Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders



Distinct developmental profiles in typical speech acquisition

Date of this Version



Journal of Neurophysiology May 15, 2012 107:2885-2900; published ahead of print February 22, 2012, doi:10.1152/jn.00337.2010


Copyright © 2012 the American Physiological Society

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Three- to five-year-old children produce speech that is characterized by a high level of variability within and across individuals. This variability, which is manifest in speech movements, acoustics, and overt behaviors, can be input to subgroup discovery methods to identify cohesive subgroups of speakers or to reveal distinct developmental pathways or profiles. This investigation characterized three distinct groups of typically developing children and provided normative benchmarks for speech development. These speech development profiles, identified among 63 typically developing preschool-aged speakers (ages 36–59 mo), were derived from the children's performance on multiple measures. These profiles were obtained by submitting to a k-means cluster analysis of 72 measures that composed three levels of speech analysis: behavioral (e.g., task accuracy, percentage of consonants correct), acoustic (e.g., syllable duration, syllable stress), and kinematic (e.g., variability of movements of the upper lip, lower lip, and jaw). Two of the discovered group profiles were distinguished by measures of variability but not by phonemic accuracy; the third group of children was characterized by their relatively low phonemic accuracy but not by an increase in measures of variability. Analyses revealed that of the original 72 measures, 8 key measures were sufficient to best distinguish the 3 profile groups.