Arabic Fluency Assessment: Procedures for Assessing Stuttering in Arabic Preschool Children

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Saudi Digital Library
The primary aim of this thesis was to screen school-aged (4+) children for two separate types of fluency issues and to distinguish both groups from fluent children. The two fluency issues are Word-Finding Difficulty (WFD) and other speech disfluencies (primarily stuttering). The cohort examined consisted of children who spoke Arabic and English. We first designed a phonological assessment procedure that can equitably test Arabic and English children, called the Arabic English non-word repetition task (AEN_NWR). Riley’s Stuttering Severity Instrument (SSI) is the standard way of assessing fluency for speakers of English. There is no standardized version of SSI for Arabic speakers. Hence, we designed a scheme to measure disfluency symptoms in Arabic speech (Arabic fluency assessment). The scheme recognizes that Arabic and English differ at all language levels (lexically, phonologically and syntactically). After the children with WFD had been separated from those with stuttering, our second aim was to develop and deliver appropriate interventions for the different cohorts. Specifically, we aimed to develop treatments for the children with WFD using short procedures that are suitable for conducting in schools. Children who stutter are referred to SLTs to receive the appropriate type of intervention. To treat WFD, another set of non-word materials was designed to include phonemic patterns not used in the speaker’s native language that are required if that speaker uses another targeted language (e.g. phonemic patterns that occur in English, but not Arabic). The goal was to use these materials in an intervention to train phonemic sequences that are not used in the child’s additional language such as the phonemic patterns that occur in English, but not Arabic. The hypothesis is that a native Arabic speaker learning English would be expected to struggle on those phonotactic patterns not used in Arabic that are required for English. In addition to the screening and intervention protocols designed, self-report procedures are desirable to assess speech fluency when time for testing is limited. To that end, the last chapter discussed the importance of designing a fluency questionnaire that can assess fluency in the entire population of speakers. Together with the AEN_NWR, the brief self-report instrument forms a package of assessment procedures that facilitate screening of speech disfluencies in Arabic children (aged 4+) when they first enter school. The seven chapters, described in more detail below, together constitute a package that achieves the aims of identifying speech problems in children using Arabic and/or English and offering intervention to treat WFD.