Current Research Projects

We study how children perceive and produce auditory information. We explore auditory perception and production through the use of electrophysiological techniques (event-related potentials or ERPs), as well as with behavioral computerized/iPad tasks. We also examine how children’s production of speech improves after speech treatment.

The following is a list of our current projects, funding sources, and representative papers and presentations.


Electrophysiological Indices of Speech Sound Perception and Change

Children with speech sound disorders have difficulty producing sounds of their target language system. Some of these children also have difficulty perceiving and categorizing speech sounds. It is presently unknown what underlying mechanisms might account for the communication problems children with SSD encounter. One possible explanation is that children with SSD cannot produce speech sounds correctly because they have poorly specified phonological representations, which are the result of inaccurate speech sound perception. Thus, speech sound production errors may stem from imprecise speech perception and its resulting sparse phonological representations.

Electrophysiological measures (event-related potentials, ERPs) are used to: 1) assess phonological representations in children with SSD using ERP auditory sensory measures and 2) examine how phonological representations and their associated auditory sensory responses change in conjunction with traditional speech treatment. A better understanding of phonological representations and the auditory sensory system in children with SSD will inform how speech evaluations and treatment are best conducted by speech-language pathologists.

Funding:

  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (R15DC013359), Identification of electrophysiological indices of speech sound perception and change in children with speech sound disorders [pdf]
  • Publications:

  • Cummings, A.,Madden, J., & Hefta, K.(2017). Converging evidence for [coronal] underspecification in English-speaking adults. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 44, 147-162. [pdf]
  • Cummings, A. (2009). Brain and behavior in children with phonological delays: Phonological, lexical, and sensory system interactions. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, San Diego, United States - California. [pdf]
  • Preprints:

  • Cummings, A. & Wu, Y. [Preprint]. February 22, 2019. Neural mechanisms underlying speech perception in children with speech sound disorders. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/25pb6
  • Cummings, A. [Preprint]. February 21, 2019. Mismatch Negativity responses to early-acquired sounds in children with speech sound disorders. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/h2k6q
  • Speech Corpus:

  • Cummings, A. (2016). Clinical-Cummings: Online CHILDES/PhonBank Corpus. ISBN: 978-1-59642-479-1. Clinical-Cummings.
  • Presentations:

  • Cummings, A. & Wu, Y. (2018). Atypical neural responses associated with inaccurate speech production in children with speech sound disorders. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Neurobiology of Language (SNL). Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. [poster pdf]
  • Cummings, A. (2016). Understanding the underlying neural mechanisms of developmental speech sound disorders and what can be done to facilitate accurate speech production. Invited Lecture at the University of North Dakota-Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) weekly colloquium. Grand Forks, ND.
  • Cummings, A. (2016). Can a rake be awake? Investigating the brains and behaviors of children with speech sound disorders. Invited Lecture at the Annual Scholarly Forum of the University of North Dakota School of Graduate Studies. Grand Forks, ND.
  • Cummings, A. & Hefta, K. (2015). Neural indices of the underspecification of phonological representation in adults and children. Technical Research Oral Presentation presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. Denver, CO.
  • Cummings, A. & Rach, A. (2011). Adults' perception and misperception of /r/. Meritorious poster presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. San Diego, CA. [poster pdf]


  • Impact of word lexicality on speech treatment outcomes

    Understanding how children create, store, and access their phonological representations is important to planning and conducting effective intervention; however, the perception, comprehension, and production of language are complex processes that rely on the interaction between language systems (e.g., phonology, lexicon, semantics, syntax, pragmatics) to facilitate successful communication. As a result, it is not necessarily optimal to focus only on how sounds emerge in a language, it is also important to take into account the interaction of phonology with other language domains. Specifically, manipulating the lexical and/or phonological characteristics associated with a word can enhance phonological awareness and subsequent phonological acquisition. Taking into account the lexical characteristics of a word, as well as its corresponding phonological properties, may influence the degree of change in a child’s phonological system.

