GUEST BLOG- Dr Elspeth McCartney, CATALISE: Identifying children with language disorder, and developing effective interventions


Developmental language disorder (DLD) is amongst the most commonly identified childhood disorders, affecting children’s social functioning and educational progress. International classification systems (WHO ICD 10/11 and DSM 5) list slightly different classification criteria, and there are differences in terminology between health and education services.

CATALISE is a multi-disciplinary, multi-national consortium of around 60 experts in education, paediatrics psychiatry, psychology and speech and language therapy (SLT) who undertook an online Delphi consensus-building collaboration. The first round, CATALISE 1, concentrated on identifying children who might benefit from specialist services (Bishop et al. 2016, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0168066.s002). Of all the papers published by Strathclyde authors in 2016, CATALISE 1 ranked in the top 50 based on the number of mentions in online sources, and in the top 5% of all research papers scored by Altmetric.

The second Delphi round, CATALISE 2, concentrates on terminology, and has just been accepted for a special issue of Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry to be published in September, 2017. The Early view is at JCCP

The School of Psychological Sciences and Health’s distinctive contribution to the project was based on two major research programmes – Kevin Durkin’s work (with Conti-Ramsden and others) tracking a cohort of children with a history of DLD through school and beyond, contributing information on language trajectories and outcomes, and a series of controlled language intervention trials by James Boyle and Elspeth McCartney which suggested that non-verbal IQ did not predict responsiveness to language intervention, and provided an efficacious language therapy. These programmes provided theoretical and empirical data relevant to the CATALISE questions of who might benefit from service, and terminology.

The language intervention trials created the Strathclyde Language Intervention Programme (SLIP), a manualised language intervention for primary-school age children with DLD developed by Elspeth McCartney with SLT research assistants, which proved effective when delivered individually or in small groups by SLTs or SLT assistants in school settings, and a language Support Model for Teachers, which helps classroom teachers organise and support this intervention. SLIP is described in Ch. 15 (pps. 451-486) of McCauley, Fey & Gillam (2016) Treatment of language disorders in children (2nd edition), Baltimore: Paul Brookes ISBN 978-1-59857-979-6 and the materials appear on the Strathclyde website (;


Research, Impact and the UK Parliament (RIUKP) – Glasgow

How much do you know about the opportunities that are available for academics to engage with Parliament? Realising how little she knew, one of our PhD students, Rebecca, recently attended a ‘Research, Impact and the UK Parliament’ training afternoon held at Glasgow University ( to find out more.


The afternoon began with a whistle stop tour of the role and duties of Government and Parliament, and the crucial differences between them. Simon Wakefield from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (, @ScotParl) also gave a short talk on academic research in the Scottish Government.

Following these introductory talks, members were split into three smaller breakout groups for three short talks. The first talk was from Dr Caroline Kenny, who presented on the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST;, @POST_UK) and her recent work analysing the REF 2014 impact case studies. This analysis considered 3 main questions: how are researchers engaging with Parliament, which areas of Parliament are being engaged with and which subject areas and institutions are engaging. Of the areas of Parliament engaged with, select committees were most commonly mentioned, followed by individual MPs or Peers. The next two talks received led on nicely from these findings, with the first covering effective ways in which to engage with UK Parliamentarians and the second covering the purpose of select committees and how to engage with them.

As well as writing to constituency MPs, simple ways to find MPs and Peers who have a particular interest in your area of research were outlined, including looking at members of All-Party Parliamentary Groups ( and using Hansard ( to find out which MPs contributed to particular debates.

Another way to become involved is to submit evidence to select committees. In the final talk, Dr Phil Larkin provided a fantastic overview of select committees and submitting written and oral evidence to such committees. For more information on submitting evidence to a select committee, and to see a list of calls for evidence which are currently open, see:

Dr Larkin also touched upon Parliamentary fellowships, which provide academics at all stages of their career the opportunity to carry out research within Parliament. More information about fellowship opportunities within the UK Parliament is available here: and for the Scottish Parliament is available here:

The final talk of the day was from Professor Kenneth Gibb, who gave an extremely interesting and insightful talk into his experience of working with Parliament. In all, the day was extremely informative and provided a fantastic overview of the opportunities available for academics to engage with Parliament, at all stages of their career.

Scottish Government Internship

Interested in doing something a bit different with your SLT or PhD skills?

Current PhD students have the opportunity to work with the Scottish Government or NHS Scotland to develop their skills as a researcher and get involved in policy development.

One of our PhD students, Louise McKeever, carried out a 3 month internship with the Mental Health and Rights Division of the Scottish Government. There she had the opportunity to work with policy colleagues, interview NHS leads and work with key stakeholders. The purpose was to develop quality indicators for mental health service in Scotland.

The experience was eye opening. I was able to see how the Scottish Government worked, attend debates  in Scottish parliament and develop my skills as an independent researcher. It was very rewarding working on a project that could make a difference for Scottish patients. I would highly recommend this scheme to any researcher interested in social policy or application of research.

