Our research

Most of our research focuses on the development and standardisation of novel diagnostic assessment batteries to identify local children with speech, verbal/written language and auditory processing difficulties.

Other ongoing projects are related to fluency disorders; lexical skills in monolingual and bilingual young children; the development of a smart device for assessment and intervention with children having developmental language disorder; reading skills in individuals with Down Syndrome; assessment of written language difficulties including dyscalculia; reading comprehension intervention, otitis media in Maltese children; assessments for individuals with aphasia; exploring outcomes for individuals with aphasia; and perception of professionals and the general public regarding developmental language disorder.

We are involved in several ongoing COST Actions.

The Department is involved in a number of ongoing research projects:

Joseph Agius

The study looks at the relationship of gelotophobia (fear of being laughed at) and stuttering. Based on clinical observation people who stutter would score higher on a test on gelotophobia than a control group. The study analyses the presence and characteristics of gelototophobia in people who stutter and looks at differing perceptions of teasing and ridicule. The research would have clinical implications on developing and devising programmes for people who stutter.

Rachael Agius

The research seeks to develop a protocol for assessing aspects of literacy skills in Maltese children. Measures parallel to the UK and US assessments were constructed and administered on a representative sample of Maltese children showing typical and atypical literacy skills. Validity and reliability measures are taken into consideration in the standardisation of the novel test battery.

Nadine Calleja

The aim of this research study is to obtain normative data and standardize a behavioural test battery which assesses how sound travelling from the ear is then processed in the brain. A total of 200 children will be recruited (100 males and 100 females), aged between 7;0 and 9;0. The test battery for auditory processing will be administered to each participant. This includes dichotic speech tests, temporal and frequency patterning tests, nonword recognition and nonwords-in-noise tests.

Daniela Gatt

The aim of the study is to examine the impact of the pre-school language environment on Maltese children’s language learning mechanisms. The study investigates Maltese children’s lexical skills at the point of school entry, around the age of 36 months; this is the time when their linguistic environments undergo substantial restructuring. Results would provide reference measures for lexical development that may be employed by speech-language pathologists who provide a service to children embarking on sequential bilingualism. Findings would also shed light on the outcomes of language learning policies promoted at the pre-school level.

Helen Grech

Around 10% of children, with no other developmental problems, fail to acquire adequate speech and language skills by the time they begin school. It is therefore vital for speech and language pathologists to access to assessments which will accurately identify these children, allowing for timely intervention. No standardised tests of speech and language abilities currently exist in the Maltese language.

The aim of this study is to analyse speech and language samples from a large group of typically developing children living in Malta. Data were collected following the development of specific speech and language tests (funded by a previous FP6 MC –TOK -DEV grant). A novel feature of the data collected was that children were able to respond to test stimuli using either Maltese or English. The objectives of the study include the standardisation and publication of the 2 assessment batteries, one for speech (= ‘MESA’) and one for language (= ‘LAMC’), which each include four subtests with detailed manuals and standardisation information; comparison of performance of children with and without disordered speech using the MESA; establishment of the appropriateness of these tests for the bilingual situation in Malta and whether there are differences in monolingual and bilingual language development; and conducting an epidemiological study on developmental communication disorders using data collected in Malta.

Helen Grech & Daniela Gatt

COST Action IS0804 addresses language impairment in children who grow up in multilingual settings. Since typical bilingual development shares features with bilingual Specific Language Impairment, reaching a differential diagnosis of impaired language development in bilingual children may not be straightforward. Investigations that address this confound are therefore called for so that methodological and clinical confusion may be avoided. Through Action IS0804, a network of researchers is currently investigating the language and cognitive abilities of children brought up in various multilingual environments, so that identification, assessment and diagnosis of bilingual Specific Language Impairment may be facilitated.

Network for tuning standards & quality of educational programmes for speech language therapy in Europe (NetQues)