Authors: Wood SE, Timmins C, Wishart J, Hardcastle WJ, Cleland J
Title: Use of electropalatography in the treatment of speech disorders in children with Down syndrome: a randomized controlled trial
Source: International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 2019 54(2): 234-248
Year: 2019
Research Design: Randomised Controlled Trial
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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 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 & Procedures A total of 27 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) and reassessed immediately post- and 3 and 6 months post-intervention to measure percentage consonants correct (PCC). EPG recordings were made of the DEAP assessment items at all time points. Per cent intelligibility was also calculated using the Children's Speech Intelligibility Measure (CSIM). Outcomes & Results Gains in accuracy of production immediately post-therapy, as measured by PCC, were seen for all groups. Reassessment at 3 and 6 months 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 with 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 & 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.

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