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Speech and Motor Assessment Remote Protocol (SMART)

May 4, 2023 - May 4, 2025

Post-pandemic, so much healthcare-related assessment is taking place remotely. This can be much more convenient for families with a child who has a complex neurodevelopmental disorder, but we need to know how the information from a remote assessment compares to an in-person one. This project aims to do just that: compare how a child performs on a series of speech, language, and motor assessments in our lab and remotely, at home. We hypothesize that children will perform at least as well when they are in a familiar place like their home.

What are the goals of the study?

This project aims to validate a remote assessment protocol for spoken language and motor skills against the same data collected in person. The purpose is to understand the relationship of scores derived from the tasks when administered in person and via Zoom.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Children with neurodevelopmental or genetic diagnoses between the ages of 2 and 18 are welcome to participate. Families will come to the Motor Development Lab at Boston University for a 2-hour in-person visit where children will participate in a series of motor and spoken-language assessments. Motor assessments will include walking back and forth on our “magic carpet”, which records each of their footsteps, playing a “flamingo game” by balancing on one leg, and putting coins into a piggy bank. Spoken language assessments will include watching a preferred video while we record children’s facial movements, attempting to repeat a set of 8 syllables, a picture-naming task, and trying some tongue-twisters. The specific spoken-language tasks for each child will be selected based on their verbal ability, so everyone has a just-right challenge. The in-person and remote assessments will be audio- and videotaped for later analysis.

At the end of the in-person assessment, families will receive $25, and we’ll make two Zoom appointments. One will be for parents to complete a set of questionnaires about their child’s history and current skills, and the other will be to complete the same spoken-language and motor tasks they just finished at home, via Zoom. Once the two remote sessions are complete, families will receive another $75 and a personalized report if they would like. Parking will be free for the in-person session.

How will this help families?

To create a data set that will help us find potential predictors of spoken language outcomes in children with neurodevelopmental (including autism) and genetic disorders, we need a highly reproducible, validated assessment protocol that can be used with children no matter what their diagnosis. The protocol must be able to be administered remotely as well as in person, because many children with these conditions do not live within easy travel distance of a clinical center and multiple in-person visits are impractical for families due to their already busy rehabilitation schedules. Valid remote assessment reduces the burden of participation in assessments and research studies for families who live in rural areas or lack the ability to take time off from work and spend money on long trips.

Eligibility Criteria

Inclusion criteria:
1. Child has a diagnosis of a neurodevelopmental (including autism) or genetic condition from a qualified professional.
2. Child is between the ages of 2 and 18.
3. The main language of the child’s family (spoken >50% of the time) is English.

Exclusion criteria:
1. Poorly controlled seizure disorder.
2. Inability to participate in testing.

View the study flyer here.

Contact Information

Steven Meyer – SPANLab@mghihp.edu

Research Study Website
SPAN lab, MGH Institute of Health Professions and Boston University

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