Topic 3.5 - The phonological body (ESR 15)

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Topic 3.5, The phonological body, will be hosted by the Centre Comprendre et Parler (Brussels, BE) and supervised by Brigitte Charlier and Chantal Ligny.

The lack of robust and clearly specified phonological representations is often put forward to explain language delays and reading difficulties in children with hearing impariment (HI). Speech therapists point out that vowel perception is still challenging even with a cochlear implant (CI). Vowels are important building blocks for function words acquisition and thereby for development of grammatical communication. The Langue en Mouvements® (LEM) is a dynamic approach grounded in body movements and phonetic rhythms to strengthen the phonological repertoires of children who have specific language and communication challenges (André-Faber, 2006). This method is daily used in many French-speaking rehabilitation centres, but rigorous scientific work regarding its impact on phonological abilities and speech perception is still lacking. The first task of the ESR will be to develop research to better understand how LEM improves vowel perception in children with HI. Children with HI (4-14 years old) will be trained for a period of 6 months, some vowels being trained with the appropriate gestures according to the LEM principles and other with unappropriated gestures. Pre- and post-intervention tests will assess auditory discrimination abilities of vowels and consonants embedded in pseudowords and presented in a playful context. The hypothesis is that pre/post-test differences will be larger for the vowels trained with the appropriate gestures than for those trained with unappropriated gestures. The second task of the ESR will be to examine the most efficient guidelines for parents and practitioners to support better speech perception with body and/or social adjustments, better interactions and dialogs with children with HI, in speech therapy or in noisy environments.

The outcomes of topic 3.5 will help to identify the impact of usually embedded factors in parental linguistic stimulation: body movement supporting speech perception, social interactions, and vocabulary development. This will lead to school and social guidelines for assessment, efficient communication, and support.

Part of the project will take place at ULB for the ESR to be enrolled for the PhD, and at CNRS-LPNC, Université Grenoble-Alpes. They will enable the ESR to gain expertise in speech perception assessment and evaluation of phonological representations accuracy in French-speaking children with HI. In parallel, the ESR will have the opportunity to engage young French-speaking CI participants in studies.

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