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Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
A new study that followed 670 preschool-aged children in Ohio for a year is urging that integrating children with disabilities, who are enrolled in special education programs in school, into regular-ability classrooms may have a remarkable impact on the special needs’ kids language skills over the course of a school year. Laura Justice, co-author of the study and professor of teaching and learning at The Ohio State University, says that the results should encourage schools who are considering inclusion models where children with disabilities are placed in the same classroom as peers who are developing normally. More from Science Daily:
“Students with disabilities are the ones who are affected most by the language skills of the other children in their class,” Justice said.
“We found that children with disabilities get a big boost in their language scores over the course of a year when they can interact with other children who have good language skills.”
In fact, after one year of preschool, children with disabilities had language skills comparable to children without disabilities when surrounded by highly skilled peers in their classroom.
“The biggest problem comes when we have a classroom of children with disabilities with no highly skilled peers among them,” Justice said. “In that case, they have limited opportunity to improve their use of language.”
Justice added that highly-skilled children’s language abilities were not negatively affected by having the special needs children in their classrooms.
Image: Preschool letters and numbers, 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.
Image: Child watching a video, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, June 20th, 2013
The squeaks and puffs that babies and young toddlers make may actually be their way of imitating actual grammatical words, according to a new study that recorded tens of thousands of sounds made by French-speaking children between 23 and 37 months of age. The findings could have implications for how researchers understand language development and delays, and how they treat it. More from LiveScience:
“Many of the toddlers we studied made a small sound, a soft breath, or a pause, at exactly the place that a grammatical word would normally be uttered,” [Newcastle University researcher Cristina] Dye said in a statement.
“The fact that this sound was always produced in the correct place in the sentence leads us to believe that young children are knowledgeable of grammatical words. They are far more sophisticated in their grammatical competence than we ever understood.”
Though Dye was studying French-speaking toddlers, she and her colleagues expect their findings to apply to other languages as well. She also thinks their results could have implications for understanding language delay in children.
“When children don’t learn to speak normally it can lead to serious issues later in life,” Dye said in a statement. “For example, those who have it are more likely to suffer from mental illness or be unemployed later in life. If we can understand what is ‘normal’ as early as possible then we can intervene sooner to help those children.”
Previous research has shown that toddlers, before they articulate full sentences themselves, may be able to understand complex grammar. A 2011 study published in the journal Cognitive Science found that as early as 21 months, children could match made-up verbs with pictures that made sense grammatically. For example, if they were told “The rabbit is glorping the duck,” they would point to a picture of a rabbit lifting a duck’s leg rather than the duck lifting its leg on its own.
Image: Baby talking on a phone, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
A new study has found that a mother who suffers from depression during pregnancy may expect to see some language delays in her baby. The study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tested babies at ages 6 months and 10 months, each time measuring the babies’ abilities to distinguish between similar sounds in different language, and engage with people who are speaking different languages when the speakers’ voices are muted.
In typically developing children, 6-month-olds can easily make distinctions between two languages, and 10-month-olds cannot, revealing a critical window for language development in young brains. The study, however, found that babies whose mothers were depressed but took no medication during pregnancy experienced a delay; they “passed the test” at 10 months, but failed it at 6 months. Babies whose mothers took antidepressants during pregnancy failed the test at both ages.
CNN.com has more:
“What’s going on here? Researchers aren’t sure, and they don’t know if it’s good or bad. One explanation for delay in the depressed-but-not-medicated group is that those kids weren’t being exposed to as much engaging speech because their mothers were depressed.
Alternatively, the brain chemicals from the mother associated with depression could have something to do with it. And the antidepressants could be impacting the child’s brain development in the group whose mothers took these medications.
Are there long-lasting consequences of delays, or advancements, in this critical period of language sensitivity? No one knows. More research needs to be done in order to determine the implications of the findings of this study.”
Image: Mom and baby, via Shutterstock
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