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.

Content, Form and Use of Language in Young Siblings of Children with Developmental Language Disorders



















In this study we are interested in early communication in young children. All infants are invited to participate, but we are especially interested in infants with an older sibling with a developmental language delay.  Early detection and intervention is important and  we need measures that can capture early signs of later language and communication problems. There is a need for measures describing the development of language and communication over time (McCardle et al., 2005; Tager-Flusberg, 2005). The method of analysis used in our lab is based on the Form/Content/Use taxonomy by Lahey (1988; also “The Intentionality Model”, Bloom & Tinker, 2001).

The question we are asking in this study is: Do young siblings of children with ASD and SLI show  deviations from typical development in terms of precursors and early development of language Form, Content, and Use?

Participation: We are currently inviting infants (10 months old or younger) for this study. Participation involves meeting every other month for one year and every three months for the next year. Infants are video recorded in interaction with a parent and with the examiner during a play activity. Each visit is reimbursed with $25. INTERESTED? Click here.


Language and Context in Children with High-Functioning Autism

There is a need for studies providing detailed linguistic profiles of children across different groups of developmental language disorders, such as children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and specific language impairment (SLI). We know from previous studies of children with SLI that speaking contexts (e.g., conversation and narration) have an effect on language production (e.g. Reuterskiöld-Wagner et al., 2000). Less is known about contextual effects on language production in children with ASD. These children are often variable in their language production and there is reason to expect task-effects also in this group of children.

Students have collected data for a study called Language and Context in Children with ASD, in which we investigate task-related effects on language production in school-aged children with ASD, children with SLI and children with typical development .  

Results comparing  school age-children with ASD and children with typical development have been presented at the ASHA annual convention in San Diego, CA, in November 2011, at the 33rd annual 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 manuscript is in preparation. The study was supported by an NYU Steinhardt Challenge Grant.

Hyperlexia in Children

Children with hyperlexia show reading skills that develop exceptionally early. Hyperlexia is often, but not always associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). There is usually a discrepancy between word recognition skills (decoding) and reading comprehension with word recognition above age expectations and reading comprehension (and oral language comprehension) below age expectations. Hyperlexia is a relatively understudied area and many questions remain unanswered. We are in the process of developing a study, which may answer some of the questions surrounding hyperlexia and which may lead to a better understanding of how we can support some children with poor language comprehension.

Participation: The study is not yet open for participation, but will be so in the near future.

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

There are different approaches to analyzing language samples. The software SALT: Systematic Analysis of Language Trancripts (Miller & Iglesias 1984-2012) allows for the coding and quantification of a range of standard measures (MLU, intelligibility, mazes, grammatical morphemes, TTR etc.) The flexibility of the SALT program offers the possibility to add additional codes targeting specific areas of interest.

A different method created by Bloom & Lahey (1978; Lahey 1988; see also “The Intentionality Model”, Bloom & Tinker, 2001) was created to describe the child’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 view, specified F/C/U interactions follow a developmental progression where each behavior is a prerequisite for the next to develop. The assessment consists of five levels of analysis from language precursors to narrative language.

We are developing a method whereby the Lahey codes are integrated in the SALT coding procedure to allow for a convenient quantification of F/C/U-interactions in child language samples. A preliminary version of this work was presented at the yearly 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.

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.

A manuscript is currently in press in BioMed Research International.