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The use of electropalatography in the treatment of speech disorders in children with down syndrome : a randomised controlled trial

Wood, Sara E. and Timmins, Claire and Wishart, Jennifer and Hardcastle, William J. and Cleland, Joanne (2018) The use of electropalatography in the treatment of speech disorders in children with down syndrome : a randomised controlled trial. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. pp. 1-29. ISSN 1368-2822

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Background: Electropalatography (EPG) records details of the location and timing of tongue contacts with the hard palate during speech. It has been effective in treating articulation disorders that have failed to respond to conventional therapy approaches but, until now, its use with children and adolescents with intellectual/learning disabilities and speech disorders has been limited. Aims: This study aimed to evaluate the usefulness of EPG in the treatment of speech production difficulties in children and adolescents with Down syndrome (DS) aged 8-18 years. Methods: Twenty-seven children with DS were assessed on a range of cognitive and speech and language measures and underwent additional EPG assessment. Participants were randomly allocated to one of three age-matched groups receiving either EPG therapy, EPG-informed conventional therapy or 'treatment as usual' over a 12 week period. The speech of all children was assessed before therapy using the Diagnostic Evaluation of Articulation and Phonology (DEAP: Dodd et al. 2002) and re-assessed immediately post- and 3- and 6-month post-intervention to measure percent consonants correct (PCC). EPG recordings were made of the DEAP assessment items at all time-points. Percent intelligibility was also calculated using the Children’s Speech Intelligibility Measure (CSIM: Wilcox and Morris 1999). Results: Gains in accuracy of production immediately post-therapy, as measured by PCC, were seen for all groups. Reassessment at 3- and 6-month post-therapy revealed that those who had received therapy based directly on EPG visual feedback were more likely to maintain and improve on these gains compared to the other groups. Statistical testing showed significant differences between groups in DEAP scores across time-points although the majority did not survive post hoc evaluation. Intelligibility across time-points, as measured by CSIM, was also highly variable within and between the three groups, but despite significant correlations between DEAP and CSIM at all time-points, no statistically significant group differences emerged. Conclusions and implications: EPG was an effective intervention tool for improving speech production in many participants. This may be because it capitalizes on the relative strength of visual over auditory processing in this client group. The findings would seem to warrant an increased focus on addressing speech production difficulties in current therapy.