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 RESEARCH  THEME II
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 THEME II

SENSORY PROCESSES AND ENVIRONMENT

Project Abstracts

LEADERS(s) LOCATION

Bradley,John
john.bradley@nrc.ca

University of Ottawa
Speech Recognition in Classrooms

Abstract
This project will investigate children’s ability to understand speech in typical classroom situations. Currently available information suggests that excessive noise and inadequate room acoustics are very common problems and will impair children’s ability to understand spoken words in most classrooms. Because the majority of learning situations involve listening, the potential impact of excessive noise and poor room acoustics on educational development is enormous. The same factors are frequently found to lead to voice problems in teachers. The project will first assess speech and noise levels in a wide range of classrooms. It will also determine the levels of speech and noise, as well as the room acoustics conditions, which are required for children of various ages to fully understand spoken words. Finally, measurements of teacher’s vocal production will be made to identify possible effects of speech and noise levels on voice quality. The results will provide a more precise and more comprehensive assessment of speech communication problems for students and teachers in typical classrooms. They will be used to derive recommendations for the acoustical conditions that optimally support unstrained speech communication and that will avoid unnecessarily stringent and costly requirements based on speculations from partial results. It is expected that this improved definition of the requirements will benefit students and classrooms across Canada as well as provide a basis for many more detailed studies of the effects of noise and room acoustics on various types of learning situations.


LEADERS(s) LOCATION

Seewald,Richard
seewald@nca.uwo.ca

University of Western Ontario
Effective Intervention Through Amplification for Hearing Loss in Early Infancy

Abstract
Permanent hearing loss in childhood typically results in language delays, which in turn interfere with the normal development of literacy skills. Identification and intervention in infancy appears to reduce these language delays, particularly in centers where intervention is appropriate and parents are highly supportive. For most infants and young children with permanent hearing loss, hearing aids that amplify speech clearly and comfortably are an important intervention, along with parent counseling and auditory-verbal therapy. If the hearing aid is not appropriate or fitted inaccurately, lack of benefit or damage to residual auditory capacity can result. Presently, the selection of hearing aids for infants requires use of predictive measures of hearing sensitivity, and the use of an “educated guess” approach in choosing high-technology features of modern hearing aids. This project aims to develop and evaluate improved procedures for ensuring that appropriate amplification selections are made for infants. More specifically, the project will develop and evaluate an evidence based software-driven protocol for prescribing, selecting and evaluating hearing aids for infants.


LEADERS(s) LOCATION

Allen,Prudence
pallen@uwo.ca

University of Western Ontario
Impact of noise on academic skills and learning

Abstract
Children are typically asked to learn in rooms that exceed recommended noise levels. The impact of high noise levels on academic performance has not been well documented. In Phase I of this project, a series of studies will be conducted that will evaluate, using standardized psychometric measures, the effect of noise on the measurement of academic ability and achievement. Measures will be made both in quiet and in noise on each child. Abilities to be evaluated will include reading readiness, vocabulary, spelling, arithmetic, silent and oral reading comprehension, and oral reading rate, and accuracy. Childrens perceived difficulty working in noise may be an important factor in their attitudes toward learning and independent reading in the classroom. Interviews will therefore be conducted at the end of test sessions to assess childrens perception of working in both situations. Phase II of the research will evaluate the effect of noise on learning potential. Dynamic assessment techniques will be used in which a childs capacity to learn is evaluated through structured assistance. These studies will suggest how noise impacts on the measurement of current skill levels and the learning of new skills, both of which have implications for long term achievement.


LEADERS(s) LOCATION

Jamieson,Don
jamieson@nca.uwo.ca

University of Western Ontario
Technically-Supported Auditory Verbal Therapy

Abstract
Early identification of hearing loss and effective, early intervention are important determinants of children’s acquisition of spoken language, and predictors of subsequent literacy levels and academic achievement. Following the selection of an appropriate assistive device (ALD), the key intervention is the provision of auditory-verbal therapy (AVT) to assist the child to make maximum use of sound provided by their ALD. This project will acquire, synthesize and apply available knowledge about spoken language development by hearing-impaired children who have been provided with a hearing aid or cochlear implant and about ways to facilitate such development through the provision of AVT. A key component will be the implementation and evaluation of computer-based therapy, in the child’s home, as a supplement to ongoing clinic-or school-based AVT.


LEADERS(s) LOCATION

Durieux-Smith,Andree
adurieux@uottawa.ca

University of Ottawa
The impact of screening and case finding on the functional status of children with a hearing impairment

