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12 active trials for Language Development

Efficacy of an Early Rhythmic Intervention in Infancy

The present project develops from a wide research line aiming at identifying very early electrophysiological risk markers for neurodevelopmental disorders. Long-term goals of the study include the characterization of language/learning developmental trajectories in children at high risk for language disorders and the implementation of ecological interventions based on enriched auditory experience to be employed to these children in an attempt to modify their atypical developmental trajectory before the emergence and crystallization of any behavioural symptoms and within the early period of known maximum cerebral plasticity. Specifically, the main aim of this study is the development and implementation of an innovative and ecological early intervention based on environmental auditory enrichment (labelled "rhythmic intervention"). This intervention is tested both on a sample of typically developing infants and on a sample of infants at high familial risk for language disorders during a time span between 7 and 9 months of age. The efficacy of the intervention is tested on the electrophysiological markers tested before and after the intervention activities and on the linguistic outcomes within a longitudinal approach. The efficacy of such an intervention is compared to the spontaneous development observed in comparable groups of infants with and without familial risk for language disorders. In addition, only in a group of typically developing infants, a control intervention providing passive exposure to the same auditory stimulation is tested, in order to verify the specific contribution of the active participation of the children to the intervention. The investigators hypothesize that the rhythmic intervention may modify the electrophysiological markers underlying auditory processing and the linguistic skills of all children, with a larger increase in infants at familial risk for language disorders who are specifically impaired in such skills.

Start: February 2021
Duet 2.0 Starting the Conversation: A New Intervention Model to Stimulate Language Growth in Underserved Populations

Caregiver-child language interactions in the first three years of life predict early language development, school readiness, and academic achievement. Despite the importance of these factors, there are disparities in the frequency and quality of children's early language interactions. Although there is within-group variability, children from low-income families, on average, have fewer and lower-quality language experiences than their middle- or high-income peers. The current study addresses a need in the community for an early language intervention accessible to low-income families who speak Spanish. This study will build upon research conducted in a previous study, "Enhancing the Communication Foundation-The Duet Project", by piloting the English and Spanish modules with families through a light-touch, remote intervention delivery model. Temple University Health System's Department of Pediatrics will aid in identifying participants. Baseline and follow-up measures will be used to evaluate caregiver knowledge of child development, psychosocial perceptions, demographics, caregiver-child language interaction quality, and child language skills. It is hypothesized that dyads who receive the intervention will make greater gains in early interaction quality, knowledge of child development, and child language skills than the delayed-access control group. This work has the potential to shape early intervention design and implementation for people in underserved communities across the country.

Start: December 2020
Understanding the Predictive Factors and the Neurocognitive Basis of Developmental Language Disorder

For most children, language acquisition might appear like an effortless phenomenon, mostly arising from informal daily interaction with their surrounding people. Despite an adequate learning environment however, some children encounter major difficulties in learning their native tongue and develop a Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). Although the existence of a multi-factorial etiology has seemed to reach an agreement, presumably combining genetic and environmental factors to some kind of neural disruption, the underlying mechanisms leading to DLD are, to date, poorly understood. Many studies have attempted to identify risk factors and early predictors associated with the future development of a language impairment. However, despite the constant efforts to identify early markers able to differentiate between transient and persistent language difficulties, early detection of children who will be developing a DLD remains highly difficult, partially due to the lack of direct and ecological measures of early language and communication development. In addition research on the causal neural correlates of DLD is in its infancy, and often compromised by small sample sizes or analyses methods that lack anatomical specificity to determine the neural correlates of language impairment. Hence, In order to improve early detection and, therefore, language intervention, this longitudinal research project aims at investigating the early predictive factors as well as the neurocognitive basis of DLD by means of an integrative, multi-dimensional, and multi-methodological approach. To substantially gain insight, this research ideally integrates risk factors at multiple different levels, including the cognitive, neurobiological, parental and environmental level. From a methodological perspective, we will combine direct and indirect behavioral methods with neuroimaging methods in order to propose an early predictive model of language development.

Start: April 2020