Effect of dialect on identification and severity of speech sound disorder in Fijian children

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Abstract

Speech sound disorder (SSD), common in preschool and school-age children internationally, is recognised as a potential barrier to oral-language and literacy acquisition, and future social and academic success. Fiji is an island nation in the South Pacific with limited access to speech-language pathology services. In Fiji homes, Fijian and Fiji Hindi are spoken widely; however, at school, Fiji English is the dominant language. Given that Fiji English proficiency is aligned to academic success in Fiji, this study sought to investigate the incidence of SSD amongst Fijian children speaking different dialects of Fiji English and the impact of dialect on diagnostic decision-making. The study analysed Fiji English speech samples of 75 Fijian students (Year 1: n = 35, age range: 5;3–7;3; Year 4: n = 40, age range: 9;0–10;5). Descriptive and non-parametric statistical analysis were conducted to determine patterns of speech sound errors and the impact of conducting relational analysis with an external standard dialect on the identification of SSD. Some Fijian children presented with SSD in Fiji English upon and beyond school entry. However, the impact of dialect on diagnostic decision-making was significant. When Fiji English dialects were the target, instead of Australian English, mean percentage of consonants correct increased 10.20% and 24/26 students initially identified with SSD were reclassified. Speech-language pathologists and other communication specialists need to consider children’s dialect for valid identification of SSD in Fijian children who speak different dialects of Fiji English.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSpeech, Language and Hearing
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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