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. Prosody is an important component in everyday communication and is essential for social communication. 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 is expressed through variations in loudness, vocal pitch (intonation) and relative syllable-length. 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.