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Childhood Deafness, Language & Learning Research Center

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Center for Childhood Deafness, Language & Learning​ is organized into three broad areas:​

  • ​Clinical and educational services for families ​​
  • ​Translational research programs designed to inform practice
  • ​Dissemination programs that share scientific and practice discoveries

These three facets of ​our program intentionally overlap to represent the ​integrated nature of these efforts. We strive to provide the highest quality services for children and families, but in order to do so, we need to be engaged in research that informs those practices. As discoveries are made in the clin​ical/educational programs and in research, we work to share those findings and resources through our outreach efforts.

facilityPic.pngTranslational research programs within this Center focus on the study of child language and communicative development in children who hear and in those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Our ultimate goal is to contribute evidence that will guide early and ongoing interventions for children and their families. These laboratories are housed in the Lied Learning and Technolog​y Cent​er at Boys Town National Research Hospital.

Childhood Deafness, Language & Learning Labs

Communication Development Laboratory conducts research ​to identify key factors that promote later communication success for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Findings are used to develop and empirically validate early intervention approaches for children and their families.

Language Development Laboratory studies and documents the longitudinal outcomes of early-identified children who are hard of hearing compared to hearing peers and explains performance differences among children. The large-scale studies conducted in this laboratory are expected to guide clinical and educational service delivery for children who use hearing aids. These laboratories have both independent and shared, collaborative projects.

Current Lab Projects:

Contributions of Gesture to the Linguistic Outcomes of Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Parental gesture use and responses to toddlers’ gestures support children’s linguistic development. For children with normal hearing, gesture use is predictive of later spoken language outcomes. This research program seeks to understand the relationships between gesture and spoken language for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The results of this research will provide translational findings regarding the value of utilizing gesture abilities to identify toddlers who are most at-risk for difficulties with linguistic achievement and inform the strategies that parents are taught to most effectively promote their children’s linguistic development.

Efficacy of an Early Intervention Addressing Needs of Children with Hearing Loss
The long-term goal of this program of research ​is to develop and test the effectiveness of an intervention in which caregivers are coached on use of strategies for supporting the communication needs of their children with hearing loss. The strategies support caregivers in improving their children’s use of hearing assistive devices (hearing aids and cochlear implants) and providing their children with environments that are optimized for language learn​ing. 

Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss (OCHL) and Outcomes of School Aged Children who are Hard of Hearing (OSACHH)
OutcomePicCombined.jpgThis is a multi-site, multi-disciplinary project that is a collaboration of investigators at Boys Town National Research Hospital, the University of Iowa, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This longitudinal, epidemiological study is designed to examine the hearing, speech, language, and psychosocial outcomes of children who are hard of hearing, along with family outcomes, and service provision characteristics in the preschool (OCHL) and school age (OSACHH) years. The primary aim is to understand the impact of early service provision and auditory experience on children's linguistic development and later academic and social-communicative outcomes. Read more by visiting the Language Development Laboratory or ​​​

Development of Novel Assessment Tools
Researchers are working to validate a parent report tool designed to assess early vocal development in infants and toddlers. The Vocal Development Landmarks Interview (VDLI) is an interactive parent interview that uses audio samples of authentic infant vocalizations to help parents understand the behaviors of interest. This avoids the need for technical terms or complicated verbal descriptions when interviewing parents about their infants’ vocalizations. Research results to date indicate that the VDLI is sensitive to age and hearing status. The tool is currently being validated on a large group of typically developing infants and parental report is being examined using digital audio recordings from a subset of participating infants.

Clinical Measurement Core
Boys Town National Research Hospital was awarded a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant to support the establishment of The Center for Perception and Communication in Children. This grant provides support for five investigators seeking to secure independent funding for their laboratories. A ​Clinical Measurement Core was developed as part of this research program to provide 1) centralized administration of all clinical measures by trained, experienced clinical experts, 2) advisement, and 3) access to a shared data repository.

​​Recent Successes!

OutcomePicCombined.jpg The OCHL research team published in a special supplement volume of Ear & Hearing in the fall of 2015.This research team received a special recognition award for the hig​h quality of this work from the Editors of ​Ear & Hearing.

In May of 2016, Dr. Moeller represented the OCHL research team in a meeting with the NIDCD Advisory Council, where she presented the results of the first 5 years of this project.

​Drs. Ambrose and Moeller, along with Ann Thomas (a doctoral student working with Drs. Ambrose and Moeller), r​ecently had an article published in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education on their development of the Vocal Development Landmarks Interview. Click here to access the journal article. Ann Thomas also recently presented on the next steps in this project at the Symposium on Research in Child Language Disorders and she received a student travel award for that conference.​

OutcomePicCombined.jpg OutcomePicCombined.jpg

Sara Robinson presenting on the ​Clinical Measurement Core at SRCLD in Madison, WI, June of 2016.​​

Drs. Ambrose and the Communication Development Lab recently received funding through the COBRE grant for their research that seeks to develop and establish the efficacy of an early intervention addressing the needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families. Dr. Ambrose and her lab are collaborating with Drs. Ann Kaiser (Vanderbilt University) and Jean DesJardin (Moravian College) in this important work.

Sara Robinson presented a poster related to the Clinical Measurement Core program model at the Symposium on Res​earch in Child Language Disorders in Madison, Wisconsin. The work was co-authored by Sarah Al-Salim, Barb Peterson, and Dr. Moeller.​