Although speech and language are essential life skills, one important aspect of communication - prosody - has not been adequately investigated in children with spina bifida hydrocephalus. This is a gap in the knowledge of speech and language therapists. Prosody is an important component in everyday communication and can be considered a social communication skill. It adds to the verbal messages by conveying information on the speaker’s attitude, mood, and emotion (i.e. tone of voice). “It’s not what you say, but the way that you say it” summarises the meaning carried through prosody.
Prosody includes variations in loudness, pitch (intonation) and rate of speech. Speech melody, rhythm and tone of voice also come under the term prosody. Prosody can indicate whether a conversational turn has ended and distinguishes between utterance types (e.g. question, statement, or request). Prosody also shows where new information is in an utterance by stressing or emphasising a certain sound, syllable or word (e.g. “It’s a blue CAR” versus “It’s a BLUE car”).
This study aims to investigate the ability of children with spina bifida and typically developing children in understanding and using prosody in communication; and the relationship between prosodic skills and language skills in children.
The findings of this project will inform best practice in speech and language therapy services, which could potentially lead to better long-term outcomes related to communication, such as independence, employment, post-secondary education and socialisation for people with spina bifida.