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Using Computer Games to Mediate Caregiver-Child Communication: Initial
Results of Prosodic Control in Children with Dysarthria

Rupal Patel & Alexia Salata

The study of vocal control in children with motor speech impairments typically involves word/phrase repetition or picture naming/description tasks. Moreover, the child’s speech production abilities and the listener’s ability to decipher the intended message are often studied separately. The present study sought to establish a new methodology for studying caregiver-child communication in children with severe speech impairment. In particular, an interactive computer game was developed to elicit prosodically distinct vowel productions from children with severe dysarthria due to cerebral palsy and to measure caregiver accuracy in deciphering among their child’s productions. Although less accurate than caregivers of healthy children, caregivers of children with dysarthria were able to accurately classify their child’s vocalizations into at least two levels of the pitch and two levels of duration. Combinatoric control posed a greater problem. Identifying this limited set of vocal gestures may be a first step toward unleashing the child’s communicative potential. This presentation will include a discussion of the findings and an interactive demonstration of the experimental methodology in which we use computer games to mediate child-caregiver communication.

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