Clear spoken language model promotes language learning in children with cochlear implants

According to recent doctoral study, slow, prosodically emphasised and stressed spoken language help children with cochlear implants in language learning. Also the involvement of parents in speech therapy is important.

"To promote the child’s spoken language skills, it is important to provide them with clear model of spoken language. That can be done by slowing down speech tempo, using variations in intonation and stressing of key words," says speech therapist Riitta Ronkainen, who in her doctoral dissertation analysed the professional practices and interaction during speech and language therapy sessions of children with severe hearing loss who have cochlear implants.

Cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf and thus enables them to hear and communicate through speech.

Ronkainen’s research data consisted of video recordings from speech and language therapy sessions, totalling approximately 36 hours and included different play and task interactions to support children’s listening and imitation skills and language learning.

"In my dissertation, I examined the speech and language therapy interaction and the therapist's professional practices using conversation analysis methodology," Ronkainen says.

The results suggest that the speech and language therapist supports the language learning by systematically stressing and repeating the key words and using multimodal elements such as gestures, signs and body movements.

In some of the analysed interactions, also the parents of the children were involved.

"One important observation was that by participating in the speech and language therapy sessions the parents can, through the therapist’s example, learn practices that can be used to support the language learning of their children," Ronkainen says.

Riitta Ronkainen will defend the doctoral dissertation entitled "Promoting the spoken language learning of children with cochlear implants - A conversation analytic study on speech and language therapy interaction" in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, on 16 June 2017 at 12:00. The public examination will take place at the following address: Biomedicum 1, lecture hall 2, Haartmaninkatu 8. The dissertation is also available in electronic form through the E-thesis service.

Contact information: Riitta Ronkainen,