15. The phonological body – body movements to accompany linguistic development in deaf children

Beneficiary: Centre Comprendre et Parler, Belgium

The lack of robust and clearly specified phonological representations is often put forward to explain language delays and reading difficulties in children with hearing impairment. Speech therapists point out that vowel perception is still challenging even with a cochlear implant. 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 aim of the project is to develop research to better understand how LEM improves vowel perception in children with hearing impairment. Children with hearing impairment (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 unappropriate gestures. Pre- and post-intervention tests will assess auditory discrimination abilities of vowels and consonants embedded in pseudo- words 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 unappropriate gestures. The second aim of the project is 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 hearing impairment, in speech therapy or in noisy environments.

Supervisors: Brigitte Charlier and Chantal Ligny