Giving Voice - Digital speech assessment tool.

Giving Voice – Digital speech assessment tool.
June 2024 Claudette Buttigieg

The aim of this project is to offer Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) the opportunity to assess children referred with speech difficulties using a digitised version of the scientifically proven and standardised Speech Assessment tool.

This novel application saves clinicians’ time as it analysis the child’s speech automatically and securely providing an efficient decision support companion while affording a better and more engaging in-session environment. Whereas a SLP takes around 1-2 hours to analyse the child’s speech sample after administering the manual version of the speech assessment the digitised version will not take more than a few minutes to come up with the respective calculations that helps clinicians with differential diagnosis of speech sound disorders. The digitised speech assessment (eMESA) will be adapted to monolingual Maltese and bilingual children acquiring the specific language pair, i.e., Maltese-English. The eMESA will be more accurate than the manual version as the latter is prone to clinicians’ errors when calculating manually the various raw scores and standard scores obtained through the child’s speech sample.


Primary beneficiaries are:

  • children who are struggling with developing clear speech and spoken language and who are referred for assessment by SLPs. 8-9% of children are expected to have a speech sound difficulty and require assessment and intervention.


Wider Beneficiaries include:

  • parents of children who are struggling to help their children develop adequate speech and language skills.
  • Teachers, kindergarten assistants and learning support educators who try to educate these children and facilitate their learning and encounter challenges because they do not communicate effectively.
  • School peers who find it difficult to interact with children with speech and language difficulties because of their impairment.

The active participants include:

  • SLPs (totalling around 150) who work within the Governmental Health Department, Education sector (Schools and support service units), Non-Governmental Organisations and private clinics.


Societal need

The social need that the project will address is related to enhancing the quality of life of children who encounter speech development difficulties. Adequate and early assessment/intervention of speech sound difficulties is effective and reduces the long term load of support services; it enhances opportunities for learning in these children; it also reduces their frustration and behavioural challenges associated with difficulties with communication and being understood by others; it also provides better vocational opportunities if their speech sound difficulties are resolved early and optimally.




A mobile App will be developed that includes the stimulus pictures for children to name, score sheets and the software for automatic analysis of the inputted data by SLPs. Data would be saved locally using secure storage, while syncing with a government-grade data centre when an internet connection is available. This would allow clinicians to access their data


from multiple devices, while also acting as a secure backup mechanism. Clinician accounts will provide access to client data, including previous tests and associated results, while providing a way to track the child’s progress. Also, the application will give access to available norms to support clinicians’ decision making and to reach objective conclusions through which



A digitised version of the bilingual standardised assessment is unavailable to date. It is planned through this project the eMESA software would be potentially adaptable for other bilingual pairs, in order that migrant children in Malta may benefit from it also. The project is expected to be carried out over a period of 2 years, costing a total of around 88,000 Euro. SLPs will be offered the App free of charge to ensure that all eligible children can be assessed and followed efficiently and effectively. There are plans to offer a screening version that could be used to screen all children in Malta who attend kindergarten classes.