For more information see:

Survey: Technology and SLT


“The more important reason is that the research itself provides an important long-run perspective on the issues that we face on a day-to-day basis. ” -Ben Bernanke

Survey research, although rooted in social research, is common and an important measurement used in research. A survey can be anything form an online form filling to paper-and-pencil feedback form to an intensive one-on-one in-depth interview. In a broad sense, survey in research encompasses any measurement procedure that involve asking questions of respondents. Surveys have their pros and cons but they do provide important empirical data for researchers at any point in their research.

SLT Researchers at Strathclyde University are undertaking two surveys to investigate to what degree clinicians are using technology in the assessment and treatment of patients with communication disorders. These surveys are designed to establish

  • What tools are available in clinics?
  • How useful do clinicians find these?
  • What barriers if any they experience?

We are focusing on use of technology in two distinct types of speech problems

  • Adult Acquired Dysarthria

click belowhandpointer to participate

Survey on Technology Usage in Adult Acquired Dysarthria

  • Phonological Problems in Children.

click belowhandpointer to participate 

Survey on Technology Usage in management of Phonological Problems in Children.

The survey results will be used to inform the development of new management tools that address the needs of patients and clinicians.

If you are currently, or have in the past, worked with either of these conditions, we invite you to complete the survey.

Remember, it is not necessary for you to be using technological aids with your clients at the moment to take part. Whether you have used technology or not, if you have worked with clients with any of the two conditions, please do participate!!!

Your point of view matters!

Why you should consider a PhD!

why_phd_winies_student_worldThat awkward moment when your friends think you are crazy because you have started your third degree- a PhD. Every time I introduce myself as a PhD student, I always get the default question: “Why did you start a PhD?”. People who know how passionate I am about Engineering practice cannot seem to get their mind around the idea of seeing me as a researcher. Haven said all that, I will like to address this issue and tell you why you should probably consider a PhD too.

Hopefully, you will consider a PhD too after reading this.

Let me state categorically at this point that you need to have the drive to start a PhD, continue it and complete it. Without personal drive or motivation, it will be a tough journey for 3-4 years. Research has shown that majority of students who stopped their PhD program mid-way, did so because of lack of personal motivation. It is the motivation that keeps you going even when challenges come and it looks as if you are not making progress. A personal drive will help you strategize well and finish strong.

But the question remains: “How do you get motivated?” or better still “What can motivate you to start a PhD”. If you are contemplating on starting a PhD, you have come to the right place.why-phd
There are loads and loads of reasons why you should strongly consider a PhD. I will be discussing five of these reasons with you in this blog. I call them the five-cardinal drives for a successful PhD. These cardinal drives are Prestige, Knowledge, Job, Academic Network and Challenges. Your motivation for a PhD would normally fit into one of more of theses cardinal drives. Only in rare cases will you have a PhD candidate whose motivation is linked to ALL of these cardinal drives.

Prestige: it can not be overemphasized that the prestige attached to attached to having a PhD degree is enormous. Apart from having the opportunity to be called a Doctor (of philosophy), a PhD graduate is usually regarded higher in rank than colleagues at different levels. A PhD shows that you are a great thinker and that you are able to analyze the situation and provide a working solution to most challenges in your area of specialty.

Knowledge: I am just in the second year of my PhD study but I can categorically tell you that what I know now cannot be compared to what I knew at the start of my PhD. A PhD will make be more knowledgeable in your chosen area of specialty. It sharpens your knowledge and exposure in your chosen field. If you intend to know more about your chosen field, you should start considering a PhD. The quest for knowledge does not only grow your mind but it grows your career and helps you to discover new things that cannot be taught in the classroom.

Job: In this generation, there are loads applicants with one or two degrees, having a PhD will give you an edge other candidates in any job application. Employability statistics shows that PhD graduates have higher chances of getting the desired job than Master’ degree or Bachelor’s degree graduates. The starting salaries for PhD graduates is also about 30-50% higher than first degree holders. If you want to land that dream job and also desire a rapid career growth, you should consider starting a PhD.


Academic Network: The network you build over the course of your PhD can project you into your desired future and give you the exposure you need. There are several cases where PhD students land their dream job through the network they were able to build during academic conferences and research activities. In a short while, I have been able to an academic network across different continents. PhD will help you build a strong network with the right people at the right time.

Challenges: PhD students are problem solvers – they provide solutions to critical challenges faced in our world today. Research makes life better for both young and old. Your ability to overcome challenges and provide solutions to penitent problems improves over the course of a PhD study.

Therefore, if you want the prestige attached to a PhD, the immense  increase in knowledge involved, an edge over other job applicants, a strong academic network and want to provide solutions to the challenges in your field, then you should consider starting a PhD. Beyond these five cardinal drives, there are several other benefits of starting and completing a PhD. With these drives, you will move from being a PhD candidate to being a PhD survivor.

Give this a thought and start a PhD today!

NHS Research Scotland Conference 2016

Earlier this month, two of our PhD students, Rebecca and Aisling, attended the NHS Research Scotland Conference 2016. With almost 500 delegates, the theme of this year’s conference was ‘Delivering Research Excellence’, with the day encompassing a number of parallel sessions, alongside addresses from the Chief Scientist for Health in Scotland and Shona Robinson MSP (amongst others). Attendees were also treated to a very interesting and informative keynote lecture from Professor Siddharthan Chandran.


