Introducing: the Child Language Research Group

Here at Newcastle University, members of the Speech and Language Sciences department hold a monthly Child Language Research Group meeting. We are a group of academic lecturers and researchers, clinical research staff, postgraduate students, and speech and language therapists from around the North East.  Our individual research areas converge around child language development, and as a group we include speech & language therapists, psychologists, teachers, economists, phoneticians and linguists. Our aim is to support and encourage one another as researchers and clinicians, so as to advance our research and clinical work in this socially critical field. Our research areas include (but are not limited to!) … 

  • Understanding typical speech and language development  
  • Impact of speech and language development on wellbeing and achievement.  
  • Assessment, intervention and service delivery for developmental speech and language disorders  
  • Multi-lingual language development (typical and atypical), assessment, and intervention 
  • Public health approaches to child language development 

Our meetings include presentations of work being carried out by group members, discussions of current topics in the field of language development and intervention, and discussions around research issues and processes. There is always time for questions and the sharing of both new ideas and sweet treats! (Though in our recent online meetings we suffice to gaze at one another’s home décor in lieu of cakes and chocolate). 

Each meeting is an enjoyable, encouraging, and often fascinating hour or two, and it provides in a variety of ways for our different members. In the spirit of research, we conducted an informal survey, asking our members for their input on what the CLRG means to them. Three key themes arose… 

Gaining Knowledge 

Perhaps the most fundamental part of the CLRG, and the most cited positive aspect by our members is finding out about other research happening in the department. It’s “an ongoing education” for all members, and as one respondent highlighted, it allows us to “learn from one another to enrich our research”. Bringing questions and topics for discussion to the group is an integral aspect of our meetings. One member commented, “I … find the CLRG a really useful place to discuss topics and bring questions – everyone has different knowledge and skills that can be pooled together to generate new ideas or answer a question.”  

Acquiring Skills 

The CLRG is an informal space for presentations of work “at different levels of ‘finished’”. Feedback from the group has helped many members in enhancing the content of their work, written or oral, and their presentation skills more broadly. Lots of postgraduate students, in particular, highlighted this as a key aspect, for example:  

“[the CLRG] has allowed me to develop skills like providing useful feedback and asking effective questions.” 

Developing Connections 

Our postgraduate students and research staff say that attending the CLRG helps to create and sustain social and professional relationships. This is especially true for newcomers to the group:  

“Attending the CLRG was a great introduction to the department and allowed me to meet a range of people.” 

For postgraduate students, the CLRG also helps to bridge the gap between being an undergraduate and taking ownership of their research as a postgraduate. One member said the CLRG helps them to “…[feel] less of a student and more a colleague.”  

Finally, several members commented on the importance of the relationships they had developed in relation to their own research practice: 

“Learning what areas of [the department] each person came from, and then know[ing] who to go to with small questions that would have taken a much longer time to answer alone. 

For attendees, it’s as simple as turning up on the appointed day and time each month (or a simple click of the ‘join’ button in online times!). For organisers, an email list, a Teams group (or similar) and a regular monthly meeting are the small price to pay in return for a huge range of benefits. We love our group and, we’d love to know what you think. Do you have a similar research group at your institution? If not, why not start one? 

Newcastle University Speech Therapy Society’s Giving Voice Campaign (13th-15th April 2016)


In 2010, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists started a campaign, Giving Voice, to raise awareness of the importance of Speech and Language Therapy (SLT). 2.5 million people in the UK have Speech, Language and Communication Needs, yet it is still a little-known about profession amongst the general public. This year, Newcastle University’s Speech Therapy Society organised a 3 day Giving Voice Campaign. Students from all stages in the Speech and Language Sciences department got involved and it was a huge success.

Challenging Perceptions on Campus – 250 responses to a survey were analysed and posters were created showing what the general public think about SLT. Comments ranged from “teach people to talk” to “changing lives” and even “I will never forget their gift to my life”.

Pub Quiz and Silent Auction in aid of the Stroke Association – Nearly 100 people descended on a local pub to take part in our pub quiz. We had 14 ‘lots’ up for silent auction throughout the evening. An amazing £255 was raised for the Stroke Association – thank you to everyone who came!

Awareness of Alternative Communication Methods on Campus – a range of alternative communication methods, including Makaton, symbol exchange and pen and paper were provided and members of the public were encouraged to use these methods to ask for a freebie. Many people found it difficult to imagine using these methods as opposed to their voice as their main method of communication, but unfortunately, this is the reality for many people.

Awareness of Swallowing Disorders on Campus – People were drawn to our table for a ‘free drink with a twist’. 1/3 of people experience difficulties swallowing post-stroke and use thickener to increase the consistency of their drinks to ensure swallowing does not threaten life. There were various reactions but a consensus that quality of life would be significantly reduced.


Silent Flash Mob – Newcastle University’s city campus and Northumberland Street are both bustling main areas in Newcastle and, at 11am, were filled with a range of people going about their daily business. However, attention was diverted to the student wandering around trying to shout, but without any sound. The public changed direction to avoid the student, which struck a chord with many students as this reaction is experienced by a vast number of people with disabilities. With the blow of a whistle, 20 students appeared with large speech bubbles containing facts, quotes and statistics about SLT. Members of the public were seen to bump into each other as they read the bubbles and murmurs of ‘I know someone who had SLT were heard all around. The society then shouted, ‘Speech and Language Therapy transforms lives’, the Giving Voice tagline, and, with another whistle blow, the students disappeared. This demonstration, which lasted less than 2 minutes, drew the attention of the public to SLT and its importance for so many people.

“Without Speech and Language Therapists, I wouldn’t be here” – Service User

“I have learnt a lot about Speech and Language Therapy” – Member of the Public

“Speech and Language Therapy gave me a voice” – Service User