Edinburgh’s pioneering speech centre

FORMER Scotland and British and Irish Lions star Jason White visited Queen Margaret University (QMU) in Edinburgh to officially open a pioneering new speech centre for children and young people. In an intimate ceremony, Jason opened the new Wooden Spoon Speech Clinic, which will use ground-breaking technology to change the lives of youngsters with speech communication difficulties.

Thanks to a significant amount of money donated by Wooden Spoon Scotland, the speech and language therapists can now offer specialist Electropalatography (EPG) treatment to young people from up and down the country.

QMU speech clinic 2018

Edinburgh’s QMU speech clinic: The child can use EPG to literally see where they are going wrong with their speech.

EPG is a computer-based speech and language therapy technique, developed by experts at Queen Margaret University, which shows the contact the tongue is making with the roof of the mouth during speech.

The technique is used to assess disordered speech and correct errors. This helps children with severe and persistent speech disorders to develop more accurate speech sound production.

Queen Margaret’s Deputy Principal Richard Butt said: “The child can use EPG to literally see where they are going wrong with their speech. Rather than having to rely on their auditory skills where they just listen and repeat what their speech therapist says, the child can see for the first time what their tongue is doing inside their mouth. The visual feedback on the computer helps to show them exactly where their tongue is in comparison to where it should be positioned to achieve the correct speech sound.

“We are very grateful to Wooden Spoon for helping us invest in palates and the other technology that is needed for EPG. We know that improvement in speech communication can have a significant impact on people’s lives. As their speech becomes more easily understood, confidence can increase, they can integrate more in social and learning environments and their attainment can improve. In the longer term, our speech technology can have the ability to improve life chances for people who have had speech communication difficulties.”

Jason White added: “It is great to be here and find out about EPG and the brilliant work the staff are doing.

“Wooden Spoon Scotland does a great job helping people from all sorts of different backgrounds and to hear some of the testimonials of youngsters they have helped previously was amazing. We are particularly proud to support the launch of the Wooden Spoon Speech Clinic, which has evolved from QMU’s internationally recognised research in speech and language sciences.”

Changing people’s lives through pioneering speech technology

Lily Davidson, who is from Loanhead in Midlothian, was born deaf and had a cochlear implant fitted at three years old. While a cochlear implant cannot return hearing to normal, the impulses stimulate nerves that allow wearers to hear the sounds they make, which help speech. When she was ten, Lily started working with Dr Sara Wood, a therapist at QMU, shortly after having a second cochlear implant.

While she made good progress with traditional speech therapy, she still struggled to speak clearly and her family were concerned this could affect her social life and her future career prospects. Dr Wood began using EPG therapy with Lily to help improve her speech intelligibility. She had difficulty with specific speech sounds including the sound of the letter ‘L’. This was particularly important as it meant she had problems clearly pronouncing her own name.

Lily said: “I didn’t realise what I was doing wrong before but seeing the shapes my tongue made on a computer screen made it easy for me to learn how to change my words.”

Lily’s speech improved dramatically with EPG. Her mother, Carolyn, said: “Not only had the clarity of her words improved, she gained a huge boost to her confidence, especially when meeting new people. It helped her socially and academically and she was able to fulfil her ambition when she secured a place at Aberdeen University to study Law with European Studies.

Lily, who is now 22 years of age, explained: “I am often complimented on how well enunciated my speech is for an individual with hearing loss. My speech improvement has given me the confidence to speak in front of a wide variety of groups such as at Model United National conferences across the country, as well as oral assessments, advocacy assessments and group presentations as part of my degree. My success in using EPG has impacted in all areas of my life.”

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