A highlight from the day was hearing about a current project investigating the use of new technology to assist in monitoring patients by the bedside – although in the early stages, it was exciting to hear about the positive way in which such technology could potentially be harnessed in healthcare. Other sessions included a talk on sustainable health and social care services, research into rare diseases and partnerships with patients and the public. The diversity of topics, speakers and perspectives was representative of the innovation and commitment to patient care and quality also demonstrated by the poster presentations and information stands.  


The conference really highlighted the breadth of clinical research taking place in Scotland, and the international reach of such research. As new and developing researchers, it was inspiring to hear about the advances being made through clinical research, and about current projects which could, in the longer term, make a real difference to individuals with various health conditions.


Patient and Public Involvement in Research

Patient and Public Involvement, or PPI, is becoming an increasingly important part of the research process. The idea behind PPI is that researchers work in partnership with people who are affected by the health condition they are researching at different levels of the research process. This could be during the planning, design, implementation, evaluation and/or dissemination stages.


Having keenly signed up for a PPI training day being run by Parkinson’s UK, one of our researchers, Rebecca Wagstaff, found herself at Edinburgh airport at 5:45am, ready to board a plane to Manchester.  The training was worth the early start – the sessions were informative and interactive, focusing on what PPI is and how and when people can be included in research, along with practical considerations to bear in mind when doing this. A particularly useful session was one delivered by a gentleman with Parkinson’s Disease, who has been a PPI volunteer on a number of research projects. Hearing his insights and experience into PPI from the other perspective was invaluable.

It was also fantastic to hear about the support Parkinson’s UK can offer researchers in incorporating PPI into their research. Parkinson’s UK are currently running a pilot scheme which aims to recruit and train volunteers with Parkinson’s who are interested in contributing to research through PPI. More information about what they can do to support researchers with PPI can be found here:

SLT Researchers @ Digital Humanities Conference


Research conferences are an excellent platform for PhD students to face the scrutiny of the world outside their research group. It paves way to join conversations with your peers, find where your research sits and gain valuable feedback from experienced and early researchers  alike.

Our researchers presented their work in the form of posters at the recently held full day conference hosted by the Strathclyde HaSS Graduate School. Titled The Digital Human: Humanities and Social Sciences in the Digital Age, this is a student-led conference aimed to highlight the ways in which science, technology, humanities, and social sciences interact with one other.

Louise and Revathy presented their respective work centred on the theme of digital contributions to health and wellbeing. Louise introduced her research on investigating speech errors in autism using Ultrasound Tongue Imaging. This study is aimed to contribute to our understanding of the underlying cause of autism. Revathy also introduced her research focusing on feasibility studies on the reliability of assistive technologies for children. This research aims to suggest a methodology to develop gaming solutions for therapeutic use in Speech-Language Pathology for children.

The inter-disciplinary nature of both the posters attracted a wide range of interested from visitors and delegates  involved  in different aspects of the research such as health and well-being and use of technology. The conference surely gave an upswing to the start the  academic year!!!

New Research on Dementia


With the new academic year rolling around our team are busy making plans and setting goals for the upcoming months. Research never sleeps and PhD life is certainly never dull! It has been a busy few months in our office of summer schools, ethics and funding applications, conference attendances and data collection. With new responsibilities such as teaching and internships ahead we’re experiencing the many twists, turns and diversions of PhD life.

One of our researchers, Aisling, has been making steps forward in her research and recently opened a questionnaire to speech and language therapists (SLTs) working with people with dementia and swallowing problems. People with dementia are a growing client group for SLTs and Aisling is interested in how therapists and carers understand and manage the eating and drinking difficulties that can occur as dementia progresses. There has been a positive response to the questionnaire so far, and it seems that SLTs are motivated and inspired to provide innovative care and support to their clients. If you’re interested in seeing more information about the questionnaire it can be accessed here

Aisling also hopes to speak to carers living or working with people with dementia to understand their concerns and priorities.
While there is much still to be learned about eating and drinking difficulties in dementia the experiences and knowledge of the people at the forefront are essential to guide research and to ensure it meets the needs of the people who need it most .

The DTC for Communication Disorders

The new doctoral training centre (DTC) for Communication Disorders is up and running at the University of Strathclyde!

We are a group of Masters and PhD Students all specializing in the area of speech and language research. Last month we had our first departmental event on a farm in sunny Renfrewshire with the students, supervisors and fellow researchers across the globe.

Students presented updates on their current projects which opened up discussions across the board. Demonstrations of current instruments for research took place e.g. ultrasound tongue imaging that is being used in Louise McKeever’s PhD project and part of Dr. Joanne Cleland’s ultraphonix project. Dr. Alan Wrench demonstrated Advanced Articulate Assistant software which allows real-time ultrasound tongue imaging.


Ultrasound demonstration of Aisling Egan swallowing.

Excellent day and we look forward to more events with this new and exciting working partnership!