Research Roundup: How researchers are using LENA technology to make new discoveries

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Coaching parents on early talk benefits children

A new study from the University of Washington shows that coaching parents on how to talk with their babies positively affects child development.

Using LENA technology, researchers provided parents with feedback on their child’s language environment and strategies for increasing interactive talk and “parentese,” a form of speech that’s slow and clear, with exaggerated vowels and intonation.

“We know from over 30 years of research in the lab that infants prefer parentese over standard speech, and that infants who are exposed to more parentese at home have larger vocabularies as toddlers,” said Patricia Kuhl, co-director of I-LABS, in a press release. “We wanted to explore whether parents benefit from “coaching” by adapting their own speaking style and whether this would affect their child’s language outcomes.”

Babies whose parents received coaching during the study were significantly more verbal by 14 months of age. Parents in the coaching group increased speech directed at their child and increased their use of parentese by 15 percent, compared to a seven percent increase in the control group.

“Everyday moments and daily interactions really matter, and parents can create more such moments and be more intentional about them,” said Naja Ferjan Ramírez, a research scientist at I-LABS and lead author of the study. “Language learning can be ignited during daily routines, such as diaper changes, grocery shopping, or sharing a meal. Early language skills are important predictors of a child’s learning to read and of their success in school, and parents can directly affect their child’s outcomes in this way.”

Read the full article at Washington.edu or the study in Developmental Science.


Conversational turns with teachers are positively related to language skills in children who are high-risk

A team of researchers at the University of Miami (UM) used LENA technology to evaluate how interactive talk in child care settings influences the language development of children from low-income or high-risk circumstances.

“Previous research on language development looked mostly at the role of parent-child interaction within a home setting or a lab environment, which means we’re missing a big part of a child’s everyday life — the classroom,” assistant professor of psychology Lynn Perry said in Science Daily.

Over the course of a year, Perry collected hundreds of hours of audio from the child language environment at the UM Linda Ray Intervention Center, which LENA technology turned into data.

Analysis of the data suggests that children who experienced more conversational turns with their teachers developed better language skills. These language skills form the foundation for later school readiness skills like literacy and social/emotional skills, Perry said.

“The use of cutting-edge LENA recording devices has broadened our data collection options and allowed us to work as a team to both examine language experiences and utilize data to provide feedback to teachers upon which to build their strategies for infants and toddlers with developmental delays,” said center director and professor Lynne Katz.
After learning about the findings, teachers at the center are looking for new ways to increase back-and-forth conversations with children.

Read the full article at Sciencedaily.com or the study in PLOS One.


LENA technology could inform selective mutism research, diagnosis, and treatment

A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, led by Child Mind Institute researchers, found that LENA technology has the potential to inform research into selective mutism, an anxiety disorder often diagnosed in early childhood that is characterized by persistent failure to speak in certain social situations.

Because LENA passively captures and quantifies child vocalizations, it can provide standardized, objective measurements that could aid in diagnosing selective mutism and evaluating treatment efficacy, the study found.
The team conducted two tests using LENA to assess people with selective mutism. Both tests suggest that LENA may be the tool that clinicians and researchers have been looking for.

“Clinicians continue to face significant challenges in effectively diagnosing selective mutism and monitoring and measuring the efficacy of treatments using standardized, objective tools,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Michael Milham in a press release. “Our findings suggest that wearable technologies that can unobstrusively capture vocalization data have real potential to advance SM research and help clinicians determine whether or not treatments are working.”

Read the full article at EurekAlert.com or the study in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

LENA Team

The LENA Team is a dedicated group of professionals who are passionate about increasing awareness of the importance of early interactive talk. We are statisticians, speech-language pathologists, curriculum specialists, engineers and linguists.

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