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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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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Monday, April 29th, 2013
An autistic 8-year-old boy from Georgia has found companionship and therapeutic help in the form of Xena, a rescued dog who survived unspeakable abuse but survived to bring hope and healing to one family. More from Today.com:
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It’s not that Jonny can’t talk. He knows how to speak, and he can read with proficiency. But autism left him closed off and isolated. Most of his social interactions result in painful awkwardness; unfamiliar situations can trigger terror, tantrums or both. Seeking comfort and predictability, he’d embrace solitary activities; on a typical day after school, he’d spend hours playing with marbles in silence.
Then, about two months ago, everything changed. Jonny forged a connection so unlikely that people familiar with it describe it as a miracle. His new confidante brings out the best in him — his playfulness, his cute singing voice, his verbal assessments of everything he sees and experiences.
Jonny connected with a dog.
“He is non-stop chatter now!” Jonny’s mother, Linda Hickey, 44, told TODAY.com. “He has so much to say about his math, about what he did in P.E.
“He is the happiest child that I’ve ever seen him be in eight years.”
Jonny’s transformation begins with the miracle that the dog survived to meet Jonny at all.
Mere months before she bounded into Jonny’s world, the pup was brought to the DeKalb County Animal Services’ shelter in Georgia after she collapsed in someone’s yard. When staff members saw her, they recoiled in shock.
“I’ve been doing rescue probably for about 12 years, and I had never seen a dog that young in that sort of condition,” said Chrissy Kaczynski, who works for Animal Services and is a founding member of the rescue group Friends of DeKalb Animals. “I brought her home with me and I didn’t think she’d make it through the night.”
But with fluids, nutritional supplements and an urgent vet visit, the puppy began to perk up.
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Newborns and infants do their first learning by gazing into the eyes of their parents and caregivers. But when it’s time for them to learn to speak, they begin to “read lips,” a new study published by Florida Atlantic University researchers has found.
The Associated Press reports on how developmental psychologist David Lewkowicz performed their study:
He and doctoral student Amy Hansen-Tift tested nearly 180 babies, groups of them at ages 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 months.
How? They showed videos of a woman speaking in English or Spanish to babies of English speakers. A gadget mounted on a soft headband tracked where each baby was focusing his or her gaze and for how long.
They found a dramatic shift in attention: When the speaker used English, the 4-month-olds gazed mostly into her eyes. The 6-month-olds spent equal amounts of time looking at the eyes and the mouth. The 8- and 10-month-olds studied mostly the mouth.
At 12 months, attention started shifting back toward the speaker’s eyes.
It makes sense that at 6 months, babies begin observing lip movement, Lewkowicz says, because that’s about the time babies’ brains gain the ability to control their attention rather than automatically look toward noise.
But what happened when these babies accustomed to English heard Spanish? The 12-month-olds studied the mouth longer, just like younger babies. They needed the extra information to decipher the unfamiliar sounds.
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That fits with research into bilingualism that shows babies’ brains fine-tune themselves to start distinguishing the sounds of their native language over other languages in the first year of life. That’s one reason it’s easier for babies to become bilingual than older children or adults.
Image: Happy baby girl, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
Toddlers who start using words later than their peers are not likely to suffer lasting consequences from their delay, a study published online in the journal Pediatrics has found.
When they are 2 years old, children who are behind on vocabulary and other measurable language development milestones do tend to display more behavioral problems than their more verbal peers. But over time–the children in the study were followed until they reached age 17–those issues disappeared, and the kids showed no increased behavioral or emotional delays or problems as long as other development was normal.
The study’s authors attribute the early behavioral issues to the children feeling frustrated at their inability to express themselves and be understood. “When the late-talking children catch up to normal language milestones, which the majority of children do, the behavioral and emotional problems are no longer apparent,” the paper’s lead author, Andrew J. O. Whitehouse of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth, Australia told The New York Times.
(image via: http://www.whattoexpect.com/)
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