Dr Eng. Zuzanna Miodońska is the laureate of the START 2023 program
Dr Eng. Zuzanna Miodońska from the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering of the Silesian University of Technology is the laureate of the START 2023 program of the Foundation for Polish Science. She received the award for developing IT solutions supporting the examination of children's speech, especially impaired speech. The research results may be used in speech therapy and speech therapy diagnostics.
The Foundation awarded 100 young scientists from all over the country, out of 660 submitted in this edition, of which seven people were additionally distinguished. One of the distinctions – Scholarship named after Barbara Skarga for scientific works distinguished by crossing the boundaries between various fields of science - went to dr Eng. Zuzanna Miodońska from the Department of Medical Informatics and Artificial Intelligence of the Silesian University of Technology. The awarded research concerns the development of IT solutions dedicated to the analysis of children's speech, in particular disturbed speech, using analytical and computational techniques and acoustic phonetics tools.
– The research conducted by our team concerns the use of new technologies - in particular signal processing and artificial intelligence - to develop tools supporting speech therapy diagnostics and therapy. For several years, we have been focusing on analysing the speech signal and video image of the faces of preschool children in order to examine how they pronounce sibilants - in Polish, these are sounds marked in the spelling with the letters "s, z, c, dz, sz, ż, cz, ś, ź, ć, dź”. I received the START 2023 scholarship from the Foundation for Polish Science for my work on acoustic differences between the correct and incorrect pronunciation of selected sibilants - said the researcher.
Research conducted in this area could be used in tools supporting speech therapy diagnostics. Once implemented, the developed measurement methods could support the work of speech therapists on many levels: accelerating screening tests, supporting novice diagnosticians, objectifying and visualizing the diagnosis, and enabling tracking of therapy progress.
– A more precise diagnosis allows for more effective therapy, which is a direct benefit for patients, usually children of preschool and early school age, who are most often diagnosed with speech defects – adds dr Eng. Zuzanna Miodońska.
Similar research is carried out in various countries, but there are still no implemented and verified solutions. The basic problem is the availability of databases of children's speech, especially speech with commentary or speech therapy description. – The time-consuming process of obtaining this type of databases (obtaining appropriate consents, many months of data registration) means that the work is often based on small research groups or is carried out on the basis of the speech of adults. To our knowledge, the research we conduct is one of the few in the world and the only one in Poland carried out with the participation of a larger group of preschool children (a total of over 300 speakers in various research protocols) - says the researcher.
Although we know more and more about the processes of improving pronunciation in children, as well as about the acoustic features of articulation, there are still no clinical solutions allowing speech therapists to determine numerical indicators or parameters of pronunciation that would be diagnostically useful. – Finding such parameters and preparing appropriate tools enabling the recording of speech and facial images in the appropriate quality, automatic or semi-automatic analysis of signals, would provide speech therapy with measurement methods to objectify the diagnosis – explains dr Eng. Zuzanna Miodońska.
Innovation resulting from dr Eng. Zuzanna Miodońska's research was appreciated by the jury of the START 2023 competition of the Foundation for Polish Science. She was awarded a scholarship named after Barbara Skarga. It can be awarded to a person whose research is distinguished by boldly crossing the boundaries between various fields of science, opening new research perspectives and creating new values in science. These scholarships are one of the most important distinctions awarded in Poland to young scientists, confirming the quality of research achievements to date, as well as encouragement and financial support to continue scientific work. Being among the distinguished ones is of great importance in the field of the researcher's personal development, but also helps in disseminating the results of work in the scientific community and is a confirmation that the research problem being undertaken is important and translates into the development of the entire discipline - sums up the scientist.