Intra-European Fellowship for Communication Therapy
Dr Helen Grech, Co-ordinator of the Communication Therapy Division, has been awarded an Intra-European Fellowships (IEF) by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme on Research, Technological Development and Demonstration. The Fellowship will enable Dr Grech to carry out research on “Communication Disorders in the Maltese Child Population”.
Research on English-speaking populations suggests that approximately 10% of all children have difficulties acquiring speech and/or language in the absence of sensory, cognitive or neurological impairments. Children with impaired communication are at risk of disadvantage socially and academically (particularly for literacy) if not identified and provided with appropriate intervention. The primary purpose of the research to be carried out is to provide standardized speech and language assessments that can identify Maltese children who have speech and language disorder.
The results will have implications for education, speech-language pathology, psychology and linguistics. For education, teachers in Malta currently have little information about the language competence of typically developing children at school entry. The study’s results will allow curriculum modification to better suit children’s competence and improve learning outcomes. Speech language pathologists currently have no normative data on the rate and course of language development in Maltese, making choice of intervention targets difficult. Educational psychologists’ assessment of verbal cognitive ability is hampered by the dearth of information on Maltese language development.
This research will contribute to European excellence and competitiveness in that it addresses gaps in the knowledge base concerned with language acquisition. It analyzes data from a large sample of children who are mostly brought up in a bilingual environment to varying degrees. The language learning context of Malta, where most people (including very young children) have some knowledge of two languages reflects emerging patterns of language use in the European Union, due to population shifts, where many people have some knowledge and functional use of at least two languages, although one language may be dominant. The results will inform theory about bilingualism by adding data from a language learning context that has not previously been studied.
24 May 2013