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Vocabulary development study

WHY DO CHILDREN LEARN SOME WORDS BEFORE OTHERS?

-Word learning strategies of typical and late-talking toddlers-

THE STUDY
We are currently investigating the strategies toddlers use to learn words. We do this by eximining the words that toddlers acquire through a six-month period. These words are collected by parents using our special mobile app.

Which words they learn earlier? - The strategy

We know toddlers tend to learn words earlier if they share many characteristics with other words that they hear from caregivers. For instance, for a child, the word 'car' is related to many other words in its environment such as ‘wheel’, ‘truck’, or ‘road’. Later on, they may learn other words such as ‘drawer’, which don’t have as many relationships with other words. This evidence make us think that one of the reasons toddlers find it easier to learn the meaning of words like 'car' is because of the high number of 'semantic links' it has with other words.

But, how do children learn the meanings of words?

We know parents’ speech is an important source of information. In this study, we work out the relationships between words that children are picking up based on their caregivers’ speech. Then, with this information, we connect all the words from each child's vocabulary to form 'semantic networks', like the one shown below. A big part of out investigation will focus on studying the structure of these networks as they grow.

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Late-talking toddlers - Do they use different word learning strategies?

Some children start talking later than others. Those children who produce fewer words later than is expected for their age are known as ‘late talkers’. We understand that some toddlers present language delay due to a physical, neurological or developmental delay. But some others are just that - delayed for no apparent reason. The latter type of late talker is the focus of our study. We are exploring whether one of the reasons behind this initial delay is the type of strategies that these children may be using to learn words.

WHO CAN PARTICIPATE IN THE STUDY?

  • We are looking for children between 12 to 24 months.
  • Children who are believed to be ‘late talkers’ are welcome up to 30 months (provided that the
    language delay is not due to any physical or developmental delay, including language delays due to prolonged ear infection)
  • For typical-talking todlers, English is spoken at home at least 50% of the time. For late-talking toddlers, English is the only language spoken at home.

WHAT DO YOU DO?
We will ask you to download our specially designed mobile phone app. In this app, you will find a vocabulary checklist. We will ask you to tick the new words that your child says and/or understands over six months. Additionally, we will ask you to upload a short audio recording every two weeks (20-30 minutes duration) of you having a conversation with your child during a typical activity, like playing or while being fed. The recording can also be made using our app.

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IS THERE ANY REWARD FOR PARTICIPATING?
You will receive by post two children’s books every month for taking part in this study. Additionally, at the end of the study, you will receive a high-quality print, which you and your family can cherish, showing the vocabulary development of your child (see the example below). We will also send you the PDF files of these visualisations.

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WILL MY TAKING PART BE KEPT CONFIDENTIAL?
Yes. We will follow strict ethical and legal practice and all information about you will be handled in confidence.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I DON’T WANT TO CARRY ON BEING PART OF THE STUDY?
If you agree to participate, you may withdraw from the study at any time without affecting you in any way. You have the right to withdraw from the study completely and decline any further contact by study staff after you withdraw.

HOW TO JOIN OR FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS STUDY?
To learn more or to join contact Eva Jiménez:
• E-mail: E.Jimenez-Mesa@warwick.ac.uk


This study is part of the Warwick Research with Kids Group (Wa.R.Ks). To learn about the group you can visit: https://www.facebook.com/warksgroup/ and to be contacted about taking part in one of our studies visit: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/psych/research/language/cdlab/research/signup/

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Click here to visit the PARTICIPANT AREA

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MEET THE RESEARCHER

I worked as a speech therapist and special educational needs (SEN) teacher since 2006. I have experience in helping children with autism and language disorders to make use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems. As well as working with toddlers with language delay, I supported parents towards effective interaction with their children to aid their language development. Through research, I hope to contribute both to the field of language development and in the design of effective interventions to prevent language difficulties.

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Want to know about my thesis?

Check out this video of me taking part in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®)


START AND END DATES

We have different start waves, depending on the child's age:

  • August 2018 to Feb 2019.
  • Sept 2018 to Mar 2019.
  • Oct 2018 to Apr 2019.
  • Nov 2018 to May 2019.
  • Dec 2018 to June 2019.
  • Jan 2019 to July 2019
  • Feb 2019 to Aug 2019
  • March 2019 to Sept 2019
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