Abstract
Significant bilateral hearing loss is present in 1 to 6 per 1000 newborns and is one of the most disabling conditions present at birth. Undetected hearing loss in early childhood can significantly compromise the development of speech, language and literacy, all of which affect later academic performance and psycho-social skills. Many children with a significant hearing loss can develop age-appropriate speech and language skills and become fully integrated in the regular school system if they are identified early, fit with amplification devices and provided with evidence-based intervention programs. In a recent landmark study, Yoshinaga-Itano, et al., 1998, found that children whose hearing losses were identified by six months of age and who were provided with appropriate intervention were reported to have developed language skills within the normal range of early childhood development. Children identified after six months of age had significantly lower scores. The results of this study imply that early identification and intervention may lead to savings in the provision of educational and remedial services once the child reaches school age. One approach that is being used to identify hearing loss early in children is the systematic screening of all newborns. With the beginning of early identification programs in Ontario and Alberta, there will be a significant number of children who will have been identified with hearing loss through systematic screening. Children from other provinces, without screening programs, will still be identified through traditional medical referral routes. The investigation of the functional status of children identified through both routes will provide scientific evidence to guide the establishment of early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI) programs in other provinces and territories. In addition, there is a need to evaluate the efficacy and economic significance of Canadian EHDI programs and to examine the value of implementing these programs on a national scale.The objectives of this research program are to evaluate the impact of EHDI on the functional status of children with a hearing impairment; and to develop a framework for the economic evaluation of EHDI programs, which would include costs associated with case finding and rehabilitation, and specific outcomes in the areas of communication, social development and academic placement.


LEADERS(s) LOCATION

Eriks-Brophy,Alice
abrophy@uottawa.ca

University of Ottawa
A longitudinal study on the language, literacy and academic development of preschool children with hearing loss who participate in Auditory-Verbal Therapy

Abstract
The development of language and literacy is critical to active participation in society. Those individuals who do not attain such skills may be at risk for a number of negative consequences, including educational and occupational underachievement and social isolation. The purpose of this research is to examine a group of children who are at substantial risk for difficulties in the acquisition of language and literacy skills due to a permanent hearing loss. The proposed research is a longitudinal study of the language, literacy, socio-emotional, and academic development of children with permanent bilateral hearing loss enrolled in an auditory verbal therapy (AVT) program. The goal of AVT is the development of spoken language and the integration of children with hearing loss in the regular school system when possible. However, objective, empirical examinations of the long-term outcomes and effectiveness of AVT are currently lacking in the literature. In addition, prospective research investigating the acquisition of language and literacy in these children is sorely needed. In this study, a broad sample of children who represent diverse family and cultural backgrounds, degrees of hearing loss, and amplification technology will be assessed. Development will be measured in a variety of domains including speech perception and production, expressive and receptive language, cognitive ability, social functioning, pre-literacy skills including phonological awareness, reading and other aspects of academic achievement, as well as parental functioning and involvement. Analyses examining the development of language and literacy in the subgroup of children with cochlear implants will also be conducted. The question of the impact of age of diagnosis on language and literacy development will be explored through a complimentary study involving the same pool of children at a younger age. A better understanding of the acquisition of language and literacy in children with hearing loss has implications for our understanding of processes underlying normal acquisition of these abilities in children more generally. This knowledge also has implications for the understanding and development of interventions to enhance the acquisition of language and literacy in children with hearing loss and other disabilities.


LEADERS(s) LOCATION

Allen,Prudence
pallen@uwo.ca

University of Western Ontario
Individual Differences in auditory processing abilities: Implications for identification and treatment of disorders

Abstract
A child’s ability to not only hear sounds, but to understand what is heard, is important to their academic and social development. Unfortunately, many children who have clinically normal peripheral hearing never tell us they have difficulty understanding sounds. Such children are often diagnosed as having a central auditory processing disorder. Some children who are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder also report difficulties in auditory processing. The proposed research will study auditory processing in children with suspected difficulties. The goal will be to improve the audiologic assessment of children with processing difficulties so that better, more individualized treatment programs can be developed.


LEADERS(s) LOCATION

Bobier,William R.
wbobier@uwaterloo.ca

University of Waterloo
Vision Screening In Preschool Children

Abstract
Vision screening is well over a century old yet its efficacy remains unclear. Originally, screening targeted school-aged children and mostly represented tests of visual acuity (i.e. how well does the child see). However, over time screening has shifted to pre-school children. This shift reflects the fact that in the western world at least, the most common vision problems in infants and children are those of strabismus (turned eye) and amblyopia (lazy eye). Large refractive errors of a number of forms, hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (unequal focus within the eye) and anisometropia (unequal focus between the two eyes) can serve as precursors to strabismus and /or amblyopia. In theory, vision screening is a supportable activity in that the conditions are significant (3 to 5% of the population) and treatment is readily available in primary eye care for refractive errors and amblyopia. Pre-school vision screening in western countries are often conducted using subjective tests of visual acuity which detects refractive errors and amblyopia and stereo-acuity (depth perception) and which checks for strabismus. Researchers have shown however, that visual acuity has limitations in vision screening pre-school children. Its sensitivity (ability to detect a problem vs. missing it) is low and not readily corrected by varying the cut-off levels. In addition, pre-school children show an age effect in their performance where the younger child is more likely to be over-referred. In the current climate of fiscal conservatism, such findings can allow governments to withdraw vision screening on the basis that it is not effective. However such conclusions miss the point. What is needed are better methods that directly and objectively test for refractive errors and strabismus and thereby detect the precursors to amblyopia. The problem is not with the idea of vision screening but rather with the methods. In fact studies do show that the prevalence of vision problems is reduced when early vision screening programmes are in place.Therefore the objectives of this research program are to develop instrument designs that will provide accurate measures of hyperopia in children and to measure the validity of a pre-school screening program using objective instrumentation.


Last Modified: January 23 2002 17:56:45.

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