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Schölderle, Theresa; Haas, Elisabet; Baumeister, Stefanie and Ziegler, Wolfram (2021): Intelligibility, Articulation Rate, Fluency, and Communicative Efficiency in Typically Developing Children. In: Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, Vol. 64, No. 7: pp. 2575-2585

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Purpose: This article describes the developmental trajectories of four communication-related parameters (i.e., intelligibility, articulation rate, fluency, and communicative efficiency) in a cross-sectional study of typically developing children between 3 and 9 years. The four target parameters were related to auditory-perceptual parameters of speech function. Method: One hundred forty-four typically developing children (ages 3;0-9;11 [years;months];72 girls and 72 boys) participated. Speech samples were collected using the materials of the Bogenhausen Dysarthria Scales for Childhood Dysarthria, a German assessment tool for childhood dysarthria, and analyzed following established auditory-perceptual criteria on relevant speech functions. To assess intelligibility, naive listeners transcribed sentences repeated by the children. Articulation rate and fluency were measured by acoustic analyses;communicative efficiency was determined by multiplying the proportion of correctly transcribed syllables by speech rate. Results: Intelligibility showed a steep developmental trajectory, with the majority of children obtaining a proportion Articulation rate demonstrated a flatter trajectory, with high variability still within the older children. Disfluencies, on the contrary, occurred only in the youngest children. By definition, communicative efficiency shared the characteristics of intelligibility and rate curves. A principal component analysis revealed, among other findings, strong connections between intelligibility and articulation, as well as between communicative efficiency, articulation, and rate measures. Conclusions: While children speak intelligibly, in terms of the applied assessment, at a comparably young age, other communication-relevant parameters show a slower developmental progress. Knowledge on the typical development of communication-related parameters and on their complex relationships with functional speech variables is crucial for the clinical assessment of childhood dysarthria.

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