Teenu Sanjeevan, Speech-Language Pathology

Student's Name: Teenu Sanjeevan, PhD
Supervisor: Dr. Elina Mainela-Arnold, PhD
Professor, Department of Psychology and Speech-Language Pathology, University of Turku, Finland
PhD Thesis: Characterizing the Motor Deficits in Children with Specific Language Impairment

PhD Research:
Teenu Sanjeevan completed her doctoral degree in Speech-Language Pathology specializing in child language disorders. Her PhD dissertation included three research studies that investigated the motor learning abilities of children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI), a neurodevelopmental disorder that primarily affects language ability. This research was motivated by the hypothesis that motor deficits provide a window into the underlying cause of SLI, which is currently unknown.

The motor abilities of children with and without SLI were explored through a broad range of tasks across three experimental studies. The first study examined children’s gross, fine, oral and speech motor skills. The second study investigated children’s motor sequence planning and execution, adaptation and retention abilities. The last study explored temporal aspects of children’s manual communicative gesture productions.

The results of these studies revealed that children with SLI had significant difficulties with novel balance, fine limb, and speech motor skills. At the processing level, children with SLI exhibited impaired fine motor sequence planning and execution, while adaptation and retention appeared to be unaffected. These procedural measures were also significantly correlated with performance on grammar and vocabulary measures. Finally, the temporal relationship between speech and communicative gesture was comparable between children with and without SLI.

Taken together, this profile of motor impairment in SLI and its association with language ability may be best explained by deficits in procedural learning. Teenu suggests that future studies should examine whether procedural motor measures can supplement current diagnostic protocols of SLI and whether treatment approaches that target procedural learning capacity are effective at treating the language, motor and cognitive deficits in SLI.

Select Awards
While pursuing her doctoral degree, Teenu received several local and international awards including the Bertha Rosenstadt Ontario Graduate Scholarship for three consecutive years (2015-2016; 2014-2015; 2013-2014), the Mary Gertrude I’Anson Scholarship (2014-2015); the Symposium on Research in Child Language Disorders Student Award (2014; 2015) and the Saffran Student Scholar Award (2014), among others.

Select Publications and Presentations
Sanjeevan, T., Mainela-Arnold, E., Alibali, M. W., & Evans, J.L. (2016). The Temporal Relationship between Speech and Manual Communicative Gesture in Children with Specific Language Impairment. Gesture, 15(3), 321-339.

Sanjeevan T.,Yunusova, Y., Miller, C., Park, J., Rosenbaum, D., Weiss, D., van Hell, J, & Mainela-Arnold, E. (March 2016). The Oral and Speech Motor Abilities of Children with Specific Language Impairment. Poster presented at the Motor Speech Conference, Newport Beach, California USA.

Sanjeevan, T., Rosenbaum, D.A., Miller C., van Hell J.G., Weiss, D.J., & Mainela-Arnold, E. (2015). Motor Issues in Specific Language Impairment: A Window into the Underlying Impairment. Current Developmental Disorders Reports, 2(3), 228-236.

Sanjeevan T., Miller, C., Park, J., Rosenbaum, D., Weiss, D., van Hell, J, & Mainela-Arnold, E. (October, 2015). Procedural memory of children with specific language impairment. Poster presented at the Seventh Annual Meeting of the Society for the Neurobiology of Language, Chicago, Illinois USA.

Sanjeevan T., Mainela-Arnold, E., Park, J., Komeili, M., Miller, C., Rosenbaum, D., Weiss, D., & van Hell, J. (March, 2015). Parallels between Language and Motor Ability in Monolingual and Bilingual Children. Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA.

Current Position
Teenu is currently a post-doctoral fellow at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital working under the supervision of Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou in the Autism Research Centre. Her post-doctoral work is an expansion of her doctoral research examining motor learning in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Teenu is currently working with the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders (POND) Network exploring the neural networks underlying procedural memory in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability. In the coming months, Teenu will be running a research study examining the parallels between the procedural motor learning abilities of children with ASD and children with SLI using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) neuroimaging.

Future Plans
In the future, Teenu anticipates continuing in neurodevelopmental research in either an academic setting or at a research institute. Her career goals include identifying neurobiological factors that underlie the deficits in ASD, SLI and other neurodevelopmental disorders and in the years to follow, guide the development of effective intervention services that improve the mental health and well-being of children with ASD, SLI and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

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