Speech-Language Pathology and Oral Motor Control

Pascal van Lieshout and his colleagues aim to develop a better understanding of how people control their speech organs and what mechanism underlie normal and disordered coordination in adults and children. Part of his efforts is dedicated towards creating innovative tools to improve assessment of speech and voice problems.

Dr. Pascal van Lieshout holds a Canada Research Chair in the area of oral motor control across the lifespan. He has a broad range of interests, working with colleagues and students from a variety of disciplines, including psychology, engineering, linguistics and rehab sciences. One of his main interests relates to improving our understanding of oral motor function in patients with speech disorders, such as found in people who stutter or those with dysarthria and/or apraxia. The current standard of relying on perceptual indices has serious drawbacks when it comes to detecting and understanding the underlying mechanisms and sources of oromotor problems. In collaboration with Dr. Douglas Cheyne, Senior Scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children, he is working on the development of a unique novel technology to collect simultaneously data on brain activity and oro-motor behaviours to improve our understanding of the link between neural control systems and the resulting oral movements and coordination patterns in real time.

Dr. Van Lieshout is also collaborating with Aravind Namasivayam Ph.D. S-LP (C), a Research Scientist at the PROMPT Institute (Santa Fe, NM) and an Adjunct Faculty at the Department of Speech-Language Pathology. Together with their team and the support of the Speech and Stuttering Institute in Toronto they recently completed a large scale treatment effectiveness study funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (Ontario) and CASANA. The study is the first of its kind and represents the largest data set available to-date relating to the factors affecting treatment outcomes in children with speech sound disorders characterized by motor speech involvement (SSD-MSI), including those with childhood apraxia of speech. Data from the study led to new guidelines and formulation of the “Motor Speech Treatment Protocol” currently implemented by the provincial government for pre-school age children with speech sound disorders with motor speech involvement. The results from the study could be used to set appropriate levels of clinician and parental expectations prior to treatment and could potentially guide clinical practice (e.g. amount and possibly type of treatment required for this population). Currently, Dr. Namasivayam and Dr. Van Lieshout are collaborating on a randomized controlled trial funded by the PROMPT institute to evaluate the treatment efficacy of the PROMPT approach for children with SSD-MSI. The study will allow them to evaluate whether the PROMPT approach yields significant treatment effects that can be generalized across individuals in this population.