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PhD Studentship in Personalised speech and language therapy for children with cerebral palsy using acoustic and phonological analytics

Population and Health Sciences Institute

About the Project

Number of awards

Start date and duration:
January 2021 for 3 years.

Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of motor disorder in childhood, affecting approximately two per thousand children. About 25% of children with cerebral palsy have the speech disorder dysarthria, which makes their speech sound weak, breathy, slow, slurred, low pitched and difficult to understand. Phase II trials of a therapy focused on generating a louder voice and controlling speech rate to enable accurate articulation is showing promise in improving children’s intelligibility. Children’s self-confidence and social participation also increased following the therapy; children talked more at home, in school and in their community. This PhD will test if personaliing the intervention according to the perceptual and acoustic characertistics of children’s speech before therapy may increase its efficiency.

You will be working with academic speech and language therapists, neurologists, and phoneticians at Newcastle University, whose work aims to better understand the neurophysiological impairments of cerebral palsy and develop effective interventions (Pennington and Basu), and to embed objective acoustic analysis in speech and language therapy delivery (Khattab). Computer scientists at the University of Sheffield (Cunningham and Siddarth) will advise on the use of computational models to analyse disordered speech. This unique collaboration will allow the measurement of objective changes in speech that may not yet be discerned reliably by ear within the programme and in outcome evaluation on completion of the programme. These changes will allow us, for the first time, to personalise therapy and potentially increase the efficiency of therapy for individuals with dysarthria. The candidate will advance the use of technology to measure speech, to inform diagnosis (of individual phenotype) and to gauge response to intervention in speech and language therapy.
You will be trained in the measurement and interpretation of detailed perceptual and acoustic data and on working with people with neurodisabilities in research. You will be expected to take advantage of the Graduate School’s training opportunities and the NIHR Newcastle Training School. You will also apply for an honorary contract with a local NHS Trust. The project will involve assessment and diagnosis and management of a small research caseload. There will be opportunities for newly qualified practitioners to acquire and demonstrate clinical competencies within the PhD.

Newcastle University (

Name of supervisor(s):
Dr Lindsay Pennington, Dr Anna Basu and Dr Ghada Khattab

Eligibility Criteria:
Ist or 2:1 degree in speech and language therapy; HCPC registration as Speech and Language Therapist. If your first language is not English you need an overall IELTS score of 7.0 (with at least 6.5 in all sub-skills) or equivalent language qualification. Non-UK candidates should contact regarding eligibility and fees.

How to apply:
You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system ( by creating an account. To do this please select ‘How to Apply’ and choose the ‘Apply now’ button.
All relevant fields should be completed, but fields marked with a red asterisk must to be completed. The following information will help us to process your application. You will need to:
• click on programme of study
• insert 8300F in the programme code section and click search
• select Programme name ‘PhD in the Faculty of Medical Sciences (full time) – Speech Sciences’
• insert PH004 in the studentship/partnership reference field
• attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, a brief proposal of your research project including likely methods to be used. Please quote reference code PH004 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project you propose
• attach degree transcripts* and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualification.
*You will not be able to submit your application until you have submitted your degree transcript/s

Dr Lindsay Pennington

Funding Notes

100% of UK/EU tuition fees paid and annual living expenses at UK RI rate. Successful non-EU international students will be required to make up the difference between the UK/EU fees and international fees. A research training support grant of £5000 per year is available to cover research costs and local, national and international travel (conferences and exchanges).

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