Electropalatography (EPG) is a technique that measures the tongue’s contact against the hard palate. In order to record these articulatory contact patterns, an artificial palate is constructed that fits against the speaker’s roof of the mouth. Embedded in the palate are electrodes that can detect when the tongue is touching them. EPG gives visual feedback of the tongue-palate contact patterns and, under the guidance of a speech and language therapist, people with speech disorders can use this feedback to improve their articulation. Although research has shown that EPG is an effective therapy, it was not available in Scotland until CLEFTNET was established.
CLEFTNET, funded in 1996 by the Scottish Executive Department of Health, provided the cleft palate centres in Scotland with EPG and established electronic links between the centres and Queen Margaret University College (QMUC) in Edinburgh. Articulatory data gathered at the centres are sent to QMUC, where experts carry out a detailed analysis leading to a precise diagnosis of the speech difficulty and to a set of therapy guidelines. The results are returned to the clinicians for use in therapy sessions. The project has widened access to EPG, so that it is now available to everyone in Scotland with cleft palate.
CLEFTNET is also a unique research resource. EPG data is entered into a database, which allowing researchers to study articulation disorders in a larger group than has been possible in the past. The research team have recently secured major funding to extend CLEFTNET to include England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The new project, CLEFTNET UK, began in November 2004. This project has ethical approval.