Research projects

There are currently five research projects in the DISCO unit.
  • Multimodal Communicative Cues
  • New word learning in aphasia
  • Sing with the kid
  • Naming, verbal fluency and reading in school-aged children
  • Rehabilitation of Aided Interaction
Multimodal Communicative Cues

PhD, University lecturer Satu Saalasti

Description Human communication is inherently multimodal. When we communicate with others, we use both our hearing and vision (lipreading or speechreading) for perceiving communicative cues. Lipreading is an important means for speech perception when hearing is challenged because of impairment or background noise. However, there is substantial variation between individuals in lipreading skills. We have previously found that this is reflected in the underlying brain mechanisms, as lipreading naturalistic speech activates similar network of brain areas than listening and reading, but in a lesser extent due to limited lipreading skill.

Relatedly, there is a lack of reliable methods for estimating individual’s lipreading skill, and the current project aims to develop a digital test for this purpose. Furthermore, lipreading is challenging because some sounds have similar lip shape, but different intraoral movements, which are not visible. However, novel biofeedback methods, such as ultrasound, provide means to visualize these intraoral speech movements, which may increase intervention efficacy.

The current project aims to develop intervention methods that build on ultrasound augmented visual feedback. Importantly, this project is involved in DELAD, a joint European initiative establishing a digital archive for sharing data related to disordered speech. The aim is to make these data available according to open science standards.

New word learning in aphasia

PhD, University lecturer Leena Tuomiranta

The research project started in 2018 in collaboration with three neurological rehabilitation units of Helsinki University Hospital. The project focuses on new word learning ability and cognitive-linguistic skills in post-stroke aphasia at two time points: at max. 3 months and at 12 months post-stroke.

The ability to learn is the basis for effective aphasia rehabilitation. New word learning has been studied to some extent in chronic aphasia but not in people with more acute aphasia. The objectives of this project are to explore word acquisition in acute, sub-acute and chronic aphasia with a task resembling natural language learning contexts and study the association between learning ability, the cognitive-linguistic profile as measured with traditional aphasia tests as well as various background factors.

Sing with kid – role of singing and prosody for hearing and speech

PhD, University lecturer Ritva Torppa

Understanding how singing can improve language learning


Although singing is used to improve language learning, the detailed knowledge on the effects of singing is still lacking, especially for children with hearing impairments. Therefore, we address the links and effects of singing with children and by children themselves to language learning and underlying aspects, such as perception of pitch, rhythm and speech prosody. Our specific target is to understand the effects of singing for children with cochlear implants and hearing aids.

Research group

  • Seija Pekkala, PhD Adjunct Professor (Docent) in Speech-Language Pathology (Logopedics)
  • Elisabet Kaila, Senior Lecturer
  • Kaisla Parkkinen and Ilona Siltanen, Students in SpeechLanguage Pathology (Logopedics)
Naming, verbal fluency and reading in school-aged children (NISULUKO)

PhD, University lecturer Paula Salmi


Linguistic skills such as naming and word fluency have been found to be connected to reading skills and contribute to the development of reading and writing skills. It is important to identify language difficulties and reading difficulties early in order to provide the student with adequate and targeted support. More research data on reading difficulties and their underlying linguistic skills and research-based assessment tools are needed. Our specific target is to add knowledge of identification of language disorders and develop research-based language assessment tools for school-aged children.

Research group

  • Seija Pekkala, PhD Adjunct Professor (Docent) in Speech-Language Pathology (Logopedics)
  • Minna Laakso, professor in Speech-Language Pathology (Logopedics)
  • Matti Laine, professor in psychology (Åbo Akademi)
Rehabilitation of Aided Interaction

PhD, University lecturer Irina Savolainen

People who cannot express themselves through speech can benefit from various communication aids in their interactions. These aids range from paper-based books to technical communication devices utilizing speech synthesis. The conversations facilitated by such aids are referred to as aided interaction.

This research project assesses the influence of communication rehabilitation on the practices of children, youth, and their families, in engaging in aided interaction. Communication rehabilitation is administered through traditional speech therapy and the Reko (Relaxed Communication) intervention model that is developed in this project.

The research project involves children and youth using communication aids, their families, their speech and language therapists, and school/early childhood education professionals. 

Data collection occurs in three phases in 2021-2024. The collected data include surveys, video material from rehabilitation sessions, and everyday interaction situations. It will be analyzed using both statistical and qualitative methods.

On the one hand, this research enhances understanding of the mechanisms that support meaningful use of communication aids in everyday life, providing avenues for more meaningful communication rehabilitation for society and the individual. On the other hand, the methods used in Reko intervention, such as video observation and rehabilitation partnership, and the evaluation of these methods contribute to a broader understanding of the mechanisms of rehabilitation effectiveness.

Research Group

  • Kirsi Neuvonen, PhD, Logopedics
  • Marianna Hietaranta, student in Logopedics 
  • Kaisa Launonen, Docent, Logopedics