The Automatic Detection of Speech Disorders in Children: Challenges, Opportunities, and Preliminary Results

Mostafa Shahin, Usman Zafar, Beena Ahmed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Given the limited accessibility to Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs) children in need often have, pediatric Computer-Aided Speech Therapy (CAST) tools can play an important role in the early diagnosis and treatment of speech disorders. However, various challenges impede the implementation of accurate automated analysis of speech disorders in children. In this article, we first discuss three key challenges in processing child disordered speech: 1) the unreliability of low-level annotation and scarcity of speech corpora, 2) speaker diarization of therapy sessions and 3) inaccurate children's acoustic models. We next explore opportunities to overcome some of these challenges. First, we investigate the effectiveness of high-level paralinguistic features in disordered speech detection to reduce the dependency on annotated data. A binary classifier trained using paralinguistic features extracted from both typically developing children and those suffering from Speech Sound Disorders (SSD) achieved 87% subject-level classification accuracy. Second, we tackle the speech disorder detection problem as an anomaly detection problem where models are trained merely on typically developing speech, reducing the need for disordered training data. A phoneme-level F1 score of 0.77 was obtained from an anomaly detection-based system trained on speech attribute features to classify between typical and atypical phoneme pronunciations of children with speech disorder. Finally, we test the efficiency of an x-vector based speaker diarization technique in pediatric therapy sessions. The method successfully distinguished between therapist and child speech with a Diarization Error Rate (DER) of 10%.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8931568
Pages (from-to)400-412
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Journal on Selected Topics in Signal Processing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020



  • Anomaly detection
  • automatic assessment
  • paralinguistic features
  • speaker diarization
  • speech disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Signal Processing
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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