Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder that results in reduced speech intelligibility and impacts functional participation for many children with cerebral palsy (CP) and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The speech characteristics associated with pediatric dysarthria vary widely across individuals, and interact with developmental factors in vocal tract structure, phonological knowledge, and speech motor control. Together, these factors result in diverse clinical speech presentations. Currently, no system exists for identifyin subtypes of pediatric dysarthria in a way that is designed for children, based on quantitative data of children's speech, and can be used to direct treatment. The proposed study aims to provide a foundation for developing a novel pediatric dysarthria classification system by identifying quantitatively-derived subgroups of children with different constellations of speech features, and investigating the effect of subgroups'speech patterns on intelligibility. In additio, the study will investigate characteristics of connected speech that indicate the presence of dysarthria in young children.
Specific Aim 1 will use acoustic and perceptual measurements of connected speech samples to differentiate 5-year-old children with dysarthria from children with age-appropriate speech errors, and identify speech measures that best predict the presence of dysarthria. We hypothesize that measures of connected speech reflecting motor control of speech subsystems (i.e., respiration, phonation, resonance, and articulation) will both differentiate children with dysarthria from typically-developing children, and can be used to predict the presence of dysarthria in young children.
Specific Aim 2 will use hierarchical cluster analysis to identify clusters of children with dysarthria who have distinct constellations of speec features. We hypothesize that identified clusters will reflect subgroups of children with different patterns of speech subsystem control, and that different constellations of speech features will have differential effects on intelligibility. This study has important implications for improving or theoretical understanding of pediatric dysarthria, and will potentially advance clinical practice b facilitating earlier diagnosis of dysarthria and directing development of intervention strategies that target predominant contributors to intelligibility deficits in subgroups of children.

Public Health Relevance

Pediatric dysarthria is a speech movement disorder that limits speech intelligibility and has a detrimental impact on quality of life for many children with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders, yet there is little evidence to guide treatment. This research will compare speech characteristics of 20, 5-year-old children with dysarthria from cerebral palsy to 20 typically-developing children of the same age, in order to isolate indicators of the disorder and to classify children with different constellations of dysarthric speech feature. Results of this research will form the foundation for a pediatric dysarthria classification system that can be used to guide development of intervention strategies tailored to maximize intelligible speech for children with different dysarthria profiles.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZDC1)
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Sklare, Dan
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University of Wisconsin Madison
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United States
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Allison, Kristen M; Hustad, Katherine C (2018) Acoustic Predictors of Pediatric Dysarthria in Cerebral Palsy. J Speech Lang Hear Res 61:462-478
Allison, Kristen M; Annear, Lucas; Policicchio, Marisa et al. (2017) Range and Precision of Formant Movement in Pediatric Dysarthria. J Speech Lang Hear Res 60:1864-1876