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Translating research to change the way ​America ​​cares for ​​children and​ ​families.

We are internationally recognized as a leader in clinical and research programs focusing on childhood deafness, developmental language disorder, and related communication disorders. In 2013, we began a new frontier in neurobehavioral research using brain imaging techniques to better help diagnose and treat troubled children with severe behavioral and mental health problems.

Areas of ​Research

 

 

Balance ResearchDoctor doing Vestibular Reseach https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/balanceBalance Research
Center for Perception and Communication in Children (COBRE Grant)Cobre Areahttps://www.boystownhospital.org/research/cobreCenter for Perception and Communication in Children (COBRE Grant)
Child and Family Translational Researchadolescent boy looking at the camera smilinghttps://www.boystownhospital.org/research/translational-researchChild and Family Translational Research
Hearing and Speech Perception ResearchAudiologist tools on a medical charthttps://www.boystownhospital.org/research/hearing-speech-perceptionHearing and Speech Perception Research
Neurobehavioral Research3T MRI machinehttps://www.boystownhospital.org/research/neurobehavioralNeurobehavioral Research
Sensory Neuroscience ResearchDNA Strand - Researchhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/research/sensory-neuroscienceSensory Neuroscience Research
Speech and Language ResearchSpeech language research https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/speech-languageSpeech and Language Research

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Research Connection​

Read the latest news about life-changing research at Boys Town National Research Hospital.​

