higher risk for poor life outcomes. If clinicians have the information and tools to reliably distinguish between those children who will spontaneously resolve in the pre-school years from those who are at risk of persistent difficulties, intervention could be targeted at those who are most at risk.
To further my research activity in this field, the National Institute of Health Research has funded me to complete a five year fellowship programme beginning in October 2012. Titled ‘Understanding the causal pathway for persistent speech disorder’, this fellowship will enable me to observe and identify patterns in two large cohort studies: the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and the UK Cleft Collective. ALSPAC is a longitudinal prospective population study which has collected data on over 14000 families since the early 1990s. The UK Cleft Collective is a new cohort study with core funding from the Healing Foundation which will recruit families of children born with cleft palate across the UK over the next five years. You can read more about each of these studies at http://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/ and http://www.bristol.ac.uk/dental/cleft-collective/ .
In addition to this work, I am also interested in the use of technology in intervention for speech disorders and developed the Phoneme Factory software series as part of a Department of Health funded study. More information on this software is available at http://www.speech-therapy.org.uk/phoneme-factory . As well as selling widely across the UK, this software is now being used in an international study funded by the Australian Government called the Sound Start Study.
My third main area of interest is in the development of speech in children who are bilingual or multilingual. An increasing number of children speak English as an additional language in the UK and there is evidence to suggest that these children are both over- and under-represented in terms of referrals to speech and language therapy. More information is needed by both referrers and speech and language therapists to better understand how speech develops in children who are bilingual and how this differs from children who are monolingual. Funding from The Underwood Trust was provided for a systematic review of studies on speech acquisition in children who are bilingual. More information on this can found on the projects page at http://www.speech-therapy.org.uk/projects/bilingualism-and-its-effects-development-english-phonology .
In addition to this current programme of research, previous research activity (and funding) has included the Better Communication Research Programme (DfE), Child Talk (NIHR Programme Grant), Language Analysis Software study (NBT Seed Grant) and The origins, outcomes and impact of persisting speech impairment (MRC). More details on each of these can be found on the projects page. I am also keen to encourage and promote the role of clinician-researchers and to this end, have co-edited a book with Dr Corinne Dobinson titled 'Creating practice-based evidence: A guide for SLTs' (published by JR Press).
1989 BSc (Hons) Speech Pathology, University of Manchester
1999 MEd (Psychology) Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol
2005 PhD ‘The use of computers in phonology therapy’. Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists
Health Professions Council
American Speech-Language and Hearing Association
International Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics Association
International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children’s Speech
Specialists in Specific Speech Impairment Network