Perspectives & Tutorials

Statistical Learning—More fun than it sounds, we promise

“While hampered by a boring name, statistical learning is actually a highly relevant topic that should be of interest to clinicians.” (Alt, 2018).

Another month, another special issue from the ASHA Schools journal! This time the topic is Statistical Learning—a terrible name, admittedly, but a really important concept that could change the way you do therapy. It’s that automatic, unconscious learning that’s based on the patterns in our environment. For example—feel pretty sure that “Zblutn” couldn’t be a legit word in English, but not sure why you know? Thank your innate talent for statistical learning, which internalizes rules about the sound sequences you’ve heard (and haven’t) throughout your life.

Willing to commit a few minutes to learning more? We’d recommend pulling up Plante & Gomez’s overview on how statistical learning relates to our clinical work, as well as Mary Alt’s very readable final summary. (We are big fans of the super-straightforward article titles in this issue. Don’t you wish every academic publication wrapped up with a two-page paper literally called “Take Home Points”? That’s the way to be clinician-friendly, guys. Major props.)

If you’re ready for a deeper dive, there is *so* much here: tutorials for applying these principles to spelling and reading intervention, as well as how they apply to children with intellectual impairments; reviews of the research relating to children with cochlear implants and who are bilingual; and a few original research articles, one of which we’ve reviewed here.

Still not sure statistical learning matters for you? We’ll leave you with these words from the issue’s introduction. We’re convinced.

“If speech-language pathologists understand the mechanism for statistical learning, they can design interventions that capitalize on it. It has real advantages, including (a) relatively quick, efficient learning; (b) generalization of learning; and (c) a focus on input, which significantly reduces the behavioral demands on the learner.” (Alt, 2018, emphasis ours).


More Perspectives & Tutorials:

Examining the Orofacial Structures in Patients With Craniofacial Differences

A routine oral mech exam as part of an initial evaluation is one thing—but are you confident in your ability to assess a child with craniofacial differences? This user-friendly article takes you through the whole process, with pictures, diagrams, and a checklist you can follow. This is one to keep in your reference file (pile?).

Facilitating Preliteracy Development in Children With Hearing Loss When the Home Language Is Not English

Guiding Principles and Essential Practices of Listening and Spoken Language Intervention in the School-Age Years

Impact of Escalating Literacy Demands on English Learners With Hearing Loss

Potentially Reversible Social Deficits Among Transgender Youth

The Changing World of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): Examining Three Realities Faced by Today’s AAC Provider

How can SLPs adapt our practice to address rising rate of bi-/multilingualism, growth of the direct-to-consumer AAC systems (think tablets and apps), and changing ideas about what AAC symbols and displays can/should look like? This article reviews the issues and offers some suggestions. 

Why is measuring communication difficult? A critical review of current speech pathology concepts and measures