School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

Staff Profiles

Professor Cristina McKean

Professor of Child Language Development and Disorders



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 qualified 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 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

Degree Programme Director for the for CPD Framework for SLTs

UoA Coordinator and Research lead Speech and Language Sciences


  • 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
  • Member of International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics


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.

My research focusses on Child Language development & disorders with the aim of promoting robust language development for all children. My work encompasses longitudinal cohort secondary data analyses, intervention studies, & analyses of service delivery approaches.


This includes work focussed on:

  1. the nature & predictors of individual differences in longitudinal trajectories in child language 
  2. early identification of children who experience poor language into the school years 
  3. co-occurring difficulties & quality of life limitations in children with Developmental Language Disorders
  4. developing & evaluating an intervention for pre-school children with severe Language Disorders based on usage-based linguistics
  5. understanding optimal co-practice between SLTs & Educational staff 
  6. understanding service delivery for children with DLD across Europe
  7. the interface between lexical and phonological knowledge

Projects and webpage

  • LIVELY: - Language Intervention in the Early Years
  • ATLAS: - Automated Transcription and Language Analysis Software
  • SEED: - Social InEquality and its Effects on child Development: A study of birth cohorts in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands
  • ECHO: Enhancing CHildren's Oral language skills with research on interventions. COST ACTION IS1406: Enhancing children's oral language skills across Europe and beyond:
  • Centre for Research Excellence in Child Language
  • Identifying & Supporting Children's Early Language Needs
  • IMPACT: - Improving parent and child interaction to enhance oral language development (led by Penny Levickis - Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow)



ResearchGate Profile

GoogleScholar Profile


Postgraduate Supervision: Doctoral Students

  • Juliane Hasselaar (completed 2014)
  • Siti Faizal (completed 2019)
  • Katalin Tamasi (IDEALab (completed 2017)
  • Noura AlAjroush (submitted 2019)
  • Anastasia Trebacz
  • Kate Hope
  • Josie Tulip
  • Steph van Eeden

I welcome enquiries if you would like to discuss completing a PhD with me related to the areas of interest listed above.


  • 2020 – 2024 Understanding the impact of language, literacy and numeracy on the transition from late adolescence to adulthood: Following the Early Language in Victorian Study at age 18 years Reilly S, Eadie P, Bavin E, Levickis P, Barber B, Ware R, McKean C, Law J, Cook F, Conway L  National Health and Medical Research Council; NHMRC - Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grant - (APP1184250) AUS$942,256
  • 2020-2024        Language development in Arabic-speaking children in the early years: Tackling the roots of academic and social inequalities. Ghada Khattab (Newcastle), Caroline Floccia, (Plymouth), Cristina McKean, (Newcastle), Camille Messarra, (Saint Joseph University), Khalid Al-Shdifat, (Jordan University of Science and Technology), and Thair Odeh, (Birzeit University). ESRC Global Challenges Research Fund £1,776,108
  • 2019 – 2022        Enhancing early childhood educator responsiveness during interactions with children to improve child language: A pilot study. Levickis, P., Eadie, P., McKean, C., Matthews, D., Reilly, S. University of Melbourne MERI SEED Funding AUS $5,753.48
  • 2019 – 2021        An automated language transcription and analysis software (ATLAS) to assist speech and language therapists with clinical decision making in the evaluation of developmental language disorder. Bright, R., Gadgil, S., Wren, Y., McKean, C., Bates, G. NIHR i4i £876,310
  • 2019 – 2022        The Test of Complex Syntax: final development phase, standardization and diagnostic accuracy with respect to children with developmental language disorder and those at risk of language disorder. Frizelle, P., McKean, C., Fletcher, P., Bishop, D.V.M., Health Research Board  €368, 064
  • 2019 – 2022 Testing the efficacy of Building Early Sentences Therapy and uncovering mechanisms for change: a theoretically informed language intervention for preschool children with language disorder. McKean, C., Letts, C., Stringer, H., Pert, P. Heather van der Lely Foundation. £336, 126
  • 2019-2020 Assessment Tool and Resources to Support Action by Health Visitors and Early Years Practitioners to Identify and Support Children with Early Speech, Language and Communication Needs Law, J., Rush, R., Roulstone, S., McKean, C., Gilroy, V., Wilson, P., Public Health England. £500, 000
  • 2018 – 2022   Do children with persisting articulation disorder related to cleft palate have an underlying language and/or auditory processing disorder? van Eeden, S., Stringer, H., McKean, C. NIHR PhD Studentship (van Eeden) £80000
  • 2017 – 2020    Promoting school readiness in children at risk through language interventions: an exploration of how and why child, family and social factors influence response to language interventions and school readiness outcomes Tulip, J. McKean, C.,  Law, J.,  Rush, R.,  Mroz, ESRC NINEDTP Studentship (Tulip) £60000
  • 2016 – 2019    Devising an effective intervention for pre-school children with poor language development: do ‘usage based’ theories of language acquisition hold the key? McKean, C. Stringer, H., Law, J. Research Excellence Academy, PhD Studentship, Newcastle University. £56, 373
  • 2016   Early Language Development: Needs, provision and intervention for preschool children from socio-economically disadvantage backgrounds. Commissioned review. Law, J., Theakston, A., Dockrell, J., McKean, C., Gascoigne, M. Education Endowment Foundation. £27, 880.
  • 2016 - 2017    Promoting parent-child reading to improve school readiness and later language development: Who does it work for and how much difference can it make? Nuffield      Foundations, Law, J., King, T., McKean, C., Rush, R. £60, 000
  • 2016 - 2019       Improving parent and child interaction to enhance oral language development IMPACT.  Levickis, P. Law, J. McKean, C. and Noone, H. Horizon 2020 MARIE SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE ACTIONS Individual Fellowship €195,454
  • 2015 - 2019     IS1406 Enhancing children's oral language skills across Europe and beyond - a collaboration focusing on interventions for children with difficulties learning their first language Law, J., Saldana, D., Murphy, C, Gerrits, E., McKean, C., Thordardottir, E., Topbas, S. European COST Action Horizon 2020 €500,000
  • 2015 - 2016    Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victorian Government (AUS$150,000); Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, (AUS$50,000); "Language for Learning Follow Up Study". Wake, M., Goldfeld, S., Levickis, P., Reilly, S., Law, J., McKean, C., Mensah, F., Le, H. AUS$200,000
  • 2015 Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victorian Government, Australia. 'Every Toddler Talking' 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
  • 2015  NHMRC: Extension to Post-doctoral Fellowship, Centre for Research Excellence in Child Language, MCRI. £8, 631
  • 2013 - 2015     NHMRC: Post-doctoral Fellowship, Centre for Research Excellence in Child Language, MCRI. £46, 130
  • 2013 - 2014     HASS Faculty Research Fund & North Tyneside LA. "Co-constructing an intervention 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
  • 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
  • 2009 - 2011     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
  • 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
  • 2005 - 2009     ESRC Postgraduate Studentship (Open Competition) Investigating the development of a developmental disorder: mapping change and early deficits in Specific Language Impairment”. McKean, C£48150


