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Haas, Elisabet; Ziegler, Wolfram and Scholderle, Theresa (2022): Intelligibility, Speech Rate, and Communication Efficiency in Children With Neurological Conditions: A Longitudinal Study of Childhood Dysarthria. In: American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, Vol. 31, No. 4: pp. 1817-1835

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Purpose: This study aimed to describe communication-related parameters (i.e., intelligibility, speech rate, and communication efficiency) and their developmental courses in children with neurological conditions against the background of typical development. In addition, interrelations between the developmental courses of communication-related parameters and auditory-perceptual ratings related to speech subsystems were investigated. Method: Fourteen children with neurological conditions (CNC) and 14 typically developing children (CTD), matched for age and gender (four girls;5;1-8;4 [years;months] at first examination), were assessed at three points in time over an 18-month period. Speech samples were collected using the Bogenhausener Dysarthrie Skalen-Kindliche Dysarthrien (English: Bogenhausen Dysarthria Scales-Childhood Dysarthria), a German tool for the assessment of childhood dysarthria. To assess intelligibility, naive listeners transcribed audio samples of sentence repetitions of the children. Speech rate was measured by acoustic analyses, and communication efficiency was determined by multiplying the proportion of correctly transcribed syllables with speech rate. Age normalization was performed following a recently published approach. Results: On the group level, CNC had conspicuous raw and normalized scores for the three communication-related parameters and were more variable than the CTD group regarding their developmental courses. These differences were more pronounced for intelligibility than for speech rate. A strong relationship between communication-related and speech subsystems-related auditory-perceptual characteristics was apparent only between intelligibility and articulation/resonance. Conclusions: For the first time, age-normalized scores for communicationrelated parameters were reported in children with neurological disorders and put into a developmental context within the framework of a longitudinal study. Age-normalized intelligibility was more vulnerable to large developmental changes than speech rate and was best predicted by changes in articulation and resonance. Overall, this study may contribute to a more comprehensive and valid clinical assessment of childhood dysarthria and to a better understanding of its developmental dynamics.

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