Learning to Talk
Children with larger vocabularies typically have better speech production and speech perception skills than children with smaller vocabularies. Why are word learning and sound learning related? Our research focuses on understanding the interactions among speech perception and production skills and vocabulary growth in a diverse group of preschool children, including children with cochlear implants, children from low socioeconomic status families, and late talkers. (See paidologos for our research on how speech production skills develop in children who are learning languages other than English.)
Learning to Listen
Cochlear implants are the signature achievement of modern signal processing. Children who receive cochlear implants early in life have much better speech and language skills than children who receive hearing aids. But the speech and language skills of children with cochlear implants are still delayed relative to children with normal hearing. Our research focuses on how children with cochlear implants process speech and language differently than children with normal hearing so we can develop more effective methods of intervention.
Learning to Read
Imagine you are a kindergartner or first grader. You are from Maryland, but when you get to school, your teacher is speaking British English. Would it be harder for you to understand your teacher and learn to read? Absolutely! Dialect mismatch occurs in the U.S. when the language of instruction (Mainstream American English) does not match the home dialect. Many English-speaking children who grow up in speaking a non-mainstream dialect at home; therefore, they experience dialect mismatch when they enter school. In a series of studies in our lab, we are examining the effect of dialect mismatch on learning to read.
Learning to Toggle Talk
Here at UMD we are partnering with Maryland and DC schools to study the efficacy of Toggle Talk, a language arts curriculum supplement. Toggle Talk provides young children with vocabulary and language structure awareness to become comfortable in switching between their home/informal language and classroom/formal language. Toggle Talk has been shown to improve standardized reading scores in pilot studies.