I joined Newcastle University in 2009 as a Lecturer in Speech and Language Sciences. I am a qualified Speech and Language Therapist with extensive experience within the NHS.

I believe Speech and Language Therapy is one of the most rewarding and fascinating of careers and I feel privileged to be involved in the training of the talented and committed Speech and Language Therapists who graduate from Newcastle University.

As a clinician I worked with children with developmental speech, language and communication disorders and their families. I now conduct research examining how and why children differ in their language development and how best to design and deliver interventions which promote robust language development for all. My clinical and research experience informs my approach to teaching. I am passionate about the benefits of inquiry-based learning and the value of research-led-teaching.

Pedagogically I design my teaching to promote independent, critical thinking and evidence-based problem solving.

I believe it is essential that pre-registration programmes encourage the development of research aware and active SLTs. I offer opportunities to students at all levels to be involved in high quality research.

In my role as Editor-in Chief of the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, together with my colleague Steven Bloch, I have introduced a student research project prize. This prize, sponsored by Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, will be awarded annually to the best student research projects in UK pre-registration SLT programmes.

Modules I teach into or lead are listed below.

Undergraduate Teaching

  • Child Language and Development
  • Cases: Childhood Speech Language and Communication Difficulties
  • Issues in Developmental Language Difficulties
  • Clinical Supervision
  • Speech Pathology: Sensory
  • Speech Pathology: Cognition
  • UG Dissertation supervision 

Postgraduate Teaching

  • Child Language and Development
  • Cases: Childhood Speech Language and Communication Difficulties
  • Clinical Supervision
  • Speech Pathology: Sensory
  • Speech Pathology: Cognition
  • Advanced Theory and Practice in Developmental Language Difficulties
  • Masters Extended Case Supervision
  • Masters Dissertation Supervision 

PhD supervision

I welcome applications to study with me at doctoral level in all aspects of child language development and disorders and, in particular, research focussed on

  • population approaches to child language development
  • developmental change
  • interventions
  • service delivery models in child language interventions
  • lexical/phonological interface


Previous and Current PhD students

  • Steph van Eeden (NIHR)
  • Josie Tulip (NINE-DTP ESRC)
  • Anastasia Trebacz (Newcastle University Research Excellence Academy)
  • Kate Hope
  • Noura Al Ajroush
  • Siti Faizal - completed
  • Kata Tamasi (IDEA Lab) – completed
  • Juliana Hasselaar - completed