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New App Measures Attention in 2 to 5-Year-Oldshttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/research-app-measures-attention-in-childrenNew App Measures Attention in 2 to 5-Year-Olds2020-11-13T06:00:00Z<p>​Designed with an engaging theme and graphics, the Visual Attention Processing Protocol (VAPP) application collects research data on how children between the ages of 2 and 5 process visual information in their environment.</p><p>Created by Anastasia Kerr-German, Ph.D., Director of the Brain, Executive Function and Attention Research Laboratory at Boys Town<sup>®</sup>, this app measures visual attention and brain processing efficiency during play, while keeping kids entertained and interactive. Available in the App Store, the VAPP application is accessible to researchers wishing to participate in normative data collection.</p><p>In keeping with the under-the-sea game format, the first thing children are asked to do is click on sea creatures as quickly as they see them. In the next tier of the game, children will have to make choices about the direction the fish are going and drag them to the right location on the screen. In the third part of the game, children will sort visual stimuli (sea creatures and sea trash) to the appropriate locations based on their labels.</p><p>This game tells us about how children see things and how they make choices about visual information in their environment. To keep the engagement level high, there are also parts of the game that are just for entertainment like a pop-the-bubbles segment and the ability to earn underwater treasure games. </p><p>The Child Visual Attention Protocol application gauges how children use categorical labels and visual attention to guide decision-making, both in the moment and during a task that requires attention skills. The Protocol tests what children know and how quickly they can process and make decisions about that visual information.</p><p> <img src="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_images/Bear-App-1.png" alt="Child Visual Attention Protocol app" class="ms-rtePosition-1" style="margin:5px 15px 5px 5px;width:370px;height:278px;" />For example, in the “<em>Find the Fish"</em> exercise, children can quickly tap a creature with little thought in one portion of the task, which allows us to gauge how quickly they can process those visual stimuli. During <em>“</em><em>Where Are They Going?"  </em>and<em> “Rescue or Recycle?"</em> children must not only see the object but must label it and then do something with it. That is where decision-making comes in. Both pieces are important when understanding the development of attention in young children.</p><p>So far, the Child Visual Attention Protocol has been piloted with a dozen or so 2 to 5-year-olds and the children have been enthusiastic about using the application. There is still a large amount of normative data to collect before this can become a potential diagnostic tool to identify children who may be at risk for developing disorders such as ADHD. But the information collected to date is promising and might eventually help identify risk for ADHD much earlier than is now possible.</p><p>This application may eventually allow for diagnosis and care of those at risk for ADHD long before the behavioral and psychological struggles these children face become disruptive to their day-to-day lives. If interventions could start early, before school age, these children may have an easier time adjusting and there may be less of an impact on their academic achievement and social-emotional health.</p><p>“My hope is that we can use this app to better understand typically developing children prior to school age so that we may begin to understand the evolution of disorders of attention and executive functioning such as ADHD. A portion of our children in the Boys Town Residential Treatment Center, as well as outpatient clinics, have ADHD, and this line of research is aimed at early identification of risk and earlier interventions," said Dr. Kerr-German.</p><p>Researchers interested in helping to collect data for this ongoing project should contact Dr. Kerr-German through the Brain, Executive Function and Attention Research Lab at Boys Town National Research Hospital<sup>®</sup>.​</p> <a href="https://apps.apple.com/app/id1523758420" target="_blank"><img src="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_images/apple-store-badge.png" alt="Download on the iOS App Store" /></a>​<br>
Ears On! An Evidence-Based Program to Improve Hearing Device Use in Childrenhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/ears-on-program-improve-hearing-device-use-in-childrenEars On! An Evidence-Based Program to Improve Hearing Device Use in Children2020-11-03T06:00:00Z<p> <img src="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_images/ears-on-page.jpg" alt="Child with hearing aid participates in research study" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin:5px 10px;width:344px;height:333px;" />For children with hearing loss, hearing devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants provide access to speech sounds that are critical to their development of spoken language. Ho<span class="ms-rteThemeFontFace-1">wever, children m</span>ust regularly wear their devices to receive the full language development benefits [1]. </p><p>Ears On is a program developed and evaluated by Sophie Ambrose, Ph.D., Coordinator of the Clinical Measurement Program and her team at Boys Town National Research Hospital. Ears On is designed to help parents ensure regular device use for their children. The program focuses on educating families of the importance of children consistently wearing their hearing devices and provides practical tips to help with compliance of wearing them. </p><h2>Practical Concerns Affect Hearing Device Use</h2><p>When it comes to getting children to wear hearing devices, there are some common challenges. We know children take them off without parents' knowledge. Parents may choose not to have kids wear their devices during some activities. Other caregivers may not realize the importance of the devices and may fail to encourage or enforce wearing them. And, families sometimes just forget [2-3]. </p><p>Some of these factors are made worse by a lack of understanding of the developmental importance of consistent hearing device use. Hearing the sounds of speech and language during critical developmental periods supports brain development that will affect a child's long-term academic, social and professional success.