    Funding:

  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (1T32DC007361), Neurocognitive Approaches to Communication Disorders
  • Publications:

  • Cummings, A., Hallgrimson, J., & Robinson, S. (2019). Speech intrevention outcomes associated with word lexicality and intervention intensity. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 50, 83-98. [pdf]
  • Cummings, A. & Barlow, J. (2011). A comparison of word lexicality in the treatment of speech sound disorders. Journal of Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics, 25(4), 265-286. [pdf]
  • Presentations:

  • Cummings, A. (2018). Predictors of speech treatment outcomes: What could be functional and what is not. Meritorious poster presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. Boston, MA [poster pdf]
  • Cummings, A. (2018). Modifying intervention intensity for maximum treatment effectiveness. Poster presented at the Idaho Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ISHA) Convention. Boise, ID. [poster pdf]
  • Cummings, A. (2017). Longitudinal evidence supporting the effectiveness of complexity treatment for speech sound disorders. Poster presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. Los Angeles, CA. [poster pdf]
  • Cummings, A. & Babchishin, J. (2017). Speech treatment outcomes generated by high frequency words, academic vocabulary words, and nonwords. Poster presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. Los Angeles, CA. [poster pdf]
  • Giesbrecht, K, Babchishin, J., & Cummings, A. (2017). The effect of dose frequency on treatment efficacy for children with speech sound disorders. Poster presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. Los Angeles, CA. [poster pdf]
  • Cummings, A. & Babchishin, J. (2013). A comparison of nonwords and Tier Two Vocabulary words in speech treatment. Poster presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. Chicago, IL. [poster pdf]
  • Thompson, H. & Cummings, A. (2012). Phonological complexity: Using three-element clusters in speech sound disorder treatment. Poster presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. Atlanta, GA. [poster pdf]


  • Neural indices of lexical processing

    Electrophysiological measures (event-related potentials, ERPs) are used to assess lexical access and phonological form encoding during overt picture naming in adults, typically developing children, and children with speech sound disorders. One goal is to examine the time course of phonological code retrieval in different populations. An additional goal is to examine whether incompletely specified phonological representations of children with SSD would lead to delayed and/or deviant responses during lexical processing.

    Funding:

  • Research Development and Compliance (RD&C) Faculty Research Grant, University of North Dakota
  • Publications:

  • Cummings, A.,Seddoh, A., & Jallo, B. (2016). Phonological code retrieval during picture naming: Influence of Consonant Class. Brain Research, 1635, 71-85. [pdf]
  • Presentations:

  • Cummings, A. & Oliver-Bingham, P. (2016). Neural indices of phonological code retrieval in children. Poster presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. Philadelphia, PA. [poster pdf]
  • Cummings, A. (2014). Neural indices of lexical and phonological processing in adults and children. Technical Research Oral Presentation presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. Orlando, FL.
  • Jallo, B. & Cummings, A. (2014). Lexical and phonological influences on picture naming in adults and children. Technical Research Oral Presentation presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. Orlando, FL.


  • Preschool Speech and Language Screening Measures

    Nonword and sentence repetition tasks have been shown to accurately differentiate children with speech sound disorders (SSD) and/or language impairment (LI) from their typically developing (TD) peers. Additionally, they provide information on semantic, syntactical, and phonological processing, as well as memory and acoustic perceptual skills. Despite their utility as a screening measure, their use in clinical practice has been minimal. The purpose of this research project is to examine how repetition tasks can be efficiently and effectively incorporated into clinical practice.

    Presentations:

  • Cummings, A. & Therrien, R. (2015). Preschool screening: A comparison of repetition tasks and formal screening measures. Technical Research Oral Presentation presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. Denver, CO.
  • Cummings, A. & Larson, A. (2015). Identification of subclasses of children with speech sound disorders using the PCC, PWP Intersect. Oral presentation at the International Child Phonology Conference. St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
  • Cummings, A. & Ehrhorn, A. (2013). The Nonword Repetition Task: A useful screening tool for speech sound disorders. Poster presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) National Convention. Chicago, IL. [poster pdf]
  • Gaspar, A. & Cummings, A. (2012). Evaluating speech sound treatment effectiveness with the nonword repetition task. Poster presented at the International Child Phonology Conference. Minneapolis, MN. [poster pdf]


  • Supplemental Materials
  • Supplemental Materials for publications and treatment.