Associate Professor of Communicative Sciences and Disorders; Department Chair
"At least 50 percent of children who have language impairments in preschool will go on to have problems learning how to read and write. We are trying to find out which factors can predict success in later learning."
Christina Reuterskiöld began her career as a physical education teacher. “I found it intriguing that some kids were able to follow my directions and some weren’t, while others checked out or hesitated.”
For Reuterskiöld, who had always been interested in languages, this sparked an interest in how children listen and learn. “Also, at the time my voice was pitched too high to be effective in a noisy gym environment. I was often hoarse, so I went to voice therapy. These things, plus the fact that I had a friend who was a speech language pathologist, made me want to turn my attention to the study of speech pathology, especially as it relates to childen.”
Before coming to NYU, Reuterskiöld taught in the Department of Logopedics and Phoniatrics at Lund University Sweden. She maintains close ties to Lund, and is currently collaborating on a study with a colleague there, Dr. Kristina Hansson.
With data from previous projects supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Swedish Council of Social Research, the two are looking at longitudinal development in Swedish-speaking children with language impairments. “Longitudinal data are rare in our field. Such data are valuable because at least 50 percent of children who have language impairments in preschool will go on to have problems learning how to read and write. We are trying to find out which factors can predict success in later learning.”
The two researchers are also in the process of planning a cross-linguistic study that will compare language impairment in children in the U.S. and Sweden. “Language impairment manifests itself in different ways depending on the structure of a particular language. Examining these differences can help us better understand what causes language impairment across the board.”
A collaboration with department colleague Professor Diana Sidtis is also in the works. “We’re going to look at idiom learning in normally developing children,” says Reuterskiöld. “Previous research has stressed a level of word knowledge, but we think idiom learning has more to do with memory skills and the context in which idioms are used.”
To test this, they will tell children a story that employs idioms and chart their recognition of them before and after the story telling. They will also have the children’s parents rate their use of idiomatic expressions at home. “We’re trying to determine how long it takes for normally developing children to absorb idiomatic expressions, because very little is known about this process. This knowledge will then serve as a basis for intervention with language impaired children, who have a known problem using these expressions.”
Another study, this one in collaboration with Assistant Professor Maria Grigos, will investigate the link between speech motor skills, memory, and early literacy skills. Like a great deal of Reuterskiöld’s work, this study is an attempt to get at the core of what predicts strong reading and writing development in children with language impairment.
Reuterskiöld is excited to be engaged in so much research and has plans for even more. “That’s because we have such a good climate here at NYU, with such excellent opportunities for multicultural and multi-linguistic studies.” One of these opportunities will no doubt be more research in collaboration with her colleagues at Lund University, and perhaps participation in the NYU Study Abroad Program through Lund.
The enthusiasm of her students is also inspiring, she says, and she hopes to engage more of them in upcoming studies. “I currently work with a doctoral student on small projects. She’s very interested in the cross-linguistic aspect of my work because she is fluent in Russian. It would be great to bring on more students to my new projects."
Reuterskiöld also mentions as invigorating the impressive recent developments in the department. “We’re moving into a new location soon and there’s a sense of a new beginning, a fresh start. We have a great team here, with a steadily stronger research program that is already contributing to the knowledge base in the field of communications disorders. It’s such a stimulating environment, with really positive expectations for the future.”