Profiling receptive and expressive prosodic skills in children with spina bifida and hydrocephalus

This project will advance current knowledge about communication difficulties in children with spina bifida and hydrocephalus (SBH). This condition affects the normal development of the spinal cord and brain and is particularly relevant to the Irish context because of the high incidence in the country - currently at least 500 children in Ireland have SBH.
Although language skills often appear strong in children with SBH, close examination of their communication skills frequently reveals notable difficulties in conversations and in social interaction. These difficulties can persist into adulthood, reducing their opportunities to continue in education, gain employment and make friends. There are many reasons why children might experience difficulties with conversation and in social situations. However, it has been shown in previous studies that children who find it difficult to understand or use intonation, also called tone of voice or "prosody", also experience difficulties with conversation and social interaction.
This project will be the first to investigate prosodic skills systematically in children with SBH. The project will use an internationally recognised procedure -PEPS- to assess prosodic skills in 90 children, which includes a group with SBH and a group of age and language matched typically developing children. The children will complete the PEPS-C assessment and standardised language tests to build a profile of prosodic skills and their relationship to other language abilities.
The results will demonstrate for the first time how difficulties in understanding or using prosody underlies the broader communication problems experienced by many children with SBH. It will also provide the evidence base for best practice for assessing and treating prosody problems in children. Providing effective services during the school years will be of significant benefit in later life in terms of increased opportunities for education, employment, socialisation and the long term outcomes for children with SBH.

Award Date
23 October 2015
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Dr Alice Lee
Host Institution
University College Cork
Health Research Awards