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Ultrasound may hold key to speech therapy

Scientists are developing a new treatment for children with speech sound disorders, which allows them to watch their own tongue move as they speak.

A three-year research project at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh will attempt to treat children by using ultrasound technology to show them the movements and shapes of their tongue inside the mouth. Currently, most therapy concentrates on auditory skills.

The new project is carried out in co-operation with speech technologists at Edinburgh University, who will work to improve the images, as children often struggle with the grainy pictures from traditional ultrasound.

"We can use our expertise to model the complex shapes of the tongue as it moves during speech, and translate this into a clear image of what the tongue is doing, paving the way for effective speech therapy," said Professor Steve Renals from the Centre for Speech Technology Research at Edinburgh University.

The scientists will also record the tongue movements of children with no speech disorders to assess the impact of the method.

Dr Joanne Cleland (pictured), speech therapist at QMU, said the method could be cheaper than current treatments, as there would be no additional costs following the purchase of the technology.

She and her colleagues have received pound;586,000 of funding for the three- year project, and are planning to start recruiting children for the research within the coming months. Eventually, the research could lead to a larger clinical trial, a crucial step if the method is to be introduced across the country.

Julia Belgutay, julia.belgutay@tes.co.uk.

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