Logopedi, foniatri och audiologi

Medicinska fakulteten | Lunds universitet


Birgitta Sahlén

Since the mid 80’s my main research interest has been children withlanguage impairment (LI). Children with LI have an otherwise typica ldevelopment and normal hearing, but with a significant deficit in the production and/or comprehension of language. Early on, in my thesis work, I chose a neurolinguistic or cognitive approach to the field. LI is pervasive and persistent. The consequences for academic success and social life are long-standing. Even when basic language skills are restored, children with LI often demonstrate problems with complex language processes like reading, writing,narration, and conversation. Currently, I am exploring oral and written narration and conversation in children with functional language handicaps in different disability groups within the framework of  the Linnaeus Centre for Cognition Communication and Learning at Lund University where I am principal investigator.

I have during the years, together with fellow researchers, contributed to the development of an important theoretical and methodological platform in the area functional language handicaps. Tests and analytic procedures, that are today widely used by clinicians, teachers and researchers, have been developed. Some examples are, the Neurolinguistic Examiniation Procedure for children with Language Impairment (the NELLI), the development of a Swedish version of a pragmatic protocol, the Childrens’ Communication Checklist (the CCC), and the non-word repetition test (Sahlén et al., 1999), which serves as a simple and quick tool to identify children at risk for LI in the early preschool years. Within the working memory framework, a comprehensive computer-based test platform has recently been developed in collaboration with Lyxell’s group at Linköping University (the SIPS).

There are many similarities between children with functional language handicaps in different disability groups. Children with mild and moderate hearing impairment (HI) using hearing aids often demonstrate similar problems of language and communication as children with LI. I have performed several comparative studies of children with LI and children with HI together with fellow researchers. I have also studied children with severe/profound hearing impairment with cochlear implants (CI). There are few scientific studies on the linguistic, cognitive and communicative development of Swedish children with CI. My group have presented interesting results on, for example, the relationship between conversational strategies used in problem solving and working memory capacity in children with CI. The first doctoral thesis on Swedish children with CI in conversation with hearing peers was presented in 2009 by one of my doctoral students, Tina Ibertsson followed by Lena Asker-Àrnason, 2010, with her thesis on narration in children with CI. A third thesis within the area will be presented  in 2013 by Olof Sandgren exploring gaze behaviour in children with hearing impairment during conversation. The leading role in the Nordic countries as researchers in  language and communication in children with hearing impairment will be secured through the close collaboration with Lyxell’s group and the Linnaeus Centre for Hearing and Deafness at Linköping University, where I am a core group member.

Apart from the projects presently performed within the two Linnaeus’ environments, I am engaged in other projects that will have importance for medical service and education in children with functional language handicaps. For example, the collaboration with Karolinska Institutet and PhD student Nelli Kalnak and her research on genetic risk factors for language impairment, will improve diagnostic and prognostic accuracy for children with LI. Furthermore, as a result of my interest in narrative skills in children with LI, and in collaboration with colleagues in CCL, an intervention model aiming is developed and will in a close future be implemented in schools to support the development of oral and written narratives in children.

I have been a teacher at the Speech and Language Pathology Programme at Lund University since 1978 and at the Audiology Programme since 2009. I strongly believe in the synergetic effects of the two disciplines and as a teacher and researcher I constantly work for an increased integration of the two disciplines with a vision of a true interdisciplinary field of Cognitive Hearing Science.

Apart from more than thirty years of teaching within the areas of language and cognition related to children with LI and HI, I have contributed to the creation of the so-called Communication Stream in our undergraduate programmes. I am currently revising and further developing the curriculum, an activity that ties together my role as a teacher and that of alearning coach in leadership training at the MiL Institute, where I have been a senior associate since 1995.

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Professor, leg logoped





Avd för Logopedi, Fonaitri och Audiologi
Skånes Universitetssjukhus, Lund
221 85 Lund