It is well recognized that auditory access to the speech range is crucial for the development of speech production. The ability to hear speech sounds and to discriminate between sounds is necessary for articulation development. Children who are deaf do not have this auditory access and therefore do not develop speech in the same manner as that of a child with typical hearing. Children who are deaf must rely primarily on visual cues such as lip reading to develop articulation. A study by A. C. Margolis (2001) The Implications of Pre-lingual Deafness, The Lancet, states “despite being fitted with hearing aids or provided with oral instruction and speech therapy at a young age, pre-lingually deaf children are unlikely to ever develop perfect speech and speech-reception skills”.
New technology that includes digital hearing aids and cochlear implants is now able to provide individuals with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss access to the speech range. When children receive this access during the sensitive period of speech and language development, generally described as under the age of three and possibly up to age six, they have the potential to develop highly intelligible speech to speech that is comparable to hearing peers.
With the advent of cochlear implants, young children and older individuals with profound hearing loss are now being enabled to hear sound for the first time. A number of studies have been done with post- cochlear implant subjects to measure and find the best strategies for significantly improving speech production skills. Much of the studies has focused on imparting phonemic awareness as the key to speech remediation and clear articulation.
Speech-language pathologists who have encountered the UniSkript alphabet, and it’s multi-sensory approach to reading and writing, have hypothesized that UniSkript may be an extremely effective tool for post-cochlear implant articulation remediation. UniSkript uniquely brings a kinesthetic component to the process of working with articulation issues. Each letter of the UniSkript alphabet is iconic of the organs of speech. As such, the letters actually instruct the learner how to use their articulators along with speech features to produce the correct sounds. UniSkript is so precise that it can actually represent accent in the articulation process.
A date is yet to be set to begin clinical studies, but once funding is in place, UniSkript Research and Literacy Institute will be creating a team of researchers and clinicians to test UniSkript as a primary component of Post-Cochlear Implant Articulation Therapy.