The Use of Segmental and Suprasegmental Sequencing Skills to Differentiate Children With and Without Childhood Apraxia of Speech: Protocol for a Comparative Accuracy Study

Min Ney Wong (Corresponding Author), Eddy C.H. Wong, Shelley L. Velleman

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Background: Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is a motor-based speech sound disorder (SSD) with a core impairment in the planning and programming of spatiotemporal parameters of speech movement sequences. CAS may cause deficits in both segmental and suprasegmental components of speech, and it can severely affect children's ability to speak intelligibly and communicate effectively and impact their quality of life. Assessment tasks, such as the maximum performance tasks (MPT) and Syllable Repetition Task (SRT), examine children's segmental sequencing skills to assist with the diagnosis of CAS. In Hong Kong, although the MPT and SRT have been used clinically to diagnose CAS in Cantonese-speaking children, their validity has not been reported. There is an urgent need for such investigations. Suprasegmentally, lexical stress errors have been reported as a consensual feature and to aid in the diagnosis of CAS. However, there are challenges in diagnosing CAS in children who speak tonal languages like Cantonese. A recent study has reported lexical tone errors in Cantonese-speaking children with CAS. Furthermore, deficits in pitch-variation skills were found in Cantonese-speaking children with CAS using a tone sequencing task (TST). It is hypothesized that there is a universal deficit in pitch-variation skills among tonal and nontonal language speakers with CAS. Further investigations of pitch-variation skills using the TST in Cantonese-speaking children with CAS may shed light on suprasegmental deficits in tonal languages and contribute to the development of a valid diagnostic tool for CAS in children who speak other tonal languages, such as Vietnamese, Thai, and Mandarin. Objective: This study aims to examine the diagnostic potential of the MPT, SRT, and TST in diagnosing Cantonese-speaking children with CAS and to investigate pitch-variation skills in Cantonese-speaking children with and without CAS. Methods: A total of 25 children with CAS and 3 groups of age- and gender-matched controls (non-CAS SSD only group, non-CAS SSD co-occurring with language impairment group, and typical development group) will be recruited. All participants will perform the MPT, SRT, and TST measures. Their performances on these tools will be perceptually judged and acoustically measured. Results: Data collection will last from January 1, 2022, to October 30, 2023. As of August 2022, the project has recruited 4 children in the CAS group, 21 children in the non-CAS SSD group, 4 children in the speech and language impairment group, and 53 children in the typical development group. Conclusions: It is anticipated that Cantonese-speaking children with CAS will have poorer pitch-variation skills than the control groups and that the MPT, SRT, and TST will be appropriate diagnostic tools for identifying CAS in Cantonese-speaking children. The project will benefit the field of speech-language pathology locally and internationally, with short- and long-term impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere40465
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2022


  • childhood apraxia of speech
  • diagnosis
  • pitch variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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