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Investigating the psycholinguistic correlates of speechreading in preschool age children

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Davies, R., Kidd, E., & Lander, K. (2009). Investigating the psycholinguistic correlates of speechreading in preschool age children. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 44(2), 164-174. doi:10.1080/13682820801997189.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002E-2344-8
Background: Previous research has found that newborn infants can match phonetic information in the lips and voice from as young as ten weeks old. There is evidence that access to visual speech is necessary for normal speech development. Although we have an understanding of this early sensitivity, very little research has investigated older children's ability to speechread whole words. Aims: The aim of this study was to identify aspects of preschool children's linguistic knowledge and processing ability that may contribute to speechreading ability. We predicted a significant correlation between receptive vocabulary and speechreading, as well as phonological working memory to be a predictor of speechreading performance. Methods & Procedures: Seventy-six children (n = 76) aged between 2;10 and 4;11 years participated. Children were given three pictures and were asked to point to the picture that they thought that the experimenter had silently mouthed (ten trials). Receptive vocabulary and phonological working memory were also assessed. The results were analysed using Pearson correlations and multiple regressions. Outcomes & Results: The results demonstrated that the children could speechread at a rate greater than chance. Pearson correlations revealed significant, positive correlations between receptive vocabulary and speechreading score, phonological error rate and age. Further correlations revealed significant, positive relationships between The Children's Test of Non-Word Repetition (CNRep) and speechreading score, phonological error rate and age. Multiple regression analyses showed that receptive vocabulary best predicts speechreading ability over and above phonological working memory. Conclusions & Implications: The results suggest that preschool children are capable of speechreading, and that this ability is related to vocabulary size. This suggests that children aged between 2;10 and 4;11 are sensitive to visual information in the form of audio-visual mappings. We suggest that current and future therapies are correct to include visual feedback as a therapeutic tool; however, future research needs to be conducted in order to elucidate further the role of speechreading in development.