Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Interview with Dr. Aravind Namasivayam

CASANA has awarded an Apraxia Treatment Research Grant to Dr. Aravind Namasivayam of the Speech and Stuttering Institute in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for his proposal, “Exploring the Relationship Between Treatment Intensity and Treatment Outcomes for Children with Apraxia of Speech.” Other co-investigators on this grant include Ben Maasen, Ph.D. of the University of Groningen, Netherlands; Pascal van Lieshout, Ph.D. of the University of Toronto; and Margit Pukonen, M.H.Sc. of the Speech and Stuttering Institute.  We interviewed Dr. Namasivayam about the grant project and that interview is below.

CASANA:  Why do you feel this study is important?

Dr. Namasivayam: There are a number of factors that may contribute to treatment outcomes in children with Apraxia of Speech (CAS) ranging from frequency, intensity and type of practice sessions to amount of home practice, parental involvement/participation parental skill and treatment fidelity, yet there is little empirical data regarding how these factors actually contribute to treatment effectiveness. The present large scale multi-centre study is the first of its kind to investigate:
 a) the magnitude of treatment effects,
(b) the relationship between treatment intensity and outcome measures and
(c) to identify the key factors that contribute to treatment effectiveness of motor speech treatment for this population.

For example, at the present time we do not know if the intensity of treatment (1x versus 2x a week) plays a role in determining the magnitude of treatment effects when controlled for treatment duration (10 weeks), or what are the effects of parental training and home practice on speech intelligibility and functional communication. Having this information will help us refine and guide clinical practice (e.g. service delivery models for this population).

CASANA:  In what ways do you anticipate the study being most successful?

Dr. Namasivayam:  We feel that the study will contribute significantly to the understanding of how the service delivery models (e.g. treatment intensity) affect treatment outcomes in CAS. This information could then be used to justify treatment schedule changes and funding allocation for treatment of this population. Also, findings of the study will yield important information relating to the impact of parental training and home practice on treatment success. This information can be discussed with parents to motivate and increase their participation in the therapy process. Finally, information on magnitude of treatment effects for outcome measures related to speech intelligibility and functional communication is limited for this population. Knowing magnitude of treatment effects is important for two reasons: (a) it can be used to set appropriate levels of clinician and parental expectations prior to treatment, and (b) it allows for planning of future studies in terms of study design and sample size.

CASANA:  What are the biggest challenges you will face with this study?

Dr. Namasivayam:  The biggest challenge as with any large scale multi-centre study is to limit inter-clinician and inter-clinic variability and make treatment replicable. We have taken a number of steps to ensure both quality and quantity of treatment is delivered as intended. For example, all clinicians prior to participating in the study were given a structured 30 page manual, had to attend 2 rigorous multi-day workshops on assessment and treatment of children with motor speech disorders, had to complete 2 online video based assignments, and pilot the treatment protocol as a case study in their own clinics. These procedures were developed to allow us to maintain a high degree of treatment fidelity across clinicians and clinics. Additional challenges include getting ethics approvals from a large number of centers and hospitals within a short period of time, and finding sufficient assistance and financial resources to meet project timelines.

CASANA:  When this study is successfully completed, what future research do you expect?

Dr. Namasivayam:  We hope to continue several lines of research based on the factors that may contribute to treatment outcomes in children. For example, we would like to investigate how a clinician’s skill level and training may affect treatment outcomes or how a clinician’s accuracy, timing, and type of cueing in treatment alters treatment outcomes for CAS. These are critical follow-up questions to this project.

CASANA:  What are your thoughts on CASANA's Apraxia Treatment Grant Program?

Dr. Namasivayam:  Through it's research program, CASANA is fostering exciting research that will help us develop a deeper understanding of CAS and how to treat the disorder more effectively. Our research team would like to extend our sincere thanks to CASANA for providing us with the opportunity to contribute to this cause.

It is expected that about 200 children with motor speech issues will be participating in this study, with a significant portion of them displaying signs and symptoms of CAS as defined in the 2007 ASHA technical report. Without the financial help of CASANA we would not be able to identify, analyze, and report on data relating to treatment effects in this subpopulation of CAS within the larger motor speech research study.

We hope that the study will provide concrete information on the impact of service delivery models (e.g. treatment intensity), parental training and home practice and magnitude of treatment success. Based on the findings of our study, we would be better able to justify changes to service delivery models and funding allocation for treatment, and to motivate and increase parental participation in the therapy process, allowing clinicians to develop appropriate levels of parental expectations and finally, to permit future researchers to plan appropriate study designs and estimate sample sizes. In this manner we feel that the proposed study directly relates to the mission statement of CASANA: “To strengthen the support systems in the lives of children with apraxia, so that each child has their best opportunity to develop speech”.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Is the iPad Worth It?

By Kim Singleton, M.S., CCC-SLP

Are you considering an iPad for your family with an eye on the benefits for your child with apraxia? Do you have an iPad and are not sure how to maximize its positive effects? How can you justify spending the bucks on such a cool toy for your family or school? The iPad provides an accessible, portable, dynamic and exciting playground for children with apraxia. In fact, this technology has benefits that other technologies and therapy activities lack. The iPad’s small size and weight (1.3 lbs.,) touch screen, fast load time, numerous applications and high quality audio recording capabilities merge to have a potentially huge impact on communication success.

As we know, children with apraxia have some common characteristics. For example, they benefit from opportunities to practice target sound sequences frequently. Our children do best when their experiences alternate between high and low communication demands. Accurate and supportive feedback speeds up speech learning. Children with apraxia benefit from feeling our cues as well as hearing and seeing cues to encourage understandable speech. Thoughtful use of the iPad can address these distinctive needs and be part of a solution to help our children reach their potential.

Does your child hate to practice speech sequences over and over? Often, this repetitive practice is hard work, with no intrinsic communicative value and children resist. With a motivating ‘app’ and quickly alternating turns, the iPad can encourage your child to practice, practice, and practice without distress.

With the iPad you can easily switch between activities with little time or preparation. This feature allows the users to rotate between activities with ease. It is easy to switch from verbal to nonverbal activities, alternating the communication demands. By using proficient skills, practicing emerging skills and learning new skills alternatively, our child with apraxia is anchored in success while risking more difficult sound sequences.

The iPad can provide feedback and cues to our child. Some apps cheer, clap or even groan! With the iPad’s built-in microphone and speakers, children can hear and compare their own sound productions with that of a stable auditory model. And it sounds fabulous! With the vast number of applications available, the iPad can provide visual cues that are motivating and high quality. With some practice [and a sturdy hand], the adult can incorporate tactile and kinesthetic cues while sharing an iPad activity.

Still not sure about the iPad? Then consider the iPod Touch. It is less than half the price and very light weight [.2 lbs]. Its size can make sharing an experience a bit more difficult but certainly worth considering. One last note, I have no investment, financial or otherwise, in Apple or any of its subsidiaries!

[View Kim using an iPad in therapy for a child with apraxia of speech]

[Kim Singleton, M.S., CCC-SLP has extensive experience serving children and adults with complicated communication challenges. She specializes in providing treatment to individuals with autism spectrum disorders, childhood apraxia of speech, and clients using augmentative and alternative communication systems. She serves individuals through her private practices in the Philadelphia and upstate South Carolina areas. For more information on Kim, please visit her website at http://www.kimsingleton.com]