Monday, February 24th, 2014
Hearing adults talking may have a significant effect on the cognitive and language development of babies who were born prematurely, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. More from WomenandInfants.org:
The goal of the study was to test the association of the amount of talking that a baby was exposed to at what would have been 32 and 36 weeks gestation if a baby had been born full term, using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd Edition (Bayley – III) cognitive and language scores.It was hypothesized that preterm infants exposed to higher word counts would have higher cognitive and language scores at seven and 18 months corrected age.
“Our earlier study identified that extremely premature infants vocalize (make sounds) eight weeks before their mother’s due date and vocalize more when their mothers are present in the NICU than when they are cared for by NICU staff,” explained Dr. Vohr.
At 32 weeks and 36 weeks, staff recorded the NICU environment for 16 hours with a Language Environment Analysis (LENA) microprocessor. The adult word count, child vocalizations and “conversation turns” (words of mother or vocalizations of infant within five seconds) between mother and infant are recorded and analyzed by computer.
“The follow-up of these infants has revealed that the adult word count to which infants are exposed in the NICU at 32 and 36 weeks predicts their language and cognitive scores at 18 months. Every increase by 100 adult words per hour during the 32 week LENA recording was associated with a two point increase in the language score at 18 months,” said Dr. Vohr.
The results showed the hypothesis to be true.Dr. Vohr concluded, “Our study demonstrates the powerful impact of parents visiting and talking to their infants in the NICU on their developmental outcomes. Historically, very premature infants are at increased risk of language delay.The study now identifies an easy to implement and cost effective intervention – come talk and sing to your baby – to improve outcomes.”
Image: Mom holding infant’s hand, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
Language delays are often diagnosed in children who are also very socially shy, but new research has found that shy toddlers may be acquiring language normally, but are less able to express themselves because of their shyness. More from a release announcing the results:
The study, conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Connecticut, appears in the journal Child Development.
“Our findings suggest that inhibited behaviors like shyness don’t hamper language acquisition overall but instead relate specifically to how toddlers express themselves through words,” according to Ashley K. Smith Watts, graduate student, and Soo H. Rhee, associate professor of psychology, both of the University of Colorado, who were part of the research team.
The study also found that girls had higher levels of both shyness and language than boys. However, the degree to which shyness was related to language development was similar for girls and boys.
Researchers collected information from 816 children in Colorado who were primarily White but varied in socioeconomic status and who were representative of the population of Boulder. Information was collected at ages 14, 20, and 24 months through parent reports and by observing children during home and lab visits. The researchers assessed expressive, or spoken, language by asking children to imitate certain sounds and words (like /ai/ and “mama”), and by asking the children to answer questions verbally. They assessed receptive, or understood, language by asking children to follow instructions (“Give me the cup and ball”).
“Shy children may need help with developing their speaking abilities,” added Smith Watts and Rhee. “They may benefit from interventions that target confidence, social competence, and autonomy to support the development of expressive language. For example, caregivers can encourage them to be autonomous and arrange play dates with compatible peers.”
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Image: Shy child, via Shutterstock
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Friday, September 27th, 2013
Videos that aim to help children learn may be entertaining, but their educational value is under dispute by a group of researchers who have concluded that face-to-face social interaction goes further toward language development than any video program can. More from Time.com:
It’s that dynamic interaction between the infant and her caregiver — a back-and-forth that static videos and television programs can’t provide — that is critical for efficient language learning. And a group of researchers from the University of Washington, Temple University and the University of Delaware explain why.
The scientists studied 36 two-year-olds who were randomly assigned to learn verbs in three different ways. A third of the group trained with a live person, another third learned through video chat technology like Skype, and the final third learned by watching a pre-recorded video of a language lesson from the same person.
Their results, published in the journal Child Development, showed that kids learned well in person and in the live video chat, likely because both scenarios allowed for an interaction between the child and the teacher, allowing the youngsters to be more responsive and therefore retain more from their experience. The children using the recorded videos, by contrast, did not learn new vocabulary words by the end of the 10 minute learning and testing task.
The findings confirm previous work that connected live conversations with better vocabularies among young children, but add another layer of understanding about why one-on-one interactions are so important to a developing brain. Nerve connections responsible for language building requires repetition and reinforcement, which can help to strengthen the correct and appropriate words or sounds and discard extraneous or inappropriate ones. It’s not that educational programming or DVDs are harming young minds; it’s more that they aren’t maximizing the infants’ ability to absorb and learn and pick up words and verbal skills more efficiently. So parking a child in front of screen for a few minutes isn’t going to hamper his ability to talk, but interspersing those videos with some one-on-one time engaging in conversation could help to speed along the learning process.
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Friday, June 28th, 2013
Non-verbal cues such as pointing or gesturing may help develop a child’s vocabulary, even though it doesn’t involve saying new words. This is the finding of a new University of Chicago study that examined how vocabulary-building–a known predictor of later school success–might be encouraged in homes with all types of communication. More from Time.com:
Child development experts have long advised parents to talk to their babies, even if their infants can’t talk back. The more a parent talks to his child, the more words they are likely to learn. Now comes new work suggesting that even non-verbal cues such as pointing to objects can encourage vocabulary building regardless of socioeconomic status. It’s not just the quantity of words spoken, then, that’s important but the quality of the learning environment that may make the greatest difference.
To come to this conclusion, researchers from the University of Chicago videotaped the daily interactions of 50 parents and their toddlers over two 90-minute sessions when the kids were 14 months to 18 months. In order to tease apart the parents who used non-verbal cues from those who relied more on verbal communication, the researchers bleeped out a key word from 10 randomly selected 40-second clips of these recordings. They asked another 218 adults to watch these clips and guess which word the parent was saying at the beep.
The scientists then defined those situations in which the participants were easily able to determine the word — for example, guessing that the recorded parent was saying “book” if he said it while the child was walking to a bookshelf — as involving non-verbal cues, and classified the environments in which it was harder to guess the missing word as being primarily verbal ones.
Most of the parents used non-verbal cues from 5% to 38% of the time. Three years later, about the time the youngsters entered kindergarten, the researchers assessed their vocabularies and found that children with the biggest vocabularies also had parents whose beeped-out words were more easily deduced in the recording clips. Giving new words context with non-verbal cues could explain about 22% of the difference in vocabularies among children whose parents used them v. those who did not.
Image: Mother talking to child, via Shutterstock
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