Speech Sound Disorders (SSDs) are the most common communication impairment in childhood, affecting 6.5% of all UK children, or roughly 2 children in every classroom.
SSDs make it difficult for people to communicate with peers and integrate with society. Unfortunately, the efficacy of interventions for most types of SSDs is weak. Speech, Language and Communication Disorders (SLCD) are a key UK government priority at present, with 2011 designated the "national year of speech, language and communication". A recent government report (The Bercow Report, 2008) highlighted the need for a programme of research to enhance the evidence base for children and young people with SLCD. Our programme of research aims to fulfill this need by developing technology which will aid the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of SSDs.
Currently in Speech and Language Therapy, technological support is limited. Technologies that do exist have been expensive to run or complicated to operate and hence not adopted in clinical practice. This project will develop technology (Ultrax) to turn ultrasound into a cost-effective tongue imaging device to provide real-time visual feedback of tongue movements.
Ultrax aims to develop current Ultrasound technology into a viable tool for giving visual feedback of what is happening inside a user's mouth as they talk. One of the major intended uses of this is for speech therapy for children.
Two children in every British classroom (6.5%), suffer from Speech Sound Disorders (SSDs), making it difficult for them to communicate with their peers and integrate with society. Currently, there is little technological support for the provision of speech therapy. Most interventions for SSDs rely heavily on auditory skills, in that clients must listen to their own productions and modify them using auditory cues. Speech intervention that uses visual feedback may benefit people for whom visual skills are stronger than auditory skills (as is often the case in people with SSDs), with visual feedback potentially most useful when the target articulation is hard to describe or see. By actually showing the child the required articulation, the need to describe it using complex language is avoided.
A recent fall in the price of ultrasound coupled with growing evidence of its benefit in remediating certain types of SSDs makes this the right time to apply proven data-processing and machine-learning techniques to enhance ultrasound technology specifically for this purpose, thus turning it into a cost-effective tool for improving the effectiveness of SSD intervention. This is the goal of Ultrax.