Australian pre-schoolers are being taught how to speak using special software – developed in BRISTOL.
The innovative piece of software, A Sound Start, is being used to help young children develop speech and language skills in isolated areas of New South Wales, because there is a lack of specialist teachers.
Bristol Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit, operated by the University of the West of England and Frenchay Hospital, have entered into a partnership with two Australian universities to create the software, which boosts language skills for three and four-year-olds.
Software development was led by Professor Sue Roulstone from UWE, and teams from Charles Sturt University and the University of Sydney are working on the project down under.
Professor Sharynne McLeod, from the University of Sydney, is leading the trial for at-risk youngsters.
She said: “One in five Australian pre-schoolers have speech impairment and without specialist services face an increased risk of reading difficulties and life-long consequences.
“Given that demand for services exceeds supply, this project will determine if a pre-school computer-based service can promote speech development and reduce the risk of reading difficulty.”
The software consists of a screening tool to isolate possible speech impairments, like a stutter or a lisp, and a set of interactive games for increasing children’s awareness of sounds.
Learning about how sounds are formed has been shown in other studies to promote improvements in child speech development.
Now, the four universities have been jointly given a grant of £183,000 from the Australian government in a bid to make the software available for all under-5′s in Australia.
The project will start in January 2013 and will complete at the end of 2015.