The Child Talk Study

Photos of the Professor Micheal Sandbank's Brain and Language Lab in the Department of Special Education in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin.Dr. Sandbank researches early language and social communication development in children with autism and developmental disabilities. Micheal Sandbank has worked with individuals with disabilities across all age groups, both as a teacher and an interventionist. Presently, she researches factors that influence language acquisition in young children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Her program of research involves the analysis of multiple types of data, including naturalistic language samples and neural measures of speech processing in young children. Dr. Sandbank is particularly interested in the use of neural measures of speech processing to identify clinically useful practices for language intervention for young children with disabilities. She also specializes in specific research methodologies, including those pertaining to generalizability theory and meta-analysis.Parents across the world use a special kind of speech when they speak to young children and babies: they speak slowly and they use high and exaggerated pitch. Some call this type of speaking “baby talk” or child-directed speech. Most babies show a natural preference for this kind of speech, and new evidence shows that it helps young children learn language. The goal of the child talk study is to understand what happens in young kids brains when they hear words presented in child-directed versus adult-directed speech. Young word-learning children will come to our kid-friendly lab and listen to words (like ‘ball’ and ‘book’) and nonwords (like ‘teg’ and ‘neem’) spoken in child- and adult-directed speech, while a hat of sensors records their brainwaves. Do young children exhibit a stronger neural response to words presented in child talk? Does this change as they develop and learn more words? The answers to these questions can help us to better understand how child-directed speech helps young typically developing children learn language.

This study has been completed. The data is being analyzed and results are being written for dissemination.