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Communication Development Lab: Mother-Toddler Communication

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Communication Development Lab: Mother-Toddler Communication
Sophie Ambrose, Ph.D.
Director, Communication Development Laboratory

Currently we are studying how children with hearing loss and their mothers communicate with one another. And then we are comparing that to how mothers of children with normal hearing communicate with their children.

The children visit the lab when they are 14, 18, 22, 27, and 36 months of age, so five times and each time they visit the research staff sits in a recording room and we use four high definition cameras to remotely video record as mothers and children play with each other just as they would at home in our playroom. Then after they leave we have four research assistants who spend hours looking at those videos.

They transcribe everything about the communication. How the mothers use speech, sign, and gesture, how the children do the same, and they use some really specialized software that allows us to analyze that.

Then at the 36 month visit which is our last one, we also do some standardized language testing so that allows us to look at what we consider a child’s language outcomes at the end of the study.

So in our data analysis we can look at what we learned about children in those early videos and those early interactions and how that relates to their language outcomes at the end of the study.

My hope is that from this study we are able to identify those aspects of parent communication that we might be able to influence in an intervention for example if we learn that the children whose mothers gesture the most have the strongest language outcomes then we will be able to design an intervention in which we support parents in using gestures in their daily routines. Similarly, if we find that the children who mothers use more sign our use more spoken words are the children with the strongest language outcomes then we’ll design an intervention that helps parents to develop those skills.

This study will hopefully help children with hearing loss to reach the most optimal language outcomes that are possible for them so we want them to not be held back by their hearing loss in any way and to do that we are going to help, this study will help give families the tools to help insure that their children are reaching the highest levels of success.

The Communication Development Lab’s research program focuses on developing techniques for promoting successful spoken language outcomes in children with hearing loss, and identifying early which of these children are at the greatest risk for language delays. The lab’s current project seeks to understand how infants and toddlers with hearing loss and their mothers communicate with one another, including how they use gesture, sign, and speech. Sophie Ambrose, Ph.D.​, discusses the NIH-funded project and how the results will be used in the future to develop intervention strategies that help children with hearing loss reach their fullest potential.

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