Current Research Activity in Child Speech Disorder in the UK

An investigation into the effectiveness of speech & language therapist led interventions for children with speech sound disorder versus programmes delivered by assistants.

Many children receive NHS intervention for Speech Sound Disorders (SSD) at school.  In some areas this is typically delivered by SLTs, whilst in other areas NHS SLT provision for some children consists of providing a programme which is delivered by SLT assistants. 

The aim is to estimate the impact of SLT led versus assistant led intervention for children with SSD on outcomes in speech.

Research Lead: Yvonne Wren

This research is funded by the Avon Primary Care Research Collaborative.

More information on this project can be found on BSLTRU Current Research.

Identification of factors associated with Persistent Speech Disorder (PSD) in children born with cleft palate.

The aim of the Cleft Collective Speech and Language (CC-SL) study is to create an adequately powered, detailed observational resource for the study of the early speech and language development of children born with cleft palate.  The initial investigation will seek to identify factors which are associated with persistent speech disorder (PSD) in children born with cleft palate.

Research Lead: Yvonne Wren

This research is funded by a NIHR Fellow grant.

More information about the study can be found on BSLTRU Current Research.


Identification of factors associated with persistent speech disorder (PSD) of unknown origin.

This project is a programme of work investigating factors in young pre-school children which are associated with persistent speech disorder (PSD) in children aged 5 and above.  The aim is to provide clinicians with information to prioritise resources for those at high risk for PSD and subsequent poor life outcomes and reduce unnecessary intervention for those who resolve early.

Research Lead: Yvonne Wren

This research is funded by a NIHR Fellow grant.

More information about the study can be found on BSLTRU Current Research.

Intervention for speech sound disorder with children in Portugal.

The research is looking at the effectiveness of an online approach to intervention for children with phonologically based SSD which is based on a tabletop version, and compares the two approaches: Table to Tablet (T2T).  Results of the intervention indicate that the two methods (tabletop and tablet) were equally effective in improving speech and phonological abilities in this group of children. Generalisation was similar between groups. Parent’s reports were very positive and equivalent between groups.  These findings provide some evidence regarding the use of digital materials in speech and language therapy and for Portuguese SLTs to use the T2T software when treating children with SSD. We are also collecting views of service users on the two types of intervention. Data has been collected and we are now in the analysis and write up phase.

Research Team: Vicky Joffe, Luis Jesus, Joana Martinez & Joaquim Santos

This research is funded by a Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation grant.


Parent intervention for articulation problems in children born with cleft.

The PLAT study is a two centre non-inferiority randomised controlled trial comparing Parent Led, therapist supervised, Articulation Therapy (PLAT) with standard intervention for children with cleft palate related speech disorder. This trial has been developed with the help of the Cleft Team in Dublin and the North Thames Regional Cleft Service. The study is based in Trinity College Dublin, and the Centre for Outcomes and Experience Research (ORCHID), Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UK. The UK arm has been funded by CLEFT-Bridging the Gap and the Irish arm by Temple Street Foundation and the Cleft Lip & Palate Association of Ireland.

Our study has three aims - to find out if PLAT intervention is comparable to outcomes from typical speech therapy, to evaluate the impact of the intervention on the child’s daily life in terms of activity and participation and to evaluate the acceptability of this approach to parents. This study has arisen out of a focus group with parents followed by a feasibility study.

Research Team: Triona Sweeney, Debbie Sell, Fran Hegarty & Mrya O’Regan

This research is funded by Cleft – bridging the gap and CLAPA Ireland.


Sweeney T, Sell D. Hegarty F. Parent Led Articulation Therapy in Cleft Palate Speech: A feasibility study.  Journal of Speech and Language Studies. In press.

Profiling outcomes across time.

We are developing an outcome measure that can be used by children, teachers, parents, and therapists to assess change after intervention on a number of different areas, including speech. We have piloted the first draft across the UK with a number of trusts and from those results, have developed the POAT-2, which is being piloted again.

Research Team: Vicky Joffe & Nabiah Sohail

The research is funded by Bercow pathfinder money & research sustainability funds from the School of Health Sciences at City, University of London

Promoting phonological awareness in a shared reading intervention.

This study is part of a wider, multi-centre project exploring language-boosting behaviours in shared book reading. In this specific study we are investigating the potential impact on phonological awareness of parents drawing attention to rhyme and alliteration as they read with their young children. The project is due to end in March 2018.

Research Lead: Anne Hesketh

This research is funded by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Speech processing in children born with cleft and its relationship to speech articulation at age 5.

This research aims to understand whether, in children born with cleft palate +/- cleft lip, there are relationships between speech processing skills and whether or not children have persistent cleft speech characteristics at the age of 5 years.

Research Team: Lucy Southby

This research is funded by HEE/NIHR ICA Doctoral Fellowship.


The effect of different feeding methods and non-nutritive sucking methods on child speech development.

This project is part of a clinical academic doctoral research award and will investigate the relationship between breastfeeding, bottle-feeding and dummy sucking and child speech development at age 5 years. The findings will be used to inform current AHP practice and support early identification of SSD in young children.

Research Team: Sam Burr

This research is funded by HEE/NIHR ICA Doctoral Fellowship.

More information about the study can be found on BSLTRU current research.

To Create and Test the Face Validity of a Practitioner Development Programme to Support Speech and Language Therapists Apply Evidence-based Practice in the Clinical Management of Children with Phonological Speech Sound Disorders.

Jill Titterington joined Ulster University as full-time lecturer in 2014. Her speciality in hearing impairment combined with over 28 years of clinical experience underpins her interest in speech sound disorders (SSD). Current SSD projects are investigating: intervention approaches and dosage for phonological difficulties; and teaching/learning of phonetics for SLT students.

Research Team: Natalie Hegarty, Jill Titterington, Laurence Taggart, Sharynne McLeod.

This research is funded by the Department for Employment and Learning.

Visualising Speech: Using Ultrasound Visual Biofeedback to Diagnoses and Treat Speech Disorders in Children with cleft lip and palate.

The principle aim of this project is to evaluate ultrasound tongue imaging as a diagnostic tool for cleft-type speech characteristics in children aged 3 to 15. We will additionally run a small single-subject design of ultrasound visual biofeedback therapy with a small number of children with cleft palate aged over 5.

Research Team: Joanne Cleland & Lisa Crampin.

This research was funded by Action Medical Research.

More information about this research can be found on the ISRCTN website.

The UltraPhonix Project: Ultrasound Visual Biofeedback for Speech Sound Disorders in Children.

This project is investigating whether ultrasound visual biofeedback (U-VBF) is an effective intervention for children with persistent speech sound disorder who have been unresponsive to traditional types of speech therapy.

Research Team: Joanne Cleland & Jim Scobbie.

This research is funded by Chief Scientist Office of Scotland.

Further information about thisproject can be viewed on the Queen Margaret University website.

Ultrax2020: ultrasound technology for optimising the diagnosis of Speech Disorders.

Ultrax2020 aims to develop a method for analysing ultrasound tongue images automatically, creating a speech assessment tool which is both more objective and quicker to use than current ultrasound analysis methods. The project will collect ultrasound speech assessment data from over 100 children with speech sound disorders.

Research Team: Steve Renals, Korin Richmond & Joanne Cleland.

This research is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Visualising Articulation: real-time ultrasound feedback vs. articulatory animations, and their use in treating speech sound disorders associated with cleft palate.

Research Team: Jim Scobbie.

This research is funded by Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

More information about this project can be viewed on the Queen Margaret University website.