Speech and language skills provide a child with the ability to express wants and needs, interact socially, and gain information about the complex world in which we live. A significant impairment in the development of speech and language has far reaching consequences for a child's long-term development including education and employment. Children with neuro-developmental disorders are at extremely high risk for developing speech and language disorders secondary to their primary condition. This project brings together researchers from the United States and South Africa to examine the patterns of language disorders in children with neuro-developmental disorders. Post-apartheid South Africa provides a unique setting for the study of this issue. It is a country where 11 national languages are immersed within a range of socio-economic contexts. This study will extend the knowledge related to speech and language delays in children with neuro-developmental disorders from different language backgrounds. Adaptation of assessment tools to this context must be informed by observation and rigorous information about the parent's perception of language development. This planning grant's aim is to develop measurement tools to identify speech and language delays in children with neuro-developmental disorders within specific language contexts so that appropriate behavioral interventions can be provided to the children. During the two planning grant years, we will conduct a cross-sectional pilot study to examine the speech and language delays in children age 3-8 years who come from the four predominant language groups (i.e., Afrikaans, English, Sotho, and Zulu) in northern South Africa. Given the substantial need to develop qualified behavioral investigators in South Africa, we will also provide training to develop expertise about measurement and research design. We expect to contribute to the long term goal of building sustainable capacity in behavioral research on speech and language delays at the University of Pretoria. Institutional partnerships between Pretoria and colleagues at hospitals and other universities are being developed to enhance participant recruitment and research training with respect to measurement design and methodology for neuro-developmental disorders.
This project has the potential to impact the international knowledge base about communication assessment research for children with neuro-developmental disorders and diverse language backgrounds. It will provide guidance to health care professionals who must evaluate the evidence base as they provide clinical intervention services to this population.