Small Talk Child Language Lab


Below are brief descriptions of the current studies in the Language Development & Disorders Lab. Parents who are interested in enrolling their children in any of these studies can contact Dr. Reuterskiöld here.

Students interested in participating in all different aspects of the research process, such as planning, creating protocols, data collection and analysis, as well as preparation for dissemination of results, are welcome to contact Dr. Reuterskiöld and participate in weekly lab meetings.

A list of this lab's current and previous collaborators in research can be found here.

Statistical Properties of Language and Word Learning in Autism

Collaborator: Iris Fishman

In this study we explore how statistical patterns of spoken and written language affect word learning in children with autism. Children with autism demonstrate social impairments, which have been attributed to their language learning difficulties (e.g., Tager-Flusberg & Caronna, 2007). One recent study revealed that the presence of a written word, while also hearing a new word, facilitates word learning in children with autism to a higher degree than in children with typical development (Lucas & Norbury, 2014). Spoken words consist of different speech sound combinations and written words consist of different letter combinations. In this study we explore the impact of the frequency of sound and letter combinations for word learning in autism. We use an eye-tracking device, which monitors a person’s visual attention in real time, to provide us with eye gaze movements and eye gaze fixation times. Visual attention in response to auditory stimuli is closely time-locked; the use of eye tracking can provide a measure of online language processing as a word or sentence unfolds in real time, allowing us to explore how children with ASD make decisions and resolve ambiguities in word learning compared to TD children.

In this study we also explore written production and text editing in school-age children with autism. We use a type-tracking program, which allows us to study the online processes involved in written text production and revision. Little is know about written language production during typing both in children with typical development and children with autism.

Using the SALT Program to Analyze Content/Form/Use-Interactions in Child Language

Bloom & Lahey (1978; Lahey 1988) described children's ability to express intentionality with the interaction of language Form (grammar/syntax), Content (concepts/propositions) and Use (pragmatics; communicative function and nonlinguistic and linguistic utterance) within each utterance.In this project we have developed a simplified coding system for analyzing language sample in terms of F/C/U using the software SALT: Systematic Analysis of Language Trancripts (Miller & Iglesias 1984-2012). 

We are currently working together with speech language pathologists at the Rebecca School in NYC, to see how this method of analysis can aid communication goal setting for children with autism spectrum disorders.

A preliminary version of this work was presented at the ASHA (American Speech Language and Hearing Association) convention in 2010, an expanded version was presented at the 2012 ASHA convention as well as the ICPLA 2014 and IASCL 2014 (with focus on pragmatic coding).

For a short description of this project (oral presentation handout) please click here.

Language in Children with High-Functioning Autism

We have collected language samples from school-age children with ASD and their typical peers to investigate features of language production that are related to pragmatic skills.The study was supported by an NYU Steinhardt Challenge Grant, and a manuscript for publication is in preparation.

Results have been presented at the ASHA annual convention in San Diego, CA, in November 2011, at the Symposium for Research in Child Language Disorders (SRCLD) in Madison, WI in June 2012, and at the 7th International Workshop on Language Production (IWOLP '12) in New York, NY in July , 2012. A paper for publication is under preparation.

Incidental Learning of Idioms in Children

How do children learn idioms such as "Don't spill the beans?" Together with Dr. Diana Sidtis, Dr. Reuterskiöld designed an experiment where low-frequency idioms and novel (non-idiomatic) phrases matched in number of words occur in a naturalistic conversational context. Participants for the study were recruited from the NYC public school system and results indicated that after one exposure in a conversational context, children recognized more idioms than matched novel phrases, as evidenced by a recognition task. Idioms are commonly used in everyday language and in child literature. It is largely unknown how children learn these structures. Our results support the view that idioms are learned in a different manner than novel language. Please see 

Reuterskiöld, C., & Van Lancker Sidtis, D. (2013). Retention of idioms following one-time exposure. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 29(2), 219-231.

Non-Word Repetition and Speech Motor Control

Previous research has shown a relationship between a child's chronological age, articulation skills and PSTM memory, as measured by non-word repetition tasks. Few studies, however, have examined the relationship between the motor skills required for speech production and the cognitive and linguistic complexity of these phonological tasks. Non-world repetition is a complex psycholinguistic task and researchers call for studies investigating the underlying skills involved in non-word repetition, such as motor planning and execution. Dr. Reuterskiöld and Dr. Maria Grigos have collected data for two exploratory studies examining the effects of increased cognitive demands on articulator movement during repetition. Emphasis was placed on comparisons between real-words and non-words, as well as simple and complex syllable structures. Children and adolescents produced real words and non-words, and speech motor movements were analyzed using a movement tracking system. Results showed that movement duration and variability was greater during the production of non-words compared to real words.

This work has been published in BioMed Research International:

Reuterskiold, C., & Grigos, M. (2015). Nonword Repetition and Speech Motor Control in Children. Biomed Res Int. 2015, 683279.