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Relationships between Speech and Language Features of Children with Developmental Dysarthria and Listener Effort

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  • This study described the expressive language characteristics of 12 children with dysarthria and cerebral palsy based on analysis of 50-utterance spontaneous speech samples. Children were between four and 12 years old and had receptive and expressive language ages of at least three years. Relationships between measures from the language analysis (mean length of utterance in morphemes - MLUm, number of different words - NDW, subordination index - SI, percent correct use of obligatory bound morphemes) and speaking rate, intelligibility (Test of Children’s Speech Plus – TOCS+ sentence measure) and listener-effort ratings for the spontaneous sample were also investigated. The children demonstrated a range of expressive language abilities. Eight had at least one expressive language measure (MLUm, NDW, SI) within normal limits compared to same-aged children with typical speech and language development. Contrary to what has been reported, most of the children marked obligatory morphemes with a high degree of accuracy. SI was the only language measure correlated significantly with intelligibility scores. Six participants used a slow rate of speech (< 2 syllables per second) (Shriberg, Kwiatkowski & Rasmussen, 1990). Speaking rate alone did not predict intelligibility scores or listener ratings of the amount of effort required to understand the children’s spontaneous utterances. Stepwise multiple regression analysis revealed that intelligible words per minute (IWPM), obtained from TOCS, was the only significant predictor of listener effort (adjusted R2 = 0.715; p< 0.0). SI did not contribute additional unique variance. This suggests that IWPM, a measure of speech efficiency based on the TOCS+ 80-word sentence imitation task, can estimate perceived relative effort needed to understand a dysarthric child’s spontaneous speech.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International