Dr Cristina McKean

  • Email: cristina.mckean@ncl.ac.uk
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6528
  • Address: Room 2.18a
    School of Education, Communication & Language Sciences
    King George VI Building
    Newcastle University
    Queen Victoria Road
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    NE1 7RU


I am a Lecturer and Speech and Language Therapist, with experience of working with children with a wide range of Speech Language and Comunication Needs (SLCN) and of working in partnership with parents, carers and other professionals.

This experience motivates my interests as a practitioner, lecturer and a researcher.


I qualifed as a Speech and Language Therapist in 1989 from Manchester Polytechnic (now MMU). Since that time I have worked as a specialist and a senior specialist in a number of educational and healthcare settings focussing mainly on the pre-school and early primary years. My main areas of clinical experience and expertise are in supporting children with Language Impairment and Autistic Spectrum Conditions and in working collaboratively with parents, carers and other members of the multi-disciplinary team.

I came to Newcastle to study for the MSc in Human Communication Sciences in 2003 and have never really left. I returned to study with a raft of questions arising directly from my clinical work and was bitten by the research bug and motivated to continue in research by the need to develop a strong evidence base for the SLT profession.

Through research in partnership with clinicians, educational practitioners, students and families I aim to contribute to finding ways to reduce the disabling effects of speech language and communication needs on an individual’s life.

Roles and Responsibilities

DPD for CPD Framework for SLTs

Membership Secretary RCSLT Northern Research SIG 


PhD Speech Sciences – January 2010, Newcastle University

MSc Human Communication Sciences – Degree with Distinction 2005, Newcastle University

BSc Speech Pathology and Therapy – Degree with Distinction 1989 Manchester Polytechnic


Registered Member of the Health Professions Council

Registered Member Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

Research Interests

My work is motivated by the desire to improve the quality of life of individuals with developmental speech and language difficulties. I aim to contribute to finding ways to reduce the disabling effects of speech, language and communication needs on an individual’s life and to influence policy-makers to tackle the social exclusion which often accompanies such difficulties.

I advocate the application of a developmental emergent approach to our understanding of developmental language difficulties and argue that we need to reframe our current conceptualisations of these difficulties by placing the process of development itself at the core of our understanding.

My research focusses on 3 main areas.

1. Understanding the developmental trajectories of children with and without language difficulties, in order to:

  • understand the nature of the emergence of developmental language difficulties across development
  • uncover interactions between risks and protective factors
  • harness this information for interventions for children at risk and with language difficulties

2. Interactions between lexical and phonological knowledge and learning in children with language difficulties 

3. Theoretically motivated interventions for children with developmental language problems. Particularly the application of constructivist/usage based approaches to language acquisition to the design of speech and language therapy interventions.

Current Work

Longitudinal Trajectories:

I am a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Centre of Research Excellence in Child Language in Melbourne (MCRI) https://www.mcri.edu.au/research/centres/centre-research-excellence-child-language. I am currently using the ELVS longitudinal cohort to explore the developmental trajectories of children with and without language difficulties, in order to further our understanding of the emergence of developmental language skills and difficulties across development


I am one of the team conducting Phase one of the Every Toddler Talking programme. This is a key initiative of the Victorian Government Department of Education and Training’s Early Years Strategic Plan 2014-2020 to improve language and communication outcomes for babies and toddlers. Every Toddler Talking will strengthen early childhood educators’ ability to promote children’s language development (birth to three) and improve collaboration between early childhood educators, allied health and other early childhood professionals. http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/department/earlyyearsstratplan.pdf

Phase One of Every Toddler Talking is a review of evidence-based practices internationally and current practices in Victoria to inform the design of the Every Toddler Talking trial. The Department has partnered with Murdoch Children's Research Institute to conduct Phase One, which includes a survey and in-depth interviews. http://blogs.rch.org.au/ccch/2015/02/12/survey-every-toddler-talking/

I also continue to work in partnership with Dr Sean Pert & Dr Carol Stow, SLTs who worked in Rochdale, to develop and evaluate a theoretically motivated language intervention based on usage-based approaches to language acquisition (The BEST programme - Building Early Sentences Therapy).

I am also collaborating with Professor James Law, a number of colleagues in North Tyneside Local Authority, and the North Tyneside Speech and Language Therapy Service on the 'Language for All' programme of research. As the first step in this programme we are exploring the multi-agency pathway for children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs at both a systems and a social-relational level, and mapping that pathway to current "best evidence".

Lexical & phonological knowledge:  

I have published on the nature of the developing lexicon in children with and without language impairments, focussing on developmental change and interactivity in lexical and phonological knowledge and processing.

I aim to further develop this work to consider how lexical and processing difficulties may interact over developmental time with other aspects of learning to create the broader language profiles found in children with Language Impairments.

Google Scholar Profile

ResearchGate Profile

Postgraduate Supervision

Doctoral Supervision

Juliane Hasselaar (completed 2014)

Siti Fizal

Noura AlAjroush

Katalin Tamasi (IDEALab http://em-idealab.com)

Corina-Irene Karapetrides


January 2015: Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victorian Government, Australia. "Literature and Practice Review: approaches to supporting language and communication for children birth to age three." Reilly, S., West, S., Fry, R., McKean, C., Levickis, P., McDonald, M., Wale, M., Goldfeld, S., Hackworth, N., Elek, C. (£42, 373).

January 2015: NHMRC: Extension to Post-doctoral Fellowship, Centre for Research Excellence in Child Language, MCRI. (£8, 631)

September 2013: NHRMC: Post-doctoral Fellowship, Centre for Research Excellence in Child Language, MCRI. (£46, 130)

July 2013: HASS Faculty Research Fund & North Tyneside LA. "Co-constructing an interveniotn to promote 'Language for All': understanding the multi-agency pathway for children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (Law, J., McKean, C., Cockerill, M., Allon-Smith, J., Robinson, K., Alexander, G.)(£20,  000)

July 2013: HEIF "Building Early Sentences Therapy: the BEST language intervention for young children with severe language difficulties. A usage based, cross-linguistic therapy." (McKean, C., Pert, S., Stow, C.) (£10, 000)

November 2009:  Knowledge Transfer Partnership with North Tyneside Local Authority "Understanding what matters most: exploring profiles and trajectories of development and learning from the early years to formal education. (James, D., Close, G., Wesolowski, K., McKean, C.)(£133, 000).

January 2010: ECLS School Research Fund "First steps towards usage-based Speech and Language Therapy: exploratory data from a novel assessment and therapy approach" (McKean, C.)(£5700). 

July 2005: ESRC Postgraduate Studentship (Open Competition) “Investigating the development of a developmental disorder: mapping change and early deficits in Specific Language Impairment”. (McKean, C.)(£48150)

July 2005: Newcastle University ECLS Postgraduate Research Student Bursary (McKean, C.)(£3000)


Undergraduate Teaching

Child Language and Development
Cases: Childhood Speech Language and Communication Difficulties
Issues in Developmental Language Difficulties
Clinical Supervision

Cases: Exceptional Development

UG Dissertation supervision 

Postgraduate Teaching

Child Language and Development
Cases: Childhood Speech Language and Communication Difficulties
Clinical Supervision

Advanced Theory and Practice in Developmental Language Difficulties

Masters Extended Case Supervision

Masters Dissertation Supervision 

PhD supervision