Computerized Classification of Child Speech Disorders

  • Young research participant works with computer program on speech testing
  • Speech program aimed at helping diagnose young patients
  • Computer programs being tested for helping identify speech and language disorders

Project Overview

One of the main tasks for speech-language pathologists is to determine the type of speech problem a child has. In some cases, children have difficulty moving their articulators accurately and precisely to produce clear speech. In other cases, a child lacks knowledge of the rules for combining speech sounds into intelligible words. 

One goal of this project is to test the accuracy of a recently developed automated computer software program for diagnosing speech sound disorders in young children. This program analyzes the acoustic quality of a child’s speech and predicts what type of disorder the child displays.

The second goal of the project is to employ eye-tracking technology to examine whether young children can perceive differences among speech sounds. For some children, the inability to distinguish differences between sounds may be the cause of their speech sound difficulties. Through presentation of pictures that differ by only one sound (for example, “pan” and “fan”), we hope to determine whether children are able to perceive (by hearing) the difference between these word pairs. Eye tracking is particularly beneficial when studying special populations, including children and individuals with disabilities. No behavioral response is required, eliminating the need for direct responses such as pointing.

Stage of Development

We are currently collecting data from young children that will be used to test the reliability and validity of the computerized classification system. This project is funded in part by a grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. 

Development Team

Computerized Classification of Child Speech Disorders is a collaboration among the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, the Callier Center for Communication Disorders and researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The team of researchers includes: 

Thomas Campbell, PhD

Campbell is the Sara T. Martineau Professor in Communication Disorders in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. He holds the Ludwig Michael Executive Directorship of the Callier Center for Communication Disorders. His research interests focus on early predictors of speech and language disorders in children as well as the identification of speech-motor and environmental variables that are associated with the recovery of communication skills after acquired neurological injury in childhood.

Jenny McGlothlin, MS

McGlothlin has a master's degree in speech-language pathology and has worked as a speech therapist and clinical supervisor for the last 12 years. Her clinical work focuses on evaluation and treatment of children with feeding and speech disorders, specifically those disorders with a motor component. Research interests include differential diagnosis of motor speech disorders in children, as well as development of innovative diagnostic and treatment methods.

Melissa Sherman, MS

Sherman is a Doctoral Student in Communication Sciences and Disorders. She has a master's degree in speech-language pathology and cognitive science. Her research interests include the contribution of a child's vocabulary to learning new words, within the phonological, or sound, domain.