</p><h2>Ears On Education to Help Families Manage Hearing Device Use</h2><p>Ears On starts with ensuring parents understand their child's individual hearing loss, including the speech sounds their child will miss without amplification and the impact it can have on language development. The intervention also seeks to show parents how much of a difference they can expect in hearing and language development with regular device use and to empower parents to believe they can establish consistent device use.</p><p>To meet these goals, Ears On methods include reviewing the results of the child's previous hearing assessments, using simulations of the child's hearing with and without hearing devices, presenting video examples of the language development of children with hearing losses similar to their child's and discussion of related topics. </p><p>Finally, to help parents improve their child's hearing device use, Ears On includes sessions that support parents in identifying and becoming confident in using strategies to address each of the barriers the family faces in establishing consistent device use. For examples, parents may learn strategies to encourage their child not to remove his or her devices or advocacy strategies to use with other caregivers. </p><h2>Ears On Program Evaluation</h2><p>Dr. Ambrose and her team tested Ears On with three parent-child pairs, with the three children being from 16 to 33 months old at the time of entry into the study. After Ears On, they found that all three improved in hearing aid compliance, with two them meeting the program goal of eight hours of average daily device use [2].  This study shows early promise for supporting parents and children by offering an intensive intervention focused on hearing device use. One of the keys to the success of the intervention was the individualization based on each family's needs. Additional work by the research team has included developing and validating a measure of parents' perceived beliefs, knowledge, confidence, and actions related to supporting their children's hearing device use and language development. This tool, which is available in <a href="https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/jehdi/vol5/iss1/9/" target="_blank">a recent article in the Journal of Early Hearing Detection and Intervention</a>, can help clinicians individualize their efforts to support families in increasing device use. </p><p>Boys Town National Research Hospital is recognized around the world as a leader in hearing and language research. </p><h2>References</h2><ol><li>Ambrose, S. E., Appenzeller, A., Al-Salim, S., & Kaiser, A. P. (2020). Effects of an intervention designed to increase toddlers' hearing aid use. <em>Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 25</em>(1), 55-67. doi:10.1093/deafed/enz032</li><li>Moeller, M. P., Hoover, B., Peterson, B., & Stelmachowicz, P. (2009). Consistency of hearing aid use in infants with early identified hearing loss. <em>American Journal of Audiology</em>, <em> </em>(1), 14–23. doi:1059-0889_2008_08-0010</li><li>Muñoz, K., Rusk, S. E. P., Nelson, L., Preston, E.,White, K. R., Barrett, T. S., & Twohig, M. P. (2016). Pediatric hearing aid management: Parent-reported needs for learning support. <em>Ear and Hearing</em>, 37(6), 703–709. doi:10.1097/AUD.0000000000000338</li></ol>
Researchers and Kids Work Together to Create Scientific Article on Hearing Researchhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/research-kids-create-scientific-article-on-hearing-researchResearchers and Kids Work Together to Create Scientific Article on Hearing Research2020-10-09T05:00:00Z<p>Imagine if kids were offered the opportunity to give input and ask questions for a scientific journal. </p><p>Boys Town researchers Angela AuBuchon, Ph.D., and Ryan McCreery, Ph.D., Director of Research, are doing just that in a similar manner with the publication <em>Frontiers for Young Minds</em>, which offers a unique approach to do this in a scientific journal that is aimed at young audiences. What makes it remarkable is that this journal emulates other peer-reviewed scientific publications, but with kids serving alongside scientist mentors as the editors and reviewers of submitted papers.</p><p>In their article, <a href="https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2020.00104" target="_blank"><em>When Choosing NOT to Listen Helps You Hear and Learn</em></a><em>, </em>Dr. AuBuchon and Dr. McCreery explain the science of sound and perception related to their research. Kids learn that decibels (dB) are the scale that scientist use to quantify sound levels. They learn things about the anatomy inside the ear that turn sound waves into information signals that the brain understands, and they learn the parts of the brain that allow us to understand and pay attention to the sounds that matter to us.</p><p>The researchers also present a piece of data in the article that shows one area where science is helping to improve hearing experience for kids and adults with hearing loss. Our brains help us focus on someone speaking, as kids must do in the classroom, even when surrounding noises could distract from or distort the speaker. For children with hearing loss, it is harder to separate a speaker from a noisy background as is shown in their article. The figure itself, can be found in <a href="https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2020.00104">the article</a>, and serves as an example for the reviewers and readers of how to present data in a quickly understandable visual summary.</p><p>To complete the article, kids review the submission with their own scientific mentors. The young reviewers asked their questions and offered suggestions to Dr. AuBuchon and Dr. McCreery in the same way that scientific peers would review papers in other journals. According to Dr. AuBuchon, “This is a really great opportunity for our researchers to work with the kids to create educational scientific content. They learn about the scientific process and we have the privilege to help develop the next generation of scientists that will continue the pursuit of new knowledge."</p><p>During the current COVID-19 pandemic, families in search of educational materials for home have also discovered this article, and the Frontiers for Young Minds journal. Dr. McCreery and Dr. AuBuchon have been contacted by some of these families and are happy to learn that they are using the content as an enrichment activity with their kids. This is exactly what we would hope for and it is possible because <a href="https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2020.00104" target="_blank">the Frontiers for Young Minds article</a> is also open access, so anyone can read it!<br></p><p>Boys Town National Research Hospital is a global leader in hearing research and works extensively with children with a range of hearing needs. It regularly communicates technical findings through a variety of professional research and clinical publications. The hospital also works to provide educational content that is accessible to patients and families.​<br></p><h2>References<br></h2><ol><li>AuBuchon A. and McCreery R. (2020) When Choosing NOT to Listen Helps You Hear and Learn. Front. Young Minds. 8:104. doi: 10.3389/frym.2020.00104</li></ol><h2>Research Newsletter</h2><p>Please sign up to receive occasional research news and events emails from Boys Town National Research Hospital.</p><div align="center"> <a class="button is-primary" href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/newsletter" target="_blank">Newsletter Sign-Up</a></div>
Shining a Light on Developmental Language Disorderhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/shining-a-light-on-developmental-language-disorderShining a Light on Developmental Language Disorder2020-10-07T05:00:00Z<p>​Developmental language disorder (DLD) is a highly prevalent neurodevelopmental condition that limits a person's ability to learn and use language. Despite the importance of spoken language for success in school, social settings, career and quality of life, there remains major obstacles in securing the quality and quantity of care needed to help children with DLD to reach their full potential.  </p><p>Considering its prevalence and impact, DLD is greatly under researched relative to other neurodevelopmental disorders, a situation that has not improved over the past decade. The number of children with DLD who receive clinical services also falls far short of prevalence estimates. In a recent article, Karla McGregor, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Childhood Deafness, Language and Learning at Boys Town Hospital, explores reasons for the relative neglect of DLD in research and clinical realms [1]. She maintains that increasing public awareness of DLD is a key step forward. </p><h2>DLD Awareness is an Ongoing Problem </h2><p>Despite being recognized and studied by speech-language experts for many years, Dr. McGregor points out that DLD remains an “unknown disorder". A lot of the confusion arises because of the large mix of terms used for DLD. If your child has been described as having a language delay, specific language impairment, expressive-receptive language disorder, speech-language impairment, or language learning disability they may have DLD. Organizations like Raising Awareness of Developmental Language Disorder (RADLD) are working to implement more uniform terminology and a greater understanding of the settings and reasons why one might encounter one term or another. </p><p>Another problem with awareness, as Dr McGregor describes it, is that DLD is “a hidden disorder". Children with DLD often don't stand out as different. They “can carry on a basic conversation, follow a simple command, and answer a routine question [1]." Many children who are identified with DLD are diagnosed because they have a co-occurring condition such as a speech impairment, or a behavioral concern that is more noticeable than immature language patterns to adults. However, the consequences for academic success with DLD are often greater than those of co-occurring conditions. </p><h2>Improving DLD Care for Future Generations </h2><p>Progress will almost certainly accelerate if we can help parents and educators understand the critical importance of spoken language development to academic and social success and to alert them to potential signs of DLD. Speech-language researchers and clinicians must ensure that evidence-based information is accessible to educators, families and policy makers.  </p><p> <a href="https://dldandme.org/" target="_blank">DLDandMe.org</a> is a website founded by a nation-wide panel of experts to help. DLDandMe.org provides brief, readable summaries of evidence on a range of topics related to DLD such as <em>Causes of DLD</em>, <em>Gender Differences in Language Development</em>, the <em>Difference between DLD and Autism</em>, and <em>Test Score Interpretation</em>. Since 2017, RADLD.org has organized <a href="https://radld.org/dld-awareness-day/" target="_blank">DLD Awareness Day</a>, including events and multi-media campaigns designed to improve awareness. </p><p>This year's DLD Awareness Day is Friday, October 16, 2020. Keep an eye out for news, information and events on twitter and Facebook by following the hashtags #DLDseeMe and #DLDandMe. </p><h2>References </h2><ol><li>McGregor, K. A. (2020) How We Fail Children with Developmental Language Disorder. <em>Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch</em>. 5; 1–12. doi: 10.1044/2020_LSHSS-20-00003. </li></ol><h2>Research Newsletter</h2><p>Please sign up to receive occasional research news and events emails from Boys Town National Research Hospital.</p><div align="center"> <a class="button is-primary" href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/newsletter" target="_blank">Newsletter Sign-Up</a></div>
Boys Town Collaborates to Expand Diversity in Speech Language Pathology and Audiologyhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/impact-efforts-expand-diversity-in-speech-language-pathology-audiology-fieldsBoys Town Collaborates to Expand Diversity in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology2020-10-06T05:00:00Z<p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">​Boys Town National Research Hospital is pleased to announce that we are supporting faculty at Hampton University and Case Western Reserve University in a program designed to improve minority representation in speech language pathology and audiology graduate programs, clinics, and research. </p><p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle">The IMPACT (Innovative Mentoring and Professional Advancement through Cultural Training) Program is a 1-year program that will provide formal mentoring to students in communication sciences programs from underrepresented backgrounds. Mentorship will be provided by diverse faculty at research-intensive universities and hospitals to enhance practical learning opportunities through research training, communication skills development, and formal test preparation to improve the students’ readiness in graduate school.</p><p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle">The overarching goal of the IMPACT Program, according to co-collaborators Jessica Sullivan, Ph.D. at Hampton University and Lauren Calandrucio, Ph.D., at Case Western Reserve University “is to begin to train the next generation of speech-language pathology and audiology leaders who encompass inclusion, diversity, and compassion.”</p><p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle">Boys Town Hospital researchers, Monita Chatterjee, Ph.D. and Daniel Rasetshwane, Ph.D. will join students in September for a virtual “family dinner” where they will discuss their experiences as prominent scientists from underrepresented minority groups. On October 22, multiple investigators from Boys Town Hospital Research will be conducting virtual lab tours and providing an overview of what it’s like to be part of our research team.</p><p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle">Ryan McCreery, Ph.D., Director of Research, and Lori Leibold, Ph.D., Director of Hearing Research, will be supporting IMPACT Program initiatives at Boys Town National Research Hospital. Dr. Leibold explains that “Boys Town Hospital is committed to promoting inclusion and diversity. The IMPACT Program will give students who are traditionally underrepresented in hearing and language sciences insight into their fields of interest and prepare them to join the next generation of researchers and clinicians. We are proud to be a part of this effort, which will serve as a model for similar local programs in the future, supported by the IMPACT Program team.”</p><p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle">The IMPACT Program is funded by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.</p><h2>About Boys Town National Research Hospital</h2><p>Boys Town National Research Hospital offers a broad range of hospital and clinic services, backed by 40 years of life-changing research to provide the latest, most innovative care to our patients. The Hospital is internationally recognized as a leader in hearing research and clinical care and is leading research efforts in language and neuroscience to improve the lives of children and families across America.</p><h2>Research Newsletter</h2><p>Please sign up to receive occasional research news and events emails from Boys Town National Research Hospital.</p><div align="center"> <a class="button is-primary" href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/newsletter" target="_blank">Newsletter Sign-Up</a></div>
Language Benefits of Hearing Aid Use are Significant in Fourth-Grade Childrenhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/language-benefits-hearing-aid-useLanguage Benefits of Hearing Aid Use are Significant in Fourth-Grade Children2020-09-08T05:00:00Z<p>​While it is not the only factor, the quality of our children's hearing plays a pivotal role in how well they understand speech and develop spoken language skills. However, there is some ambiguity when it comes to assessing and treating kids with mild, bilateral hearing loss. In these cases, there is not always a strong clinical opinion for early fitting or consistent wearing of hearing devices. This is partly because these kids do not always appear noticeably different from their classmates in every day conversation, or on language tests, so clinicians and families may take a “wait-and-see" approach to hearing devices.</p><p>Scientists at Boys Town National Research Hospital and the University of Iowa have been collaborating on a series of studies to see what the real benefits of consistently worn and early fit hearing aids are for kids, and especially those with mild hearing loss. As part of this collaboration, Elizabeth Walker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa, and others recently assessed both written and spoken language skills of fourth-grade children to identify the language risks associated with mild hearing loss [1].</p><p>In this study, the team compared 60 children with mild, bilateral hearing loss and 69 peers with typical hearing. All participants were tested the summer after fourth grade. Dr. Walker and her team found that kids with hearing loss had significant deficits in spoken language comprehension and understanding of morphology—the structural parts of words that indicate verb tense or plurality, such as  the word endings in “He is play<em>ing</em>" or “She walk<em>ed</em>" or “many cat<em>s"</em>. In contrast, vocabulary and reading were not significantly different between the kids with hearing loss and typical hearing.</p><p>The goal of this study was not just to see what the language differences were, but also to see how intervention with hearing aids affected these outcomes. Therefore, Dr. Walker's team also needed to know from caregivers how much the kids in the hearing loss group wore their hearing aids. Kids with milder hearing loss, whose caregivers reported more time wearing hearing aids, did better with comprehension of spoken language than kids with more severe hearing loss and/or lower hearing aid usage.</p><h2>What These Findings Tell Us</h2><p>Findings from this study show us that consistent hearing aid use is important for kids to reach their full language potential. Furthermore, waiting to see how kids with mild, bilateral hearing loss do before recommending hearing amplification could come at the cost of some language ability. This is something clinicians should emphasize to families of children with mild hearing loss. Along with educating families, clinicians should strongly consider early hearing testing and intervention for children with mild hearing loss.</p><h2>Related reading</h2><p>Last year, Ryan McCreery Ph.D., Director of Research at Boys Town Hospital, and co-authors published a paper titled, <em>Audibility-based hearing aid fitting criteria for children with mild bilateral hearing loss [2]</em>. That paper outlines a set of guidelines for assessing when children with mild, bilateral hearing loss should be fitted with hearing aids based on language outcomes. <a href="/news/checking-speech-audibility-importance-when-assessing-hearing-loss">Read more about that study</a>.</p><h2>References</h2><ol><li>Walker E. A., Sapp C., Dallapiazza M., Spratford M., et. al. (2020) Language and Reading Outcomes in Fourth-Grade Children With Mild Hearing Loss Compared to Age-Matched Hearing Peers. <em>Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch</em>. 51(1):17–28. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1044/2019_LSHSS-OCHL-19-0015" target="_blank">https://doi.org/10.1044/2019_LSHSS-OCHL-19-0015</a>. </li><li>McCreery R.W., Walker E.A., Stiles D.J., Spratford M., et. al. (2020) Audibility-based hearing aid fitting criteria for children with mild bilateral hearing loss. <em>Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch</em>.​ 51(1): 55–67. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1044/2019_LSHSS-OCHL-19-0021" target="_blank">https://doi.org/10.1044/2019_LSHSS-OCHL-19-0021</a>.</li></ol><h2>Research Newsletter</h2><p>Please sign up to receive occasional research news and events emails from Boys Town National Research Hospital.</p><div align="center"> <a class="button is-primary" href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/newsletter">Newsletter Sign-Up</a></div> ​<br>

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