Small Talk Child Language Development & Disorders Lab


Below are brief descriptions of the current studies in the Small Talk Child 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, Emily Hadden

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.

Technology and Storytelling: Intervention for children with Autism

Collaborators: Iris Fishman, Tech Kids Unlimited

This is an intervention study conducted in a partnership with Tech Kids Unlimited, a not-for-profit technology-based educational organization. Children with autism will receive intervention by trained Speech-Language Pathology students and students from NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Intervention will target story-telling skills (story content and linguistic form) and communication supported by different types of software. Outcomes will provide the foundation for the design of a new approach for language intervention for school-age children with autism.

Rhyme Awareness in Children with Cochlear Implants

Collaborators: Linye Jing, Katrien Vermeire, Andrea Mangino, NYU Lagone Cochlear Implant Center

Successful literacy learning is the most important achievement for a child in school. Decoding of written words is mostly dependent on phonological processing skills, i.e. the process of making use of the sound structure of oral language. Phonological processing skills typically develop well before school age, and pre-readers’ scores on measures of phonological awareness predict later reading achievements. Children with hearing impairments often show delayed language and reading development. One reason may be poorer auditory perceptual skills affecting phonological representations and leading to poorer phonological analysis skills. In children with cochlear implants (CIs), phonological awareness skills have not been extensively studied and few studies include children implanted at an early age.

This study focuses on rhyme recognition in children who were bilaterally implanted before the age of two years. The stimuli are carefully controlled in terms of statistical probability of rhyming words as well as perceptual saliency of consonant sounds in the target words. Outcomes will show if auditory deprivation during the first two years influences phonological awareness skills at age 4-5 and if these children show similar patterns of sensitivity to statistical patterns of language as children with normal hearing. It will also shed light on the importance of speech input during a child’s first years for the development of phonological processing and vocabulary. This knowledge will be valuable in terms of developing our understanding of language learning in general.

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

Collaborator: Emily